: views from the Hill

Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas memories lost and found

I love Laura Lippman's Memory Project, as I might've mentioned once or three (maybe four!) times before.

Her current memory burp has to do with her December holiday memories back when (she always deals first) and her questions: What's the best gift you ever gave? What's the best gift you ever got? And have you ever had to fake it?

I answered:

Over the years. So many presents. Given. Received.

The present I especially remember was ... Manhattan Beach, CA. Christmas 1956. My dad was teaching at UCLA that year. We were living in a funky old house on the Strand, which (if my Web sleuthing is accurate) has been bulldozed for condos since the last time I swung by, maybe twenty-five years ago. Alas. Such a house. So many memories for such a short time.

We were only there for a school year. Come June 1957, my dad, with five children to provide for, left academia and signed on with Henry J. and Kaiser Aluminum. We relocated to Belem, Para, Brazil for the next two years or so, while Dad searched for bauxite, exploring the Amazon basin, whacking his machete through the jungles.

Christmas 1956. I was all of four years old and already not exactly your paint-your-fingernails sort of girl. Santa brought me a bright blue metal dump truck that really dumped. You could put four Campbell's soup cans in the bed. And dump them out. And put them back in. And dump them out. I was in hog heaven.

Another memorable present was something my older brother gave me several years after we got back from Brazil. That Christmas, he took an old cruzeiro coin and polished it up then soldered a small brass safety pin on the back to make me a pin. I still have that pin in a place of honor in my jewelry box forty-some years later.

The best present I ever gave? I can't remember, but this Christmas we had the serendipity to decide to give the older younger one a gift certificate to Borderlands, a terrific SFF/H store out on Valencia. I wanted to stick the gift certificate in a book and we found a signed copy of Pratchett's first Johnny Maxwell book. I tucked the gift certificate into the book.

Turns out the older younger one had been searching for years for that title. He had the later Johnny Maxwells but wanted to start with #1 and hadn't been able to find it. The fact that we'd found him a copy -- signed -- made his Christmas.

Thanks for the memories, Laura.

Answer yourselves here, folks: "What's the best gift you ever gave? What's the best gift you ever got? And have you ever had to fake it?"

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