December 19th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 51
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Looking Back - John Kinnear
A Matter of Expectations
Looking Back
John Kinnear photo
Volunteer fireman's kids Christmas party circa 1958?
While watching America’s Funniest Home Videos the other night they showed a flashback clip of a young man opening a Christmas gift that turned out to be socks! He reacted angrily, displaying his disappointment by punching the package, throwing it to the floor and in a pout shouting: “I don’t want that!” While everyone seemed to find this funny, I found that part of me felt disappointment at the child’s unappreciative attitude. Today’s children’s expectations at Christmas are a lot higher and different than years ago and these expectations do not come cheap!

A few years ago my wife and I had decided to be a little different that year in our shopping choices for our grandchildren and bought special books from a local book store for all five of them. One was a science book with a magnifier and magnet, one was a young ladies book complete with ribbons and elastics for tying exotic ponytails and braids and one was all about dinosaurs, dragons and funny pig faces that popped out of the pages as you turned them. As much as we liked these choices we had a distinct feeling that their expectations, pumped up by those incessant TV ads, were not going to be met.
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Thus on reconsideration we found ourselves in a second round of buying and yes we did by some of those inane Power Ranger’s doodads. At one point I found myself forking over $90 for a “Lion King” game for my grandson’s Super Nintendo. I guess I really dated myself with this. That game came out in 1994!

When I was handed the tiny package I informed the Radio Shack clerk that: “For ninety bucks that lion better be able to come off of the screen and kiss my “Royal Canadian #^%*”. He indicated to me that my expectations were entirely too high for that particular game!

Two years before I was born, a Canadian Air Force Dakota DC-3 crashed into the valley near Mount Ptolemy killing all seven servicemen aboard. While this event may seem quite unconnected with the Yuletide season, for me it eventually did connect in a profound way. You see, my father had made the hike to the DC-3 wreckage many times and one Christmas he decided to build a replica of it for me as a special present. It was made out of apple box wood and hand-carved two by fours, had a three foot wing span and was painted silver. It was a real beauty and I was the envy of all the kids at the volunteer fireman’s Christmas party that year. It was held upstairs in the old International Mine Office in Coleman. It is a place I revisited recently and rejoiced at its almost magical restoration.
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That airplane didn’t transform into a robot with laser guns blazing nor did it fly by remote control. It fit perfectly into my hand and that DC-3 and my imagination soared to places no transformer could ever hope to go. It was more than I ever “expected”!

There is another item that stands out in my childhood memories of Christmas gifts and believe it or not it is socks. But not just any ordinary socks. They were my dear Scottish grandmother’s hand knitted black wool socks with reinforced heel and toe. They were almost indestructible. If I slid across the freshly waxed kitchen floor in those socks and touched our coal stove the static electricity spark was enough to blow your elbow off. What fun they were and mom got her floors polished in the process.

They were warm and lasted a long time and when we wore holes in them she darned them, an old technique of weaving closed holes not on seams. The socks we loved, the woollen knit jackets not so much. That is because the west wind went through these unlined jackets like a freight train. Her woollen mittens were great until you got them wet or the snow balled up on them and turned the tips of your mittens into a collection of golf balls. The smell of wet wool immediately brings back memories.
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In later years I wore those socks underground when I worked in the Vicary Coal Mine, north of Coleman. They kept my feet dry and didn’t show the blackness that is the curse of the coal miner’s clothes. They performed well beyond my EXPECTATIONS and I keep one of those old socks pinned to the wall above my writer’s desk. It keeps me connected to my rich past growing up, to simpler times, when limited expectations were the order of the day.

Some of the traditions of Christmas have withstood these ever changing times but I fear that as time goes by the old traditional yuletide season customs will fade away. All of us who are mindful of the past know that our Christmas memories are more about warm family gatherings and good cheer than about the hyper-sized expectations put out by the media and movies. It is not so much about what is under the tree, it is more about what is in your heart.

Many have said we need to get back to basics at Christmas time and reconnect with the earlier days when expectations were not so hard to meet. Methinks they may be right. A very Merry Christmas to you all from Lorraine and I.
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December 19th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 51
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