Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

It’s that time of year — making Thanksgiving plans, shopping for friends and relatives and getting parties on the schedule.

The kid in me remembers how November’s entrance ushered in the most wonderful time of the year. It was marked by the arrival of the JC Penney and Sears catalogues, the pages of which were packed full of all the toys good girls and boys could ever want or need.

Back in the 1970s, that was a huge deal in the Schaver house.

Mom would have my brother Allen and me circle the toys we wanted and turn the catalogues back over to her by a specified deadline.

It seems to me that she would order clothes through the catalogues, but that the toy pages were more of a guide for her when she went shopping in Clinton.

I seriously don’t know what Al circled — probably something with wheels or one of those Aurora slot race tracks that I remember set up on our downstairs pool table.

I do remember the Merlin game he got one year.

Oh, and that set of Emergency walkie-talkies we got under the tree. They were a takeoff on the 1970s TV show that featured Johnny and Roy, Station 51 and Rampart Hospital.

But those toys were nothing compared to the Timey Tell doll I got while in either first or second grade. She was a doll dressed in pink and came with accessories such as a hairbrush and her very own watch. A toy watch for me that was similar to hers was in the box, too.

Other years, there were dish sets, tiny replicas of baking pans, and Mad, Scrabble, Monoply and Stratego games under the tree. Our closet was full of the toys we accumulated each year.

But like in the movie “The Santa Clause”, there still was that one toy that was out of reach every year. You know the one – the toy that you never got that you remember even when you’re all grown up.

I always circled it on the catalogue wish list pages. And every year, I’d check out the wrapped presents under the tree to see if there was a package shaped the way it would be if it were that gift.

See, as a kid, I loved to bake cakes and cookies, so it only made sense that an Easy Bake Oven should make its way into my toyroom.

And not just that, I wanted the largest inventory of mixes for cakes and frostings too. That led to an additional circle on the page.

The years came and went. As the Novembers rolled by, my eyes moved from the toy pages to the clothes pages that were in the front part of the catalogues. We didn’t circle items anymore. Often, we’d make a trip to the store, where mom would buy what we wanted and would tell us, “Remember, that’s part of your Christmas.”

Time marched on. When my two sons were old enough to ask for presents, I found myself back in the toy aisles. I think because of the toys they wanted, I wasn’t in the area where I would spy the Easy Bake Ovens.

So I kind of forgot about them.

Until one day. I was out shopping and saw one on the shelf.

I picked it up and looked longingly at the box – a flash of 7-year-old me wondering if Mom would buy that someday.

The funny part? I could have bought that oven for myself, but I didn’t.

It’s the same moment when I realized it’s the memory of those early Christmases – not the gift itself – that is priceless.