We got to talking, my sister and I, about Christmas.

“Remember I wanted those cowboy boots real bad?” she said.

Katherine stopped by before Thanksgiving and instead of talking turkey, we got right on to discussing the big holiday.

Specifically, what it was like when we were young and growing up in Skowhegan.

In the 1960s, she was in high school and I was seven years younger, so was more interested in what was on the pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog than I was an old pair of clunky, pointy-toed western boots.

But Katherine was enamored with  TV shows like “Wagon Train” and “Rawhide” and couldn’t wait to get her feet into those cowboy boots and strut along the main drag downtown and show them off.

She also played the guitar and sang, so the boots would complement her look.

I wanted dolls, toys and colorful attire we read about in books, like ballerina tutus and clothing worn by princesses, such as puffy gowns and sparkling tiaras.

Some 60 years ago, kids didn’t get piles of presents for Christmas like those you see in large department stores today — electronics and computer-related paraphernalia — packed on shelves to the ceiling. We told our parents what we wanted from Sears Roebuck and Co. and, understanding some items might be out of stock, designated a second choice but hoped for the first.

Mom knitted sweaters, mittens and hats all year long, so we could pretty much count on those gifts. My Aunt Barbara also always came through with practical presents such as pajamas.

Barbara liked bright colors, like red and orange, so we could expect PJs in all the hues of the rainbow.

One year, we girls got sweaters from Aunt Barbara. She lived in Windsor and bought all her Christmas presents from Hussey’s — you know, the general store that touts “Guns, Wedding Gowns and Cold Beer” on its marquee?

That year, I got a long, soft, navy blue striped sweater, adorned with a decorative pin attached.

I knew long before Christmas what was in the package because my sister, Laura, who is three years older than I, was too curious to wait until the holiday to find out what was not only in her packages, but everyone else’s, too.

She was famous for poking holes in wrapping paper under the tree, particularly around anything that protruded from the gift — in this case, those sweater pins.

I’d plug my ears when she began to proclaim, loudly, what I was getting for Christmas. I wanted to know, yet I didn’t. It was a tough decision, whether to listen or turn away.

Laura also was infamous for perching herself on the armchair next to the Christmas tree and, using her thumb and forefinger, snapping the fragile Christmas balls until they shattered. When we were older, my father, chuckling, loved to recall her mischievous holiday antics.

But back to Katherine and her cowboy boots.

“Did you get them that year?” I asked.

“Oh, yes. I had a hunch they were hidden in that deep closet off the dining room, so I went in and there was a package about the size of a boot box. I slipped the cover partially off, and there they were.”

When I look back on such childhood indiscretions, for which I always felt guilty, I take heart in knowing they were nothing like the ones carried out by a family I knew which had five boys. When their parents went out one night, they got into a closet in their folks’ bedroom where all the Christmas presents were kept.

The closet door being locked, they lifted it right off its hinges, removed it, and rummaged through all the presents. Their parents never knew what they had done until they divulged their secret many years later.

Regardless of the fact that there were seven children in my family, my parents always managed to get what we wanted for Christmas, or close second choices.

We were always happy with whatever it was, and counted ourselves lucky.

More importantly, once back to school after Christmas vacation, we had lots of stories to tell.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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