OK, this is really hard to pinpoint, unless you were there.
80’s Christmases were “fuzzier”. Primarily I mean the picture on the television set, but also that it was a low-definition decade. Aside from LaserDisc, watch those old YouTube commercials. Note how everything has a warm and friendly haze surrounding it? This effect is made greater by the fact that we were oft gathered around an ancient CRT that spewed a warm light blaring a soundtrack of 80’s bargains, toys and stores.
Seriously, look at any commercials pre 1989. No CGI, nothing special technically, but man did they feel warm and homey. Watch “Nobody Beats the Wiz” commercials, or especially Folgers “Peter’s home!” commercial. If you don’t know which one I mean by that last one, there’s no hope for you recognizing anything I’m talking about.
But it goes forward: catalog photos and newspapers: slightly fuzzy, dim views of what you hoped for. You couldn’t pick out too many details, making what you ACTUALLY got for Christmas always a bit of a surprise. Also, any pictures we took were invariably slightly warm and fuzzy looking also – witness Polaroid instamatics.
The point is, the past literally had a warm, fuzzy glow to it that is not just in photos. I remember when NOTHING was online, there was only the phonebook and what you could find via telephone. Nothing really says Christmas to me like the warm glow of windows and tree lights streaming out from my grandmothers house onto cold and bleak streets that my mothers car would slowly make its way to. We’d bundle up and head inside, to the stale smell of cigarettes and the muffled sound of old creaky Christmas specials coming over the ancient TV purchased in the 70’s from the now-closed Montgomery Wards downtown. Inside, it was warm and intimate – my mother and father, my grandmother and I together exchanging presents. They bought way too many for me, and I opened them with great joy as millions of polaroids were taken (which, my grandmother having passed, I am thrilled she took).
I remember when we didn’t have the right batteries for some robot, so my dad and I headed out to his truck and drove slowly through the abandoned streets to the corner drugstore, the only place open Christmas (Wal-Mart had not yet come to town). An eerie but beautiful silence fell across our little neighborhood, while old Christmas songs played on the scratchy radio in the truck. We crossed the parking lot, filled with exactly two cars as light snow fell to the ground. The young clerk, freezing outside the store, quickly extinguished his cigarette he was barely managing to hold in the freezing cold. $7 and “D” batteries later, we paid the extortion money required to get such things that only a child could need Christmas morning.
In silence, we drove away, after wishing the clerk a Merry Christmas. In the warmth of the cab, bundled up I snuggled down and smiled as my father silently took us back to Grandma’s house, carrying me asleep inside to lay down and awaken later in a winter wonderland which now lives only in fuzzy memories.
Merry Christmas to all – and Dad and Grandma, I’ll always love you both, and I miss you every day.