I have to tell this story on my dear godmother, Fabulous Auntie Jill, and the movie camera she received for Christmas one year. Jill, we love you, and I’m sure you remember the story. I’ll bet you still have the film.
Gift opening on Christmas at our house generally went like this: we would let Mom and Dad know we were awake, after which they’d finish laying out the gifts and ring a bell. This was our signal to rush down the hall and tear into our gifts. Paper, ribbon, and gift boxes would go flying every which way as we saw what Santa had brought us. We could finish the job of opening everything in about ten minutes flat. Then, of course, we’d throw out the gift wrap (and, more often than not, a critical piece of a toy or game that was necessary to make the thing work) and get ready for 12:15 Mass. Occasionally, we were joined by Fabulous Auntie Jill, who would watch as we tore into our gifts, saying, “Boys, that’s beautiful wrapping paper, please try not to rip it!” Of course, tearing the paper off the gifts was half the fun of Christmas, so her words went in one ear and out the other.
The year after Dad died, we decided to alter the Christmas routine by going to Midnight Mass, then coming home and opening our gifts, have a very early or very late breakfast depending on your point of view, then sleep until noon. Jill and Moe, another of Mom’s sisters who lived with Jill, celebrated the holiday with us, and came over to the house at about nine o’clock Christmas Eve, Jill carrying the Kodak Super 8 movie camera she had gotten from Santa. She was anxious to try it out, and what better way to test it than by capturing the Holton Boys during their annual Christmas Bacchanalia?
A 1960’s Kodak Instamatic Super 8 Movie Camera similar to Jill’s. They just celebrated 50 years of making Super 8 film, so hers must have been one of the early ones (Photo: Ebay.com)
We went to Midnight Mass, which was, of course, beautiful, and about forty-five minutes too long. After Mass, we walked the short block home (Church was at 6559 North Glenwood, we lived at 6459 North Glenwood) and were told to go down the hall until everything was ready for us. The three of us gathered in one room, and realized we were all thinking the same thing. After some hasty planning, we had a strategy.
“All right, boys, come on out!” my mother yelled. Knowing Jill was waiting at the end of the hall with her camera, we came sauntering out and walked, not ran, down the hall. One of us might have even stopped to use the bathroom, I’m not sure. When we got to the tree, we sat down and unwrapped a gift carefully, so as not to tear the paper….
Jill was furious with us. Mom, of course, thought it was hilarious.