It was nearly a half century ago, but I remember. My, do I remember. It was the first time I had real money to spend on Christmas gifts.
In those days people didn't just give money to their kids. In fact, my brother and I would walk along the highway to collect soda bottles and return them for the three cent deposit. It was a handy way to collect enough money for a box of Pucker Pellets from the red vending machine at the local gas station. Life was different then.
It was in that cultural mindset that I found myself at the local Winns Five and Dime looking for the perfect gifts for my parents. It was a tormenting experience with all the options that were pennies out of my price range. The toy section offered the best selection of options, but try as I might, I could not remember my parents playing with toys.
The decision was inevitable, I had to look in another department for gifts. Ultimately, I found my way into the personal hygiene section. There were some interesting looking items in my budget range. But one by one, items were systematically dismissed because I didn't know what they were. After a painstaking hour of deliberating, I finally settled on the perfect Christmas gifts for my parents. I have good reason to believe that the Supreme Court has probably never put as much thought into a decision as I did that day.
After what seemed an interminable wait … it was finally Christmas day! All the excitement that is wrapped up in a kid's mind was doubled for me that day. I had purchased and wrapped real presents that were under the tree. I was practically a man. When it came time, I believe my parents were actually surprised. Then they opened the presents and were surprised yet again.
Now my budget was a whopping dollar and a half. You can imagine what was not available in that range. I also really wanted to have a gift each for Dad and Mom. So when they unwrapped their gifts and found a new toothbrush and a roll of Certs breath mints, they seemed less than ecstatic. In fact, they seemed confused and a bit self-conscious. They asked if there was a deeper reason I chose those particular items.
I was confused by their confusion. It was cool stuff and they were looking for the deeper meaning. I was nine. There is no deeper meaning at nine. I just thought they would be happy to not have to share a toothbrush. The colors were cool too.
Eventually they realized that I was not hinting at any hygiene problem. It probably took them a few minutes to know I could not possibly have been thinking that hard. I eventually realized what made them so confused. That probably took much longer.
Years later, my wife and I put toothbrushes in the stockings for our kids. Now that the kids are all grown, we still do. It may not sound like a lot of fun, but who doesn't like a fresh toothbrush?