The Huddle: Favorite Childhood Holiday Presents

What was a gift you remember wanting so badly, and getting (or not getting) for the holidays?

Kim Hoffman: I really wanted computer games as a kid, I was a big fan of King’s Quest and would play it nightly with my mom. Mini adventures every night. My parents owned a computer shop in the early 90s so that was another big gift, a giant ass computer so I could play my games AND work my card-making magic on Print Shop Deluxe. 

Tara Aquino: One time I asked Santa for $200 just to have the power of $200 in my hands as a child, but then Santa gave me a Creed CD. Both were unreasonable.

Lucy Hallowell: One year I asked Santa for a black, astronaut Cabbage Patch doll. I believe, and I am sure science will back me up, the number of actual people of color in New Hampshire during my childhood was somewhere in the ballpark of three. So, finding a Cabbage Patch doll with brown hair probably would have been challenging enough, but I not only wanted a black one, I wanted a black one who could go to the moon. 

I got the doll and I named him Buzz, after Buzz Aldrin (because that’s the kind of precocious little fucker I was) and only found out years later the lengths my poor mother went to to procure him. My mom was a nurse and worked nights so she was home with us during the day while my dad worked. On one of her off days she drove the hour to Nashua (what passed for a big city back then) and convinced the guys at Toys R Us to let her search the back room on the off chance that they might have a non-white astronaut back there. It was dusty and dimly lit and surely a disgusting place, but she found that doll. 
For years I thought she was insane for going to that much trouble. But now, if either of my kids had her heart set on something that way, I’d ask “You mind if I poke around the back room?” too.
Chelsea Steiner: Like any child of the ’90s, all I wanted were some moon boots: the boots that made you feel like you were floating in zero gravity! I was overjoyed when I unwrapped my moon boots Christmas morning, only to find that they were essentially two plastic foot buckets with a criss-cross of rubber bands. I think Xmas morning was the only time I ever wore them. They are probably outlawed now because a bunch of kids running on rubber banded snow shoes has got to be C a major insurance liability.
Emily McGaughy: When I was in sixth grade (long before the days of music devices the size of my pinky), CDs and CD players were in the process of replacing cassettes, so this was on my list.  I was (and still am) a classic rock fan and my parents had recently introduced me to The Eagles, whom I loved instantly.  My parents obliged my request and bought me a huge CD player—it was seriously almost as big as me—along with the Hell Freezes Over album.  I would spend hours in my room listening to that album on my boombox.  I learned that Don Henley had the voice of an angel and Joe Walsh is an acquired taste. Singing “Life in the Fast Lane” with my hairbrush as a microphone was my idea of living dangerously and never tired of analyzing every word of “Hotel California.”  It’s definitely one of those albums that served as background music to my adolescence.  
Ali Davis: The Christmas when I was 10, all I wanted in the world was a game called Dark Tower. It was a board game that involved building an army and getting keys and maybe getting attacked by brigands and all kinds of fantastic nerdy adventure stuff. AND it had a giant electronic dark tower (see?) in the middle that served you up good fortune or surprise attacks or merchants that closed up shop when you tried to haggle too many times. And it played “Ride of the Valkyries” when you won. I actually got it. And it was awesome every single time my friends and I played.

However, it was immediately and permanently upstaged by what I hadn’t asked for. We were just getting down to present-opening when my late-arriving stepdad walked into my grandma’s living room with an ice cream bag from Strickler’s Dairy. But he didn’t put the bag in the freezer. He set it down on the floor next to me, and then the bag tipped over and my new puppy Tess walked out. She turned out to be sweet, loyal to the bone, and smart enough to have strong opinions about whether she wanted to fetch or not. Best present I ever got.
Bonus: Tess was such a terrific dog that my awesome mom and stepdad have been adopting and caring for rescue Shelties ever since.
Dara Nai: My mother believed “It’s cruel to lie to children,” so we never never led to believe that Santa Claus was real. He was just a character like Snoopy or Batman. But we were still showered with toys and clothes and books. I can’t remember ever wanting anything, but favorite puppyhood gifts were a yellow dump truck, a remote-controlled space rover of some sort with matching astronaut helmet, a boy’s L.L. Bean fisherman’s sweater, (she also didn’t care for gender roles,) and years later, good ol’ wads of cash. She really “got” me. I miss her. Merry Christmas and happy New Year everyone!
Trish Bendix: The only thing I remember really wanting was a PJ Sparkles doll. My nickname growing up was PJ (Patricia Janette = PJ), so there was obviously some narcissism involved. But beyond that, PJ had light-up components with a huge pink bow, bracelet, earrings and jewel heart on her chest. I loved the shit out of my PJ Sparkles.

What’s funny, now, is reading the story behind the doll and the animated TV movie she was based on, which I am not sure I even watched. (I’ll have to call my mom and ask.) Essentially, PJ was an orphan who just wanted someone to love her. She chose to make her last name Sparkles and moves to Twinkle Town, where she gives other parentless children names of their very own, until the evil neighbors (ADULTS) “are displeased with the color and bright light that P.J. has brought to the town, and try to sabotage her efforts.” AKA they were trying to steal her shine, and that is unacceptable. Even more unacceptable, however: PJ goes back to her “human” world and meets a friend, a boy, who returns with her to Twinkle Town and HE saves the town from the dark magic that has taken over. WHY CAN’T PJ BE THE SPARKLE THAT SAVES THE WORLD? I’d like to think my PJ did, in her reversible party dress/nightie.

Valerie Anne: There’s a home video of me when I was six years old opening presents on Christmas. My brother was two, so he’s just tearing at boxes of paper, enjoying being allowed to destroy things for once, no real concept of exactly what was happening or why he wasn’t allowed to immediately play with the toys he unearthed from the wreckage. In this video, I wait patiently with a wrapped box in my lap until my brother is done with his latest gift and my mother gives me the go-ahead; her camera is ready, I can open it. I tear it open, look up excitedly and declare, “It’s just what I wanted!!” A beat. “What is it?” My parents laugh and explain briefly what it is and I get excited all over again. For me, opening presents wasn’t even about the specific gift, it was just the excitement of getting things and opening them and the fanfare and excitement involved. The more excited my parents were, the more excited I was. I’m 27 and my brother is 23, and on Christmas day, we’ll still sit with a pile of presents and take turns opening them, my parents watching on excitedly, waiting for our reactions. 

Dana Piccoli: My folks didn’t have a ton of money but they really went all out for Christmas. Care Bears, Cabbage Patch kids, they were up on the trends. But my favorite toy of all was the iconic Easy Bake Oven. There’s just something about brownies cooked under a 60 watt bulb. It also started a life long love of baking in me.
Jenna Lykes: When I was little, every single Christmas list I ever wrote to Santa had the same thing at #1: a puppy. It didn’t matter what toys were cool that year (usually Ninja Turtles for me), the puppy always got the top slot on my list. I spent a lot of time alone as a kid, so, in my mind, the puppy was totally going to become my best friend. I never thought it was fair that my parents got to share a room and my brothers got to share a room, while I was stuck flying solo. The puppy would surely curl up next to me every night, right? But, of course, there were a million reasons not to give three irresponsible kids a puppy at Christmas. So, the years ticked by and the population of the stuffed animal town that had settled on my bed increased steadily.

Eventually, I stopped writing to Santa, but I never stopped wanting a puppy. About nine years ago, I finally got a dog for my parents. I’d had to take some time off from college, and I needed that best friend more than ever. I named her Dakota, because I read that it meant “friend,” and the day I got her was like the most perfect Christmas day ever—except it took place in June. She still curls up next to me whenever I visit my parents’ house.

What gift did you want when you were a youngster?