Last year I kicked off my holiday (or was it holidaily?) series The Six Days of Christmas as a personal exercise in reminiscing. It received one positive response and zero complaints, so by the very spurious logic of the NeoCon movement, I declared it a success. Now I am continuing it with a new series covering 1978, 1983, 1988 (probably the most eventful), 1993, 1998 and 2003; each year appearing consecutively (I hope) until we get to New Year’s Eve or Day.
I’ll begin with 1978, the last relatively peaceful year I remember…when it comes to the world, the nation and my family.
Originally, I never thought of 1978 as being very significant since my brother and I didn’t receive any of the popular Star Wars toys. Anything associated with that movie continued to be what young boys wanted because there was no other serious competition then. Little did we know how tight things were at home, hence the big fat zero on getting better hardware to re-enact the Death Star battle. Our parents wouldn’t have clued is on the details anyway, they feared us blabbing to the wrong people more than saving us from worrying too much.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve 1978 still panned out to be a great time at Grandma’s house despite Dad being in-between jobs (we would eventually move from Champaign to Springfield the following March). Besides the cool toys we received, our parents bought us a portable tape recorder. This gadget kept my brother and me from being completely bored at Grandma’s when there was nothing on TV or we weren’t in the mood to play with the new junk. Had my grandparents predicted how crazy we’d drive them with our audio experiments, they would’ve had us sent home long before New Year’s Eve. We didn’t use it to spy on anyone or anything compromising. We just did more creative versions of Stage Five “homework” from our grade school reading classes; namely doing “plays” with fart noises and the toilet flushing. How Grandma carried on about her upcoming water bill being higher due to Brian flushing the commode a few times in succession.
The tape recorder played a role in breaking the usual routine for New Year’s Eve as well. Instead of watching the same old movies on WGN, I held it up to the radio to record WLS-AM while the station counted down the big hits of 1978. Rather sad but I was 10 and cassette decks integrated into stereos were uncommon then.
I almost forgot the most impressive thing we received until I started writing the rough draft…the GI Joe Training Center! Most of this was rather weak: some extra guns, targets, a rubber snake, a cave and a tent which hooked into the cave. What sold it was the three-foot tower with a zip line for Joe to get down from the observation deck in a hurry! It included comic book illustrating why the zip line was critical; Joe couldn’t warn his comrades about the nearby snake by walkie talkie. Due to its difficult assembly, we had to wait until we got home and recruit Dad’s assistance on the zip line element.
The lasting legacy of this Christmas was it becoming the last one at Grandma’s house until 1985 because our new house in Springfield was larger and the Holiday Break went much smoother with more space amongst six people.