I once did this. The dentist next door threw out a load of unusual-looking boxes, and it made me curious. The boxes contained plaster models of various patients’ teeth. I knew a lot of the people whose choppers were represented there.
This was too good to pass up. I scooped up a lot of them and gift-wrapped them as gifts for my family at the family Christmas Eve party at my aunts’ house. Everyone was going to be there! And everyone was going to get a nice little set of plaster teeth, probably reflecting the dental state of someone that they knew.
I relished the raised eyebrows as I handed out the gift boxes. Like they would ever guess what was inside! Like my sister would have any idea what to do with a model of Wayne So-and-so’s teeth, who once upon a time lived next door to us.
Oh, the puzzled looks! Puzzled? Try dumbfounded! Oh, the bewildered silence! And finally, the payoff–a whole room full of laughter and merriment. Years later, you could still get a chuckle out of anybody, just by mentioning the incident. Although I very much doubt that anyone who received a set of somebody else’s teeth kept it.
The gag didn’t cost anyone a red cent, but just try buying that much laughter.
This, one of my very earliest memories, came rushing back to me this morning as I drove to the Woodbridge Mall.
I was a little tiny boy, cuddled up on the couch with my Uncle Bernie, in my Grammy’s living room, complete with Christmas tree, and with It Came Upon a Midnight Clear playing somewhere in the background, probably on the radio; and Bernie was reading to me from a book of Christmas stories. When he finished, he turned on the TV set and we watched A Christmas Carol–the old one, with Reginald Owen as Scrooge–on the tiny black-and-white screen. I was too young to understand the movie, although my uncle did help me to see it was a story about a bad man who changed, and became good. I do remember Scrooge in his nightshirt meeting the Ghost of Christmas Past.
And this memory brings tears to my eyes, because everything about it was just so good, so right: but my uncle and my Grammy, they’ve long since passed on and their house is a place I can’t go to anymore, long for it as I may. And to this day I love A Christmas Carol, and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. I even remember some of the pictures in the book, of angels singing.
So much beauty, so much blessing. God knew what He was doing when he gave us Christmas.
My brother and I got this toy for Christmas once, sometime in the Fabulous Fifties: Tudor Electric Baseball.
The ball was a tiny white magnet which you “pitched” with a kind of catapult, aiming for a tin sheet representing the batter. Behind the sheet sat your opponent, who, when he heard the ball stick to the other side of the screen, smacked his side with a spring-operated plastic bat. If the ball landed on a circle marked “hit,” he flicked a switch and these little plastic guys with strips of celluloid on their bases ran around the basepaths, accompanied by a loud buzzing sound as the whole gameboard vibrated energetically. The basepaths were thick cardboard guides. Without them, the runners would have dashed all over the place in a kind of brownian movement.
If this sounds complicated, that’s only because it really was complicated.
Our friend “thewhiterabbit” had an Electric Football game. He soon gave up trying to make any sense of it.
Colorforms Baseball, which we also tried, had no electricity–only a dial on a spinner which, when spun, would stop either on an out or some kind of hit.
I have a feeling this toy cost my parents a fair amount of money. We dutifully played it until the day we somehow lost the ball. It was a very noisy game, and lots of times you’d smack the tin sheet and the ball would just fall off and you’d have to have a do-over. Or sometimes you’d smack it and the ball would just stick there.
My wife says I should tell you about this, so here goes.
Many years ago, the dentist next door got rid of a whole bunch of plaster dental molds. They were in rather nice cardboard sleeves, each set of choppers labeled as pertaining to a particular patient.
Well, I gave ’em out as Christmas presents to my family.
We were all gathered together at my Grandpa’s house–I don’t know how we all fit in there, every Christmas–and I had one gift-wrapped sleeve of dental molds for each guest. Ours is a small town, so chances were that the molds you received belonged to at least one person you actually knew. My mother, for instance, got a set of Wayne Whatsisname’s dental molds, who used to live around the block from us.
You should’ve seen the look on her face.
Everyone was flabbergasted, no one knew what to say–until my brother started giggling uncontrollably (I forget whose teeth he had), and next thing you know, they were all guffawing. It must have come as a great relief to realize this–er, gift–was just a gag.
Yes, we also gave out real presents. Nobody had to be content with a set of Priscilla So-and-so’s plaster teeth.