Author Topic: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)  (Read 12809 times)

Unknown Primate

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #15 on: December 26, 2011, 04:58:57 PM »
Awesome!  Conjured up a few Christmas memories of my own - thanks for posting your beautiful story.
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Hepcat

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #16 on: December 26, 2011, 08:02:39 PM »
Quote from: mrjaycox
Until I looked down and saw how wrong I was…

There they were. 

Stacked one behind the other at my feet. The black glossy cards with the silver-toned images. The sunburst of glow lightning peeking out around the edges of the blister.  In my rush to open the wrapped gifts, I had somehow forgotten about the unwrapped ones Santa always left at the hearth. And now I was holding them.

Dracula was in front, his mouth spread wide, and two fangs hanging down like silver stalactites.  I cast him aside. Behind him, ImHoTep peered out from a  ¾ profile, and as my pulse quickened, I set him down only to find Frankenstein behind, his scarred forehead burned in the windmill fire.

Finally, as I got to the back, there he was. On canine tip-toe, eyes turned to the side as though scouting for his prey. Twin trails of blood down the corners of his mouth, and a sickly green pallor to his face. That could mean only one thing.

Wow! Do you still have them, or do you now have M.O.C. ones to replace the originals you had that are now long gone?

 ???
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mjaycox

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #17 on: December 26, 2011, 08:36:52 PM »
Wow! Do you still have them, or do you now have M.O.C. ones to replace the originals you had that are now long gone?

 ???

I still have them-- the original 4. All still beautiful. Somehow, they avoided the purges of my teen years.

Matt
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RedKing

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #18 on: December 28, 2011, 08:19:57 PM »
what a wonderful story matt-thanks so much for posting it! side from the huge family, i grew up in almost the exact same way in the same time period. i'll never forget christma 1976 when i wa s 5 years old. after all the presents were opened my dad said he thought santa left more stuff behind the bar-lo nd behold there were several aurora prehistoric scenes kits all assembled and beautifully painted(by my dad, not santa as i thought at the time) There ws the triceratops, wooly mammoth and most wonderful of all-the giant tyrannosaurus! Christmas was magical back then indeed!
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bigbud

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #19 on: December 31, 2011, 10:32:19 PM »
Great stuff Matt! One of the toys you show a pic of intrigues me. I have never seen the Super Heroes Gamma Glow Machine before. I'll have to start looking for one of those!   Buddy

Sleepyhollowstudios

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #20 on: January 01, 2012, 10:43:04 PM »
This is wonderful stuff, Matt. This is the type of story they publish, turn into a movie, and then air during 24-hour marathons on superstations.

Seriously, though, it is a wonderful story that reminds me of my own childhood Christmases. It's very evocative.

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mjaycox

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #21 on: December 20, 2012, 11:56:19 PM »
This is a bump up. I know it is the height of arrogance to bump up your own thread.

But I am in a Christmas state of mind. As an annual ritual, I just re-read what I feel are the two best Christmas stories in the English language: "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas, and James Joyce's "The Dead" (from The Dublineers). Both obviously heavily influenced what I wrote here. Nonetheless, it sums up everything I feel about Christmas, and, in a way, monster toys too.

Merry Christmas everybody. I can't wait to see what everybody got. :)

Best,

Matt
"I don't want to live in the past. I just don't want to lose it."
     -The Two Jakes

1975

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #22 on: December 21, 2012, 08:55:10 AM »
Great stuff!

Hepcat

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #23 on: December 21, 2012, 11:49:21 AM »
This is a bump up. I know it is the height of arrogance to bump up your own thread.

As an annual ritual, I just re-read what I feel are the two best Christmas stories in the English language: "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas, and James Joyce's "The Dead" (from The Dublineers). Both obviously heavily influenced what I wrote here. Nonetheless, it sums up everything I feel about Christmas, and, in a way, monster toys too.

No problem bumping up your own thread with great tips like that! I'll look up both those stories this week.

 8)
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Hepcat

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #24 on: December 22, 2012, 09:51:04 AM »
This is the best post I've ever read on the UMA.

A year later and I still agree.

 :)

Quote from: mjaycox
When I was a boy it snowed on Christmas.

Every Christmas.

Each snowfall was distinguished from the last only by the amount and insistence with which it came. It would fall down from the tips of the branches of Gardner’s woods, roll down the hill of Duffy lane, obscuring the well-worn footpaths through the park, where only a few months ago the sand diamonds were freshly raked. Large flakes, silver and dark against the lamplight, fell silently year after year on to the smooth, still waters of our pond and settled into invisibility. 

But I remember the snow. It was not an inconvenience in those days, and therefore so much more important to me.

Yes. I too really miss the snow. The snowfall in Toronto this century is a far cry from that of the London, Ontario of my childhood.

 :(
« Last Edit: December 22, 2012, 09:56:51 AM by Hepcat »
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terrypierson

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #25 on: December 27, 2012, 12:20:47 PM »
Stunning, beautiful writing. My first Christmas wasn't until the late 80s but for reasons I don't totally understand I feel a total kinship with the times you speak of. Thank you for this touching story that has provided a glimpse at what seems like a truly magical time.

JulioPatrick

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #26 on: January 29, 2014, 05:32:30 AM »
Hello Boils and Ghouls,

The following long essay is my reminiscing on Christmases from my childhood, and one in particular when I desperately wanted a Remco Wolf Man figure. It is also about when I saw "Son of Frankenstein" for the first time, and how it became a holiday favorite. And of course it is also a homage to Dylan Thomas's great remembrance of things past. It is not meant to be entirely historically accurate, but more an evocation of what life was like for me then. Riverwoods was the small town north of Chicago I grew up in. It was the greatest place to grow up. I think of it more at this time of year than any other.

Merry Christmas all. And thanks for reading.

Matt

***

 A Child’s Christmas In Riverwoods



When I was a boy it snowed on Christmas.

Every Christmas.

Each snowfall was distinguished from the last only by the amount and insistence with which it came. It would fall down from the tips of the branches of Gardner’s woods, roll down the hill of Duffy lane, obscuring the well-worn footpaths through the park, where only a few months ago the sand diamonds were freshly raked. Large flakes, silver and dark against the lamplight, fell silently year after year on to the smooth, still waters of our pond and settled into invisibility. 

I would watch from my upstairs bedroom window as they drifted past, illuminated by the Christmas lights strung high in our evergreen tree. Sometimes my window was closed, sometimes open. It didn’t matter. My house was warm in those days, always. What need had I to close it? As it pillowed softly inch by inch on the long stretch of the open meadow near my home, its surface began to look like another planet, and, in my mind, it was always how I imagined the North Pole must look. Half-fallen wood posts, secured together by railroad spikes, once which held wire fences, stuck up slightly above the snow in the twilight. If they had been candy-cane striped, the image would have been complete.

The magnificence of my childhood in Riverwoods began in 1974. It lasted throughout all the years that saw my Father’s family spread, leave, and grow into its second generation— (I was the last of its first). There were twelve of us, in all. 11 brothers, one sister. Hard to believe then. Harder now.  When my Father first built our home, it was barely a ranch.  The family was smaller then. As it grew, the house grew with us until it was a split-level with 6 bedrooms and two fireplaces, one at each end. The basement windows were below ground halfway, and so if we wanted to, my brother Chris and I could pretend we were snowbound. And when the snow was deep, as it so often was, we could leap from our upper windows into the banks.


(a snowbank outside my bedroom window)


(my front yard)

I remember so little of those early years. Mostly what remains are the images. They crowd through my mind in rapid colorful succession like confetti at a parade, tangible, but flimsy. Hard to grasp. 

But I remember the snow. It was not an inconvenience in those days, and therefore so much more important to me. The way it settled onto the top of our toffee-tree lamp post, diffusing the light, until, as the tree grew around it in time, it became shielded from the snow forever. The snow would come down so heavily, that once in 1978, we dug paths through the snow drifts so that we could walk in the back yard. I would pass through the tunnels like a gunnery sergeant in the trenches of France. I remember all the snowfalls. And I remember the Christmases. The two are linked, really. You can’t have one without the other. Not if you grew up in my home in the 70s.     

 
***
“ The Christmas tree is out!” I heard exclaimed.
“Are the branches sorted?”
“Don’t know—wait—yes, they’re doing it now!”

They were indeed. My Father and older brothers.  Our Christmas tree was kept in an old refrigerator box in the rafters of our attic. We used to have a real tree every Christmas, but when our house burned (from something else) one year, my mother feared for having anything so flammable as a real tree in our house again. So we had an artificial one. Its trunk was made of two joined pieces of ash with sockets drilled into it. Each branch went in individually, and were color coded on their stems by size. The colors had been put on with crayon by my dad and me the year before. From this same crayon set, each year, I would take a blue crayon and mark down the date of the first snowfall in the back cover of an Incredible Hulk coloring book I had. I kept this same crayon to write with every year. I was an observer of ritual even then. 



But on our tree, the crayon marks were wearing off, and hard to see, so branch sorting was going slowly. My father hated to leave a project in progress, so when the time for 5 O’clock Saturday Mass came, he stayed behind while my Mom took my brothers to Church. I stayed with him and we began to decorate the tree. Lights, tinsel, garlands, ornaments, nativity set with ceramic figures, and tree-top star made by my bother Tim. The TV was on in the front room, and my Dad and I had started a fire (my job was to crumple the newspaper and stuff it under the kindling). With the fire crackling, and the light fading, Dad stood on top of a dining chair and hung the ornaments high above while I worked below.

The TV was tuned to WFLD channel 32, which, regardless of season, showed Saturday Chiller Theater. The shows were in a rotation, and rarely deviated from a set order. Thus “The Wolf Man” came on in October (and again in Summer),  “Dracula” was  early in the rotation, around the time school would start. “Abbott and Costello Meet” was, of course, Halloween.

But Christmas time? That was the time for “Son of Frankenstein.” 

I remember so clearly seeing it for the first time that Christmas season as my Dad and I set up the tree. The strangeness of Frankenstein’s Sheepskin vest, how it made him look like he stepped out of a story book. The pit of what looked like lava in the Baron’s laboratory. The strange worn countryside outside of train car. How Wolf Frankenstein’s fireplace resembled ours. It was the sort of fireplace conversations of great import could take place around.  And most of all, I remember Ygor—his wild mischievous eyes and grizzled beard. The Monster I could be friends with. He was a child too. But instinctively as a child, I knew Ygor was one to not trust.


When the film was over, the tree was done decorating. My Father went upstairs to change and my Mom returned home from church. She followed him upstairs. They were having company this evening. They and their friends would gather, and go home to home seeing each others’ Yuletide decorations. They would bring Christmas cards and bottles of wine and exotic cheeses and fruits and desserts. The cards would be clipped to a pair of long green canvas banners which hung high from the side of our brick fireplace. I liked hanging them. Feeling the heavy cardstock, the red velvet surfaces fretted with gold, and baroque images of the Virgin and Christ Child, somber silhouettes of the Magi traveling beneath the star. Inside were inscriptions from family and friends I didn’t know, but my heart raced to read them nonetheless; they were like the harbingers of people I would be seeing in coming weeks. Each with a new story fit only for telling over a plate of pfefferneuse cookies and a glass of warm egg nog.

As the door bell rang, I would rush to answer it, passing beneath the holly-swag garland my dad and I hung in the archway leading to the foyer, (thinking how I would swing from them when nobody was looking).  Elegantly-dressed ladies passed through the door one after the other.  Some called me “Mark”, others “Chris”. Very few could get my name straight, and when they did, always came the tone of surprise.

“Matt?! Really?!”
“Oh my goodness. Getting big.”
“No longer sickly…”

But on this night, so soon after “Son of Frankenstein” finished, the doorbell rang one last time. I ran to it, opened the door and peered out into the darkness over the snow of the front yard. From up to my right, a head leaned down and looked at me. Two wild eyes beneath a mane of shaggy hair were the only human features in a face concealed by the thickest beard I had ever seen. Mischief looked out of them. Teeth went from ear to ear, and he wore a heavy wool sweater turtleneck. And worst of all, he knew my name.

“Hello, Matt!”     

Ygor had come to my house, and he knew my name! I screamed and ran away up to my room and hid, never having been so scared in my life. Mr. Schorr, my Dad’s friend, stood on our doorstep, feeling bewildered. But he never forgot the day I mistook him for Frankenstein’s evil assistant. 

And I have never forgotten to watch “Son of Frankenstein” at least once each year at Christmas time.

***

“The presents are starting to come!” Chris said.
“Really? Where?”
“There, next to the table side of the Tree!”

And so they were. This Christmas, those who couldn’t be with us, (and they were thankfully few), sent their presents ahead. They stood like the advance guard beneath the tree, wrapped in red glossy paper and tied with green velvet ribbon. Even one of them was for me. Christmas was still more than a week away, and for some reason, my brother Chris and I had a made a point to play with our toys of last year. At that time, we had been given a planetarium set. It was a small table-mounted black lantern that when lit up would shine the stars of the night sky on our ceiling. It came with a cassette tape which you played in a tiny tots tape player. When played, a deep voice would begin, “This is our solar system.” As though we had guilty consciences, we would always return to our presents of the year past to show—“look Santa! We really are still playing with it! Please bring more toys.”

I did not know what they contained, but these new presents were a reminder to me that I needed to get a move on if I didn’t want Santa Claus to forget my wish list. Especially this year above all years.

Because this year I wanted the “Wolf Man.” Not just any Wolfman.

The Remco Wolfman. On the blister card with the artwork that looked like it was from “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.”  I had seen it in pictures, and catalogues for Sears and Penneys and Childs World, and on TV commercials. I loved the Wolfman beyond all reasoning, and I desperately wanted this figure. It was the same size as my Star Wars figures, but so much more important in my imagination.


I had seen the ad on TV—how they glowed. How they had a carrying case which doubled as a monster castle. How a lab table could energize them to glow in the dark. I delighted at the prospect that the monsters could hang out as friends, like the Justice League. Even as a child I knew there was something off about Remco toys, something a little different—special even. They were like regular toys turned on their side… they had attitude.


Their Spiderman toys crawled up web lines and cast web-shaped flashlight lights. Incredible Hulk could parachute alongside the Planet of the Apes. They didn’t bother making a fortress of solitude for Superman… they made his prison instead. Utility belts weren’t restricted to Batman—the Enterprise crew had them too, as did Captain America. 


(gamma glow machine? Superman's hula hoop prison is more like it)




So it was off to Santa with the list. And keep it short so its importance would be emphasized, lest Santa get distracted in amidst the needless requests for a new soccerball or hot wheels cars.

But I hedged my bets and told my parents too.  No need to take risks.


(me and my brother Chris seeing Santa at the mall in Vernon Hills. I am the one talking)

(continued on next post)


Awesome way to celebrate Christmas.. I am bit scared of these horror stories and would never be love to alone at such places.

Hepcat

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #27 on: January 29, 2014, 09:46:16 AM »
What horror story? In which places would you be scared to be alone?

 ???
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freddie poe

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #28 on: January 29, 2014, 10:47:44 AM »
Matt! having been an English major in college of course we read A Child's XMass in Wales ( i even played Dylan Thomas in the school production) and your short story is amazing!! You really captured the moment in memory which is not easy when writing any piece of  lengthy Lit... Its SO good i wish i wrote it!!! Nice job Buddy!! F.P.

mjaycox

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Re: A Child's Christmas In Riverwoods. (Christmas monster toy memories)
« Reply #29 on: January 31, 2014, 04:48:11 PM »
Matt! having been an English major in college of course we read A Child's XMass in Wales ( i even played Dylan Thomas in the school production) and your short story is amazing!! You really captured the moment in memory which is not easy when writing any piece of  lengthy Lit... Its SO good i wish i wrote it!!! Nice job Buddy!! F.P.

Thanks FP! And thank you to whoever resurrected this thread. I am flattered.
"I don't want to live in the past. I just don't want to lose it."
     -The Two Jakes