This is a true fairy tale about a little red Robin who brought her
Dad’s tears to life. The year was 1964, long ago when there were
magnificent city downtowns where every store was carefully and
gorgeously decorated for Christmas.
The tale begins in Cleveland at the Higbee’s Department Store,
where a famous character was costumed as Mr. Jingaling.
Little Robin’s family of two parents and two brothers were driving
on a blustery cold December night to visit the real Santa Claus!
On the way down, a few rules for the evening were gone over by
these serious and (one) scientific parents. We were to choose a
delicious meal off the kids’ menu and drink milk, not pop. We
were then going to get in the long line to see the real Santa Claus.
Children were not bickering, not wishing to get on His “naughty”
list on this fateful evening.
Once leaving the parking garage, youngest child’s hand was held
firmly by mother, other two children, sister and brother held hands
and father led us to the elevator. Upon the two doors opening with
a whoosh! there was the most breathtakingly opulent sight to behold!
Children’s eyes were scanning the floor of Higbee’s Christmas Toyland
with breathless bodies. To take in all the wonders, one would have to
capture it on film and somehow be able to rewind it over and over again.
(The sixties may have had this special ability but it was totally out of the
realm of possibilities for this child, Robin, to comprehend.)
The line was long, with some babies wailing and children with parents
wound back and forth around trains, dolls, life size and small size
characters in Christmas scenes and elves were rushing all around.
There were lovely glistening sugar plums and candy cane striped railings.
Mr. Jingaling’s line was very long also, but this family chose to see him
from afar. His gift of the keys to Santa’s workshop were already given to
the family’s mother. (Mr. Jingaling played by Mr. Keys was the husband
of Robin’s mother’s coworker, a teacher at Westlake High School. Each
key had his signature and a kind wish for joy.)
All three children were quiet and well behaved upon approaching the
real Santa. First a picture with all three children, the boys in plaid
jackets, bowties and Robin in her red velvet dress with red hat that
tied under her chin. The hat was the shape of an elongated oval with
it bending in the shape of her head. The Santa and children are all
half smiling, somehow not caught with the merriment quite yet!
Once the photograph was taken, the littlest boy, Ricky, was placed
on the real Santa’s lap. He told his quiet wishes for Christmas to
the contemplative, but kindly Santa. The middle and more outgoing
child, Randy, launched into his complete list of wishes until Santa
said, “Merry Christmas, Randy, Ho Ho Ho!”
At last, Robin approached the real Santa who reached down to help
her climb up so her dress would not climb up on her white tights.
Smoothing her dress, while thinking her thoughts, Santa asked,
“And who is this?”
Robin looked into his twinkling eyes and said, “I’m Robin.”
“Robin, what do you want for Christmas?”
She answered in her most sincere voice, “A pair of red shoes.”
(At Thanksgiving each year, those fantastic jeweled red shoes
that Glinda, the good witch in Wizard of Oz, wore had made
quite an impression!)
“Ho Ho Ho! And what else is on your Christmas wish list?”
For a moment, all the music, crying babies, and hurrying bustle
quieted and truth be told, Robin answered,
“Peace on Earth.”
Santa thanked her for the wonderful wish and he would try his
best. The family moved out of the center of attention, into the
brilliance of the Santa’s Toyland.
Father had heard those words, mother told Robin years later.
He had been so moved to tears with the simplicity of shoes
and world peace that he had gone shopping the week before
Christmas searching high and low for the best and most
unusual doll for Robin he could find.
(Mother, on the other hand, fulfilled the wish as best she
could by buying a pair of flat red leather shoes. Not shiny nor
jeweled patent leather shoes)
On Christmas morning 1964, with a train circling the beautiful
tree of pink, green and gold balls with other antique ornaments
there were about a dozen gifts. Each was given tags that said,
“Merry Christmas” To: _________
From: Santa Claus.
The family headed to the chimney to choose their handmade
green stockings with pink and white pom pom edgings on
them. Each had a number and then the letter “R.” Robin, as
the oldest had “3 R” on her stocking. Everyone spilled their
own stockings open to find an orange in the toe, chocolates
sprinkled in, (usually Hershey’s kisses) and little toys for girl
and boys. Parents had little wrapped boxes or gifts in theirs.
Children never knew nor watched parents open theirs, too
fixed on the joy of their own stocking’s contents.
Upon studying sizes of boxes and deciding to open the boxes in
order of littlest to biggest, nine year old Robin chose the smallest
box. In it was a member of the “Little Women” family, “Amy”
with her blonde hair, lavender dress and little white pinafore.
This complimented other members of her Madame Alexander six
inch collection started with “Marmee,” the year before. Robin was
fascinated once more with the precious eyes that had eye lashes
which opened and closed.
The next box was a pair of red smooth leather shoes with a strap
that would go over the top of her foot, sometimes called “Mary
Jane” shoes. Robin showed them to mother with a big smile.
The next two gifts were a pretty white fake fur muff, where girls
in cold, blustery areas would put their hands into.
The box with a tag that said, in a rugged and scrawly signature,
“Love, Santa,” was at least three feet by one foot long. Robin ripped
the wrapping and discovered a large doll with the name on her box,
“Little Miss Echo.”
Father crossed the room, having helped a brother to add a new train
car to the circling set on the tracks. He said,
“Robin, you can move this button on her sideways, to the left and
talk into her chest. When you say something, this doll will say it
back to you!”
Robin wanted to have her father show her, but knowing he wanted
her to try this on her own, she did. (This was the way you learned
in this family’s house, by doing it on your own. First hand experience!)
She spoke, “Merry Christmas!”
Then she turned the button to the right and out came her voice saying,
And it was so much more than merry to Robin! It was full of wonder.
I suppose asking for “Peace on Earth” was inspired by all the Christmas
carols that were playing in stores, on the radio and on our stereo at home.
But my mother did say it brought tears to my father’s eyes and he spent
hours at different stores on more than one evening heading home from
work to find what he thought I “deserved” for saying such a simple request.