When I arrived back from Norway, I discovered Deb Hunt had sent me a book on the first fifty years of Crystal Springs Uplands School. It was very sensitively done. Not too much attention was paid to the Patti Hearst episode but it was acknowledged as were several other distressing episode in the school's history.
I can well remember my English teacher being really relieved that Crystal was called tony (as in of the ton) rather than the usual exclusive in some newspaper piece. When the Patti Hearst kidnapping fever was its height, much was made of the school's exclusivity. A slight shock for the school as a few years earlier they had been excused of taking troubled girls. I think the powers that be dispaired of ever winning the media battle.
Anyway, the book provoked my children into asking to see their mother's high school yearbooks. I went searching around in the basement and duly found one as well as the journal I kept when I was thirteen. Part of the journal's purpose was public -- we had to keep in for English class, and part of it was for me. Among other things were pieces on To Kill A Mockingbird as well as story ideas for novels I wanted to write and snatches of dialogue and the usual self-justification of a 13 year old along with my horrible handwriting and awful spelling.
In there, I listed my Christmas presents for 1977 -- from my parents -- a suitcase, a calender and a book on poker. What I had really wanted was JRR Tolkien's Smillarion (something I received a month later for my birthday, according the journal.) While a suitcase might be a strange thing to get for Christmas, it has proved an extremely practical present. I still own the turquoise blue hard sided American Touristor suitcase and it has accompanied me on my many travels. 28 years and it still begs to be filled every time we go on holiday. Instinctively when I wait for the luggage, I look for its cheery blue -- slightly battered, with stickers my eldest put on in a bored moment when he was three to come up the ramp. So although I think my 13 year old self was perhaps a bit disappointed, the suitcase has proved a far better friend than JRR Tolkien book which disappeared years ago and was only read once. (Although I loved LOTR, the Smillarion was confused with no over all plot to hold it together -- yes I know it was the point but...)
The whole experience has made me think -- what are the best Christmas presents? Those that we long for, or those that we use time and time again? Which gives the most pleasure?