Bestselling author Karen Robards, whose latest book SHIVER is now in stores, recalls the many Christmases she shared with her three little brothers and the presents they received that excited them the most. For Karen, all she ever wanted was books --- and she looks back fondly on those Christmas mornings when she was introduced to a number of her now-favorite authors.
I grew up with three little brothers. Tod was five years younger than me; Bruce and Brad (known forever as the twins) were seven years younger. Every year, as Christmas approached, we’d write letters to Santa that included our secret Christmas lists, which we gave to our mother to mail. On Christmas Eve, we were so excited we could hardly sleep.
On Christmas morning, we would rush to the living room all together. There, under the tree, would be four distinct piles of gifts, one for each of us. Gaily wrapped packages for Tod and the twins, stacked so high that we could just barely see the tree over them. The boys would fall upon their piles with whoops of glee, tearing at the wrappings, uncovering such deeply coveted toys as Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots and GI Joes and Etch-a-Sketches. Lincoln logs and footballs and baseball gloves. Tonka trucks. Woodburning kits (looking back, my mother agrees that last item was probably a mistake; within a month, every piece of wood furniture she possessed had been branded.) And for me --- there were books. Dozens and dozens of books. Towers of books, one on top of the other, as high as my waist. While my brothers were attacking their presents, I would approach those towers (usually there were two, sometimes three or four) with awe, knowing that each one was the equivalent of a magic carpet to an unknown but sure-to-be-exciting land.
When my brothers recovered enough from their orgy of unwrapping to notice anything else, they would look at my pile and feel sorry for me because in their eyes I had gotten so little. Sweet little boys, they would never fail to offer their big sister one or two of their presents. One Christmas, Bruce (the most tender-hearted of the three) even tried to give me the slot car racing set that was his most prized gift.
I wouldn’t take it, of course, but I remember the offer very fondly to this day.
What they never could understand was that I had gotten exactly what I wanted.
All I ever wrote on my Christmas list was one word: books. I never even specified which books, because I really didn’t know. It was up to my mother to use her judgment. She introduced me to authors like Taylor Caldwell, Frank Yerby, Frances Parkinson Keyes, Edna Ferber and Georgette Heyer. And books like GONE WITH THE WIND, WUTHERING HEIGHTS and A WRINKLE IN TIME.
It was such an eclectic collection, such a wonderful introduction into the world of reading! I loved those books. I loved those Christmas mornings. Some of my fondest memories are of standing there just staring at those slightly unsteady piles, wondering what stories were inside.
Today I give my boys (I have three) books for Christmas. And they --- and my husband, and my brothers (we have a much younger sister now, too), and my mother --- always know exactly what to get me.
Always, without fail, books.