Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My favorite Christmas gift

A million years ago, when I was fourteen years old and the dinosaurs roamed the earth, Jimmy Carter was the president and the United States was suffering in the midst of an energy crisis that prompted my parents to turn the furnace's thermostat down to fifty degrees at night, and for those of you who didn't know that even the cotton balls you use to dab your Bonne Bell 10-0-6 pore cleanser on your face could be covered with a faint layer of frost, I assure you - they can.

During the day, my father turned the heat up to a balmy sixty-six degrees and told us if we got cold, we should run in place to get our congealed blood moving through our veins again.

It was during those times that I began to sense the wisdom of our pioneer foremothers, who took all seventeen of their children and sewed them into their union suits for the entire winter. While the gross-out factor of this practice cannot be overstated, I have to say that I can understand their reasoning. Because nothing -- nothing -- has ever been as cold as getting out of the shower at six o'clock on a snowy winter morning and knowing that you had gym first period, followed directly by algebra. NOTHING.

It was so cold at night that I took to wearing a sort of uniform to bed: a nightgown (my mother always favored those Lanz of Salzburg-style flannel gowns), a pair of sweatpants over some fuzzy footies, a pair of long tube socks over those, pulled up over the legs of my sweats; a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, and gloves. It should have been to cold like Kevlar is to bullets, but somehow I always ended up freezing and having to stay huddled in one position all night long because moving my feet to a new place on the sheets was like receiving a strong electric shock.

So, shivering and blue-lipped and wearing my strange assortment of sleepwear with a bathrobe belted over it, I clapped my gloved hands when Mom handed me a large-ish sort of package, festively wrapped, on Christmas morning 1977. Pat had an identical one and I could tell he was hoping that he was getting ready to open a box of those long, orange plastic Hot Wheels race tracks, which he used as weapons to welt people who teased him about his curly blond hair. He was slightly disappointed when he realized that Mom and Dad would not have been getting me some Hot Wheels tracks because back then, I was all about Peter Frampton, so we both ripped into our presents with no clue as to what they could be.

What they were? Electric blankets. Pat's was blue and mine was pink. It was love at first sight, and as soon as I'd eaten breakfast, I pranced back to my bedroom and put it on my bed, searching the single controller for a setting that read "nuclear fusion." My bedroom, the farthest room from the furnace and possessed of only one vent, was nearly cold enough for me to see my breath, and I sat eagerly waiting for my bed to heat up, my gloved hands stuck in the kangaroo pocket of my hooded sweatshirt.

When it was finally warm, I took off everything except the nightgown and slid luxuriously between the sheets, which felt like they'd been toasted. Sooo warm. I slept for something like four hours that Christmas morning, reveling in full-bed warmth.

I kept that electric blanket until I was about twenty-six or so. Actually, I think I only got rid of it when my husband and I got married. It was pretty old by then, and it only had the one control anyway, but it was THE BEST thing while it lasted. It has always been my favorite Christmas gift.

What was yours?

1 comment:

Kayte said...

I can feel the whole situation now...I grew up in NE Iowa, home of the freezing cold spring, fall, and winters and I think I had some similar sleepwear! And, I never ever got an electric would have been the best thing ever!