March 26 05:20 PM

Santa on minds of people young and old

December 16, 2009
Ice skates. A doll. A toy train. Rubber boots. An Etch-A-Sketch. A baseball bat. A puppy. A new dress. A fire truck. Monopoly. Operation. Battle Ships. Paints. Play-dough. A Barbie doll. A teddy bear. A two-wheeler.

I'm showing my age now, aren't I? These are the things I remember as being quite common on the Christmas wish list when I was a kid. Oh, the good old days when Santa's elves made toys, three-dimensional objects that required no electricity and were limited only by our 6-, 7- and 8-year-old imaginations.

A few years later we wished for a record album, a walkie-talkie, a transistor radio, the latest trendy fashion—boots, tie-dyed t-shirts, miniskirts. We are now in a hurry to get on with adult life that all the games and role-playing with regular toys taught us. Lucky for me, for my parents...not so much.

Today's parents, though, have it even tougher in my estimation. In a couple of weeks readers will be able to take a look at the too-cute-for-words-misspelled-and-very-sweet letters to Santa from area second graders. The kids are between 7- and 8-years-old and let me tell you their wish lists are much different than those I recall some 4.6 decades ago. Why am I surprised? Alarmed, maybe even? I'm not sure. Maybe because of those I've seen so far only three of them include wishes for a doll or a pet. One actually says she doesn't need anything for Christmas.

Most, however, want things that the average family can't possibly come through with (at least as far as I know) and some of the items aren't age-appropriate at all in my less-than-knowledgeable estimation.

Tons of 7- and 8-year-olds want a laptop computer. Dozens more want a DS, an iPod; a Wii and lots of games for it. Pricey items that I'm sure 'Santa' would like to give to the little kids but may have a hard time doing this year what with the economy and all.

I feel somewhat bad that little kids have such high expectations, but I'm also out of touch with their world. Maybe all their friends have laptops and Wii games. Maybe it's that hurry-to-be- grown-up stuff that seems so neat and fun when they see teenagers with it.

A couple of years ago I was flabbergasted at the number of second graders who wanted cell phones. Again, I thought this was a thing they saw their older brother or sister get to have and so they want to be like them and get one too. The same may very well go for laptops. Maybe most high school kids have laptops these days—I don't know...

...I'm tempted to say 'things were simpler when I was a girl...' but I realize that's not really true. The things we wanted at Christmastime were pricey too, and we expected a lot from our parents...uhm... Santa...

Speaking of Santa, the jolly old spirit came early, donning special ice rescue suits in the shape of Attica firefighters.

As the front page indicates, a collie had wandered across a semi-frozen pond and couldn't get out. I'm certain the homeowners must have been losing their minds out of concern for their beautiful pet.

The photos tell a story of specialized training and equipment that the all-volunteer fire department made sure they had. The area, after all, is peppered with ponds and lakes and accidents happen sometimes.

A couple of years ago I got to take the plunge in one of those special suits and I must tell you I felt like a cork bobbing about in the frozen water. What I didn't feel, however, was one bit cold, though there was a hole cut in four-or-five-inch ice for the training exercise.

These firefighters are amazingly brave and they know exactly what they're doing in a frozen pond accident scenario, from shimmying their way across the ice with picks to loading up the victim (human or animal) on the special sled and reeling it in from the shore.

Email Catherine at

Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
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