Leaner times — but boy, were they fun

As a child, Christmas was a magical time, even though from the viewpoint of a child who had been primed by relentless toy advertisers, perhaps a bit disappointing.

No Chatty Cathy. No Barbie Dream House. No Easy-Bake Oven.

Money was scarce in our house of seven kids/two parents, so we pretty much got one present apiece and some small thing for our stocking (an actual sock; knee-high, with an orange in the toe, followed by unwrapped hard ribbon candy — which always seemed to have sock fuzz on it before it was over — wrapped, dome-shaped, Brach’s chocolates of some sort, unshelled nuts, an apple and a banana).

For my older sisters, the stocking gift was often something like a “rainbow pad” (something we joke about to this day); by the time I and my younger sisters came along it was more like a yo-yo, Troll doll, Slinky or other small toy.

My parents (mainly my mom; Dad was never too enthused about Christmas or any holiday; though he did make sure we had a tree each year) did the best they could to make Christmas special, and we were rich where it counted — we had each other.

We played board games, sang Christmas songs (with one of my older sisters playing piano) and laughed a lot. With a house full of girls whose ages spanned 15 years (my eldest sister was 10 years my senior; the youngest five years my junior), it made for a lively time.

My three kids, now grown, had it better in terms of material gifts, but they never had quite the same level of family fun — except one year, when we joined all of their cousins at my Salt Lake City sister’s house. With the three of them and four cousins, the numbers that year were the same as I’d grown up with.

So many memories were made that year: gingerbread houses, snow play (a thrill for my desert-dwelling kids) and a chaotic Christmas morning with lots of laughs.

One of the heartiest of those came after someone had opened their Furby — a talking, electronic, robotic creature that was the hot item that year (and enjoying a resurrection this year). Just as the Furby spoke its first words, the household cat walked by and sprang about 3 feet straight up, then struck a typical arched-back pose at the strange being — then sauntered away.

I think of all the Christmases I’ve known, that one stands out as the warmest, fuzziest and most fun. It is our hope to replicate it one of these years soon.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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