Pipe Dreams

There was this Christmas when I knew I was getting an organ. I’d opened the hall closet one day and there was a box that was clearly an organ. This was back in the 1970s before electronic keyboards or digital instruments.

Did I know how to play an organ? Nope. Did I want one that fit in a small cardboard box tucked under coats in a closet? Nope. I dreamed of a giant pipe organ along one wall of the bedroom I shared with my sister.

I’ve never been one who wanted to peek at presents or know ahead of time. I’ve never liked having to give people ideas, or make lists. Being surprised is part of the magic. But husbands, and parents, seem to want a list.

When we were young, that meant the Sears Roebuck Christmas catalog. It was big and heavy and came in the mail with glorious color photos of every toy imaginable. Us kids would pore over the dreams, marking up pages and folding corners.

So there I was, accidentally knowing about the organ ahead of time. I had guilt the weeks leading up to Christmas. I worried that my knowing would ruin the joy for my parents, being able to give me something I’d marked. It’s not like they could often afford the things all us kids dreamed about.

When it came time to open gifts, I ripped into that cardboard box, squealing, jumping up and down, everything I could think of to prove how much I loved it and how little I knew I was getting it. That became a family story for years after. ‘Yes, so and so sure loved their gift, but nothing like how excited Lisa was with that organ!’ No one ever suspected.

Really, it was an awful organ. A little thing that sat on the desk and sounded wheezy and tinny. I found an old book of American folk songs and picked the few easy tunes out. I attempted The Minstrel Boy, Clementine, and Shenandoah over and over. No matter how bad the music sounded, I owed it to my parents to prove to them how much I loved their gift. Mom used to come down the hallway, apologize, and shut my bedroom door.

I remember being relieved when the thing finally wheezed its last note and died.

It took years.

What gift stands out in your memory?

9 thoughts on “Pipe Dreams

  1. the one story I keep retelling is the one about what I didnt get and wanted for so many years. A remote controlled car!! Yes I am a girl and I was one after lots of male cousins and with 3 brothers. So lots of grandmas and my stepmom were happy to at least have me, the one girl, to give all the cute girly outfits and girly presents to. But I had this time in my childhood were I really wanted to be a boy!! And though I liked and even loved my dolls and my Barbie family, I played with a lot of non gender toys, like we did in those days, like Lego and Playmobil, etc. That one year all us kids had wished for remote controlled cars and all my 3 brothers got one. I got my Barbie family. I loved them and did play with them a lot for years. But I was soooooo disappointed to not get a car that year. I wished for one the next 2 years and never got one. But later we all got this race track and at least then I got my own car that went with it. I was so happy, at least one car! But still today I wonder if I should just get myself a remote controlled car one day. At least I have a decent size model car of a Mustang Convertible in blue now that the mother of one of my bosses gave me for a birthday one year. She really had paid attention to what I liked!! 😉 I LOVE that car


    • Definitely get yourself a remote control car. That story reminds me of how I hated that my brother got to work with my dad to build these little wooden cars for a class project, that they then got to race. I so wanted one.


  2. Okay. The gift that stands out in my mind — the only gift I really remember — was given to me by my maternal grandmother. She gave me long underwear. The bottom part. They were like long shorts that went to my knees and I was expected to wear them under my skirt to school. I said, to my mother, “Over my dead body.” My mother laughed so hard she cried.


    • That’s hilarious! Rather like knickers under skirts to preserve your modesty. Always the threat that boys would look up our skirts. Or that we would do something stupid like playing on the parallel bars or monkey bars in our skirts. Look at how life changed when we were finally allowed to wear jeans, slacks, etc. But still, I’m picturing the bottoms of long johns under a skirt. Can I assume you never wore them?


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