I know it's Christmas when toys haunt my dreams.

You'd think other sugarplums would dance through the head of a woman of 62. But I've never been a typical gal. So Christmas toys were a source of frustration.

"Can Santa bring me a cap-gun?" I'd ask my very traditional 1960s mother.

"No," she'd reply. "Santa brings cap-guns to little boys. But I'm sure he'll leave you a beautiful doll."

Sure enough, Christmas revealed a delicately dressed baby in a toy stroller — one just like the one my older sister adored.

Unfortunately, even the thought of ribbons and petticoats send me running for the woods, where I shaved the doll's head. My mother was not amused.

When I asked for a banana bike like my best friend Craig's, Mom said, "Those are for boys. But Santa will find something better."

"Better" meant an enormous girl's bike I had to stand on a box to mount — an enormous bike that guaranteed I'd have skinned knees for the balance of my little kid life.

Each attempt to turn me into a proper girl failed. Then Santa pulled a fast one.

"Can I have a bug keeper for Christmas?" I asked my mother, starry eyed at the thought of the tall, plastic insect habitat, complete with a snap off bottom and top to allow for insects of every size. "Or does Santa only give those to boys?"

"We'll see," my mother answered. I prepped for a Barbie I'd ignore.

To my astonishment, the official bug keeper was tucked safely under the tree, flanked by a microscope and a book on every North American insect.

I cried that Christmas. My mom did, too. "Santa heard me this year," I said through grateful tears.

"Yes he did," my mother said, wiping my face. "And I think he'll hear you from now on."

Now I wonder... does Santa make banana bikes for senior citizens? It just might be worth a try. ♦

Kelly Milner Halls has paid a mortgage freelancing for 21 years, writing for publications including the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Denver Post and the Spokesman Review. Her stack of nonfiction books for kids is more than 50 titles high and growing. She'll never be rich, but she is happy. And that's how she defines success.

Re*Imagine Christmas Winter Festival @ Medical Lake

Sat., Dec. 14, 1-5 p.m.
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