If you haven’t yet written a story about one of your favorite Christmases, here’s one to inspire you, written by one of my students, Carol Enos, a self-described “tomboy” when she was a girl. Her humorous and poignant story dramatizes her itch to break free of the mold prescribed for girls in those days.
by Carol Enos
It was a warm day for December in Michigan. The snow had melted except for leftover drifts that decorated the landscape like dirty granite boulders. We waited at the corner of our unpaved road for the bus that would take us on the hour-long ride into the city. I reached into my pocket to hold my birthday money and I puppy-wriggled with excitement. Hudson’s Department Store in downtown Detroit would be filled with Christmas wonders and my younger sister would see Santa, but the trip was really for me. I could always see Santa at Sears. The vast Hudson’s and rows of imagined longings would be mine to explore, and I had a whole five dollars.
Our journey followed the Detroit River north from our little town, past Wyandotte and the two-story Sears store, past the belching steel plants that fed the auto industry, past the bridge to Canada that seemed to reach into the clouds from the maze of tall buildings that were still a wonder even after nine years of twice-yearly visits. The bus turned off Jefferson Avenue and wound past the grimy brick buildings dressed in their Christmas best, finally stopping in front of the garland-draped, fourteen-story department store.My mother had said I would get my birthday present first. Having a birthday so close to Christmas occasionally had its advantages. I didn’t even notice the glittering of the perfume and jewelry counters at the front of the store or the flowing lingerie displays as we made our way to the bank of open steel-grated elevators, each with a black lady sitting on a tall stool asking, “Floor please?”As our metal cage groaned to the fifth floor, we could glimpse the promotions from the bottom up as we rose. Wool coats, dresses, men’s clothing, vacuum cleaners and sweepers flashed past, and finally…toys. They were $4.25 each, plus tax—without guns. Guns were $1.00 each.
No, then I would be just a girl clomping down the street with a pretend gun in a pretend holster. There would be no magic. There would be no heroics. My mother sighed again but didn’t insist, bless her, and I bought the silver-studded dreams without guns, wore them to see Santa, wore them under my heavy coat on the bus, and wore them out in the neighborhood as soon as we got home. My mother watched through the kitchen window as I galloped up and down the street on my imaginary Trigger with my empty white leather silver-studded holsters flapping against my coltish legs, my world filled with goodness and heroes.
For years, I shuddered with my mother’s eyes when I thought of my nine-year-old self prancing past all front porches with those bouncing empty holsters. Now, I just grin when I think of the hopes of all nine-year-olds who can imagine places of virtue and bravery wrapped in empty white leather, silver-studded holsters sparkling in the sun.
First were the dolls. My sister tugged my mother over so she could rub the silk dresses between her fingers and pat the stuffed animals. My mother looked at me hopefully. Maybe an elegant collector doll? A nurse’s kit? A playhouse? No, it was my turn and I got to pick. I ignored my mother resigned sigh and marched past the rows of perfect faces, sweet baby cheeks, and there, hanging with the cap guns and B-B rifles were the most elegant, the sleekest silver-studded, double-buckle white leather holsters ever seen. Visions of valor radiated from each shinning stud. I would fly across the plains vanquishing evil-doers, rescuing women and children who were less brave and didn’t possess the magic holsters.
My mother pointed out the very nice brown plastic holster and guns, all for $3.99.