With another holiday season upon us, I am reminded of a very memorable Christmas past when I was a ‘tween of 11 or 12.
It began, as was our ritual, with my older brother and me spending countless days poring over the Sears & Roebuck catalog (or “wish book” as our mother called it) to create our list for Santa. As we were not born into the Rockefeller family, we knew that no matter how “good” we were, we were unlikely to get all of the items on our list; so we edited them with great care. The biggest decision that I faced was whether to ask for a bride doll or not. I was torn as – truth be told — I had outgrown playing with dolls at this stage, but I had always wanted a bride doll to complete my collection.
One day, while I was leafing through a toy store advertisement, I saw “my” doll. She was so beautiful with her shiny ebony hair and sparkling green eyes, a gown with intricately embroidered lace, and a veil glistening with “diamonds.” A delicate pearl necklace and matching earrings set off her glowing face, while a pair of satin shoes covered her dainty feet. I decided then and there that she would make the list. I even picked the perfect place to display her in my room so that I would see her first thing every morning when I awoke. Looking at her – so enchanting in her wedding outfit – eventually got me to fantasizing about my own wedding some day, which further fueled my excitement. I just knew that this was going to be the best Christmas ever!
While I was completely preoccupied with my thoughts, my brother was just as fervently hoping that Santa would bring him a Packer uniform. Like any good born-and-bred Wisconsin boy, he worshipped his Packers (still does!), so it was only natural that he made their uniform his top choice.
As luck would have it, only a few days before the big event, I “inadvertently” came upon a very large gift-wrapped box in our parents’ closet (have no idea what I was doing there?). To my dismay, however, it had no gift tag to indicate who would be the lucky recipient of said box . . . the agony continues.
Fast forward . . . Christmas Eve has arrived at long last! We have just gotten home from church and my siblings and I are making a mad dash to the presents carefully placed under our tree. My brother beat me to the large box and, very dejectedly, announced that it was for me. While I was overjoyed to hear this, I continued to open my other presents as I wanted to save the one that I was certain would be the best to last. Finally, with great expectations, I carefully unwrapped the box and gently opened it to see – in all its glory – an official Green Bay Packer uniform, complete with helmet . . . huh? It was at that moment that I learned a hard fact of life: even Santa’s workshop will occasionally experience a snafu.
SNAFU (snæ’fu:) — Americans have been using this (slang) adjective for decades to describe anything that isn’t working as it should. It is believed to have been coined by U.S. military telegraphers to communicate “Situation Normal: All Fouled Up” (okay, “fouled up” may not be an exact translation, but this is a family newspaper). In any case, I still believe snafu is the most descriptive way to explain what happened at the North Pole on that Christmas long, long ago. But my story does not end there . . . turns out Santa had one of his elves working behind the scenes that year.
Long-standing tradition dictated that after all the gifts from Santa were opened our extended family would gather at my grandparents’ home. Shortly after we arrived a favorite uncle greeted me and presented me with a large box (sound familiar?). With a swarm of my little cousins watching, I opened the box to see what I can only describe as a “princess” doll. She wore a little tiara on her head and was dressed in a resplendent purple dress with mounds of ruffles. She even wore a mink stole around her shoulders. She was perfect! Needless to say, all thoughts of a bride doll evaporated the instant I laid eyes on her. It truly was the best Christmas ever!