It’s the day after Christmas, and I sit here in a pensive mood. My three-year old grandson is in an adjoining room, taking a much-needed nap. I politely, and regrettably, declined his invitation to join him.
I’ve watched him off and on all morning, between work projects, while he was playing with new toys — with occasional forays into my office to sit in my lap and see what I’m doing that’s more pressing than playing with him. It’s a hard question.
Christmas day, while watching him open package after package, moving from one new toy to another, I thought about the simpler Christmases we enjoyed when I was his age and a tad older. And I wondered if he has decided on a favorite new toy yet. It seems like it’s his new Spiderman LEGO set. It’s been with him all morning.
I thought, too, about my favorite Christmas gifts when I was a boy. I remember the flashlight I kept for years. And pistols that lasted about a month before falling apart. But one of the most memorable gifts was a clock radio I got when I was probably 12 or 13.
It had been high on my wish list. And now, I fell asleep every night listening to hockey games — which I did not understand — on big stations out of the Midwest. We could tune into basketball from nearby colleges. And the music stations played Chet Atkins, Elvis, and the Platters (it was pre-Beatles).
That AM radio woke me up every morning through high school, got me through college, and to a few jobs, until sometime in my early 20s the light in the tubes dimmed, flickered, and went out.
I don’t know how much my parents paid for that simple radio, but the investment was sound. Before I left for college, and probably a few times during summer breaks, Dad and I would sit in the dark in my room — windows open to let in what breeze was available, the sound of crickets, and tree frogs, and the occasional car passing on the country road as a backdrop — and listen to the Atlanta Braves.
It became a ritual. We listened to Milo Hamilton, the Braves announcer, call the game, and we hoped, usually futilely, for a Braves win. The Braves, just after they moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta, were not pennant contenders. They were, well, about like they are now.
But it didn’t matter. Dad and I listened to the games. Conversation was sparse, usually about the play, sometimes about Hank Aaron, Dad’s favorite player (next to me, of course). This was long before cable television carried every major league game every day.
We both loved baseball. And if we wanted to keep up with the Braves, we listened to my radio — the best Christmas present ever.