“Love! Love will keep us together, think of me babe whenever….”
That’s Captain and Tennille singing one of the hits song of 1975. I was 14, and I remember that year in full Kodachrome colour. ’75 – the year that the movie JAWS kept me out of the water for most of that summer, and part of the next one too. It was the year I was learning how to do the Hustle, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest took home all the top five Oscars. It was the year Jimmy Hoffa went missing, but Patty Hearst was found.
And for Christmas, I asked Santa for Super 8 Kodak film movie camera – that was it. No pet rocks, no mood rings, not even a PONG game – although we did get one the next year.
And it was the year I still thought my dear old Dad was perfect. We shared a lot of interests – Dad and me. We both loved TV’s All in the Family, singer Sam Cooke and salmon-pickle sandwiches. He got me into photography, gave me my first camera and we even had our own basement dark room. I figured Dad would be all over me getting a Super 8 movie camera.
On Christmas morning – everyone was opening presents, everyone except my mom and me. I looked again under that tree but there was nothing left.
“Santa might have put a little something up in your closet” my Dad hinted with a twinkle in his eye. He was tricky like that. He liked surprises, and keeping us off our game. Before Kojak could say Who Loves You Baby? – I sprinted up to my bedroom closet. I rummaged and ransacked but no movie camera box in sight… but wait, what was this?
Ahhhh, there is was, hanging in the far corner. Seems good old Pops got things mixed up. Or no, he was being extra tricky this year. He’d put Mom’s present in my closet. I’ll bet my camera was in hers. I decided I’d take it down for the exchange though I felt bad because I’m not sure Mom would like it. It was what they call a FUN FUR or faux fur. You know those tacky leopard print coats with a fake leather belt cinched at the waist. I only know about fun furs because my Aunt Joan wore one just like this.
Nothing against my Aunt Joan but she was a beer-drinking, Players Regular two-pack a day smoker. She had Lucille-Ball-red Hair tied up in a sloppy nest on the top of her head. She always wore this garish burnt-orange lipstick that was the same shade as our shag carpet… and cat glasses, a decade out of style. She was a fashion statement that was Phillis-Diller-scary.
Anyways, I carried the coat downstairs. At the tree – another surprise – there was mom modelling a blue suede midi coat. Nice, but two coats??? I was confused. And what I heard next still haunts me.
“Well,” my dad beamed as I stood with the fun fur, “Do you like it?”
I sputtered and muttered, and held that coat away from me like it was a stinking, rotten dead raccoon. No a stinking, rotten, dead raccoon with rabies.
“Try it on!” my Dad insisted, waving me into the room. I gulped. Still speechless I stood frozen. Now everyone stopped, time had stopped.
“I can’t wear this.” I shook my head.
“Sure you can, it the style nowadays.”
“Maybe for an old lady,” I argued
“You’re being ridiculous. Try it on.” He pushed.
“I don’t want it. I never asked for a coat, I don’t want a coat…” and so began our Christmas standoff.
Maybe if it had been like the pea coat Ali McGraw wore in Love Story – I might have liked it. Simple, youthful. But I’d never wear anything with tiger stripes. How could he not get that? How could he not get me?
“Try it on!” My dad hissed.
“Jack, she doesn’t like it” my mom tried to reason with him, even she could see it was no coat for a 14 year old. She turned to me, “It’s okay dear, and we’ll exchange it.”
“No!” My dad flared, “since when does Santa exchange gifts – it’s a perfectly good coat”.
With that I dropped the fun fur and ran to my room, sobbing. What happened to Christmas? What happened to my Super 8 movie camera, and making home movies? But most of all what happened to my perfect Dad? Later when I came down for dinner – the coat was gone. My Dad was cool, and I was quiet. It was the true meaning of Silent Night at the family dinner. We never brought up the camera or the fun fur ever again….
Well no I’m lying there – see we actually talked about it A LOT about 12 years later. Turns out it became one of my family’s favourite Christmas stories – the year of the fun fur fight.
Funny now or not I’ll never forget the Christmas of ‘75 – the year I realized Dads could make mistakes, be human…and wrong…at least about styles for teenage girls. Looking back I realized that Christmases aren’t always magical, and that the 70s was a really strange decade. Along with the first personal computer – it gave us leisure suits, disposable lighters, sticky notes… and fun furs. But it was also when Janis Ian learned the truth at 17, and so did I. Sometimes life gives you stuff you didn’t ask for, and you didn’t want – but there’s always something to learn from it. I think KC and the Sunshine Band said it best when they sang ….”And that’s the way, uh, uh I like it.”
by Nancy Early