Christmas 1958

My Christmas trees grow outdoors and birds are all the ornaments they need, so I don’t decorate for Christmas, but cleaning out closets today I found my oldest personal possession: this Santa doll.

Mom said a Serb named Kuzman gave it to me. A family friend, Kuzman must have habitually brought gifts because there’s a dated photo of him handing me a non-Santa-doll gift in our living room at Christmas 1958. (The film was processed in April 1959; at that time one took fewer photos than now, because developing and printing cost money, and if anyone had wasted film on “selfies” back then, the whole town would have been aghast.)

Our family was Eastern Orthodox, celebrating Christmas by the old calendar, on January 7. We had

“American Christmas” because everyone else did. At Christmas 1958, I, their eldest, at 23 months, was too young to have pestered my parents to put up a tree, so they did it voluntarily.

Daddy certainly took the photo. At Christmas 1958, Mom has a six-month-old and she will have a third baby by Christmas 1959. Wasn’t any birth control for women in those days, at least not that Mom knew of.  Guests were always invited to settle in and stay a while, have a drink or coffee and talk, so Kuzman wearing his coat is unusual. His name is the Serbian version of “Cosmo,” a 4th-century Christian martyr. As for my small self, I am already abashed or ashamed to receive gifts. I will, however, straighten out in about 20 years.

The skier in a glittering leotard and silver cap — built like a snowman
but with flesh and facial features — ornamented our family Christmas
tree as long as I can remember. At some point Mom gave it to me. I’m not one for tchotchkes, but I can’t call these things clutter.