By this time, kids around the world have had a chance to explore everything that had been under the Christmas tree just a couple weeks earlier.
And, I doubt that kids today are all that different from the kids in my generation – except, of course, that our “electronic” gadgets were metal football fields that shook to move tiny players in the direction of the opposing team’s goal (we hoped), or were finely tuned to favorite AM radio stations, or played our favorite 45 RPM vinyl records.
Those gadgets that allow us to watch virtual reality scenes through goggles, or connect with someone in a different part of the world, or play virtual sports with quick movements of our fingers across a screen, were far, far away in the future.
Still, we didn’t feel deprived. Those games of today were beyond even our imagination. So, we were thrilled with what was available to our parents and what we saw advertised in newspaper advertising supplements on Sunday … or what we found on the pages of a Spiegel catalog.
And, so it was about 60 years ago, I found myself in some sort of “limbo,” created by the fact that my main Christmas gift had not yet arrived. Oh, I’d had a wonderful Christmas for sure, opening gifts with family and friends, even exploring the stocking with my name attached by a straight pin. I knew what that stocking held – an orange, an apple, some wrapped pieces of hard candy, a few pecans, peanuts in the shell, a couple pairs of underwear and socks – but it was still a joy to dump those things out on the table and go through them eagerly.
I’d also received a few gifts under the tree (you know, Santa had somehow come down the chimney in a house with no chimney and had devoured the goodies left for him) and enjoyed them all, while also smiling at the joy on the faces of a younger brother and sister. I’d been pleased when mom and dad expressed joy in the gifts I’d given them (even though they probably had no use for them).
But all that joy was tempered by the knowledge that my main gift was probably lost in the mail somewhere.
I didn’t know, but suspected, what my big gift was going to be that year. It had been ordered through a Spiegel catalog and I’d picked it out myself. It just hadn’t arrived yet. My parents told me I had another gift coming.
As each day passed after Christmas, I’d been pretty unsettled by the wait. Every day I’d ask my mom and dad if the package had arrived. Each day the answer was “no, not yet.”
I’m sure my parents got impatient quite quickly with a 12-year-old who was having more trouble waiting for a package to arrive than he was with that day’s school homework.
So, finally, after a week, I was told that I should go to the Post Office and get the mail each day after school. That way, I’d know just when my Christmas gift arrived.
After several days of running home, dropping my books off and then sprinting up town to the Post Office, there it was. It was in a small square package and I could hardly wait to run back home and open it, but I did.
Running into the house, I quickly shed my shoes on the porch and tossed my winter coat carelessly aside. I sat the box on the table, looked at it for just a quick moment of anticipation and joy, then cut away the tape and broke open the box.
There it was. I couldn’t be happier; I couldn’t be prouder.
I grabbed the leather object and quickly put it on my left hand. I thought it fit perfectly and as soon as it was on my left hand I began pounding it with my right. I rushed to a downstairs closet and retrieved a worn baseball and began tossing the ball against the leather object. I must have done that for a full half-hour before I put the ball aside and began studying my new gift.
Yup, I thought. It’s just what I saw in the Spiegel catalog, just exactly what I’d dreamed of owning. It was my first-ever brand new baseball glove. It was a Wilson, a three-finger model with the name “Nellie Fox” stamped into the leather.
“Nellie Fox.” I knew that name, of course, from baseball. He was the second baseman for the Chicago White Sox and, even though I wasn’t a White Sox fan, I’d found that the baseball bat I liked most was a “Nellie Fox” model, a thick handled bat that was comfortable when swung by a 12-year-old whose sole dream in life was to play professional baseball. It followed, then, that a “Nellie Fox” glove was what I needed.
That dream of playing baseball was shared by thousands of boys of that generation, a dream that rarely came true.
But, in 1956, that didn’t matter. The only thing that did matter was the winter weather. It was tough waiting for the snow to go away and the temperatures to rise enough to finally get outside. I couldn’t wait to try out that glove for real; all my friends knew I’d gotten it for Christmas. Now, I just had to prove to them that it was a glove that would take me to baseball stardom.
The glove’s been gone for decades, worn out long ago, just as the baseball dream faded away. But, “Nellie Fox” will always have a place in my heart, just like the piece of leather that brought such joy so many years ago.