Christmas 1977

L-R: me, mom, Holly

This is me giving my mom “my” present of florally-scented bath cubes. As a six-year-old I’m not someone with pocket change for fancy gurl toiletries but my dad comes to me with a wrapped box and says something to me, something like, “here, Michael, give your mother your present.” Since I didn’t actually give her anything, and at age six, not capable of reading between the lines, I say as much; my dad insists again, then I insist again in confused exchange until finally my mother plays along. I end up being more fascinated by them than she is — they were my gift to me. To mom, bath cubes are in a well-established category of desperation-gift (I know because in later years I give my mom scented toiletries when I couldn’t think of anything else to give her), to me they’re more pretty datum to be collected and savored: What do violets smell like? What do lily-of-the-valleys smell like? What do…? Pretty! My mom and stepdad still give each other presents under their pets’ names. I still don’t really understand that cute misdirection, or what kind of pleasure they get from indulging in such a thin family in-joke.

We’re the Daddino family and we’re into CB! You can sorta make it out right there, in a box, to the right. Later that night Bobby uses it to talk to another kid who got a CB radio for Christmas, how romantic. In retrospect, we were maybe slightly ahead of the CB-craze curve for Long Island, given my mom’s long-term fascination with country & western. I even remember Red Sovine’s “Teddy Bear” (and various spin-off records) being played a lot on the radio the year before; then, earlier that year, we all see Smoky and the Bandit (which comes as something of a shock, as this is the first time I hear someone outside the family curse — I just sorta assumed my brothers had invented “fuck” and “shit”) (also, this movie is a benchmark for memory-fade, as after we leave the theater, I remark to my mom that this is the first movie [in a theater] I’ve ever seen, and she’s surprised that I have no recollection of films I saw just a few years before).