THE box was huge. At barely 4ft, I struggled to see over the delicate pink bow sitting flawlessly on top.
For 14 days I had analysed it. I had narrowed it down to two possibilities. If it wasn’t the Mickey Mouse Marching Drum, it had to be the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Set.
It was neither. It was better. Fifteen years on and the thrill I felt on receiving my Fisher Price Spending Spree Cash Register, which provided endless days of playing ‘supermarket’, has yet to be surpassed. We’ve all received that present.
Ealing shoppers took some time out from the busy Christmas rush to share their stories with me…
Androulla Varsamides, 49 The best present I ever received was a Barbie wardrobe carry case. It was 1973 and the height of Barbie mania. I was obsessed with dressing up Barbie and, when holidaying in New York City, I was able to choose my own gift from the famous FAO Schwarz Toyshop. I was so excited to pick out her stylish carry case crammed with new clothes, shoes, handbags and jewellery. Of course, no new wardrobe would be complete without an accompanying New York Barbie to model the stylish outfits I had carefully selected!
Lesley Leporati, 53 My absolute favourite present was the engagement ring my husband Ray eventually bought me after 10 years of marriage (a long-standing joke each year when yet another anniversary came around with no indication of the event on my hand!). We married in 1979 and it arrived the same year as our daughter was born in 1989 - the most fabulous year of my life. The most amazing part of it was that he designed it himself and picked out the diamond he wanted. That’s what makes it worth the 10-year wait!
Sue Cameron, 55 The gift I still miss to this day is my first car - an old orange original Mini that I got for my 22nd birthday. I kept it for about 10 years, but I had to get rid of it when I met my husband. He’s 6ft 4in, so he couldn't drive the thing - one foot took up two pedals! I keep looking out for it at scrapyards but I can’t source it. Shame...
Nicola Clare Theakston, 37 When Santa bought me my first bicycle, I felt like the happiest child in the world. It had pink and white ribbons, silver tassels and a very distinctive bell that I’m pretty sure I drove my neighbours crazy with! By the end of Christmas day, the stabilisers were off and it was as though I’d had it for years! I eventually passed it on to a girl who lived down the road as I couldn’t bear to see it go to the tip, and even then I was inconsolable!
Rachel Clark, 47 My most memorable gift was a small red and tan hanging mirror that had three rows of wooden beads around it – very 70s! It was my first ‘grown-up’ gift and the only mirror I’d ever use as an adolescent, despite having plenty round the house! I used it for all my teenage firsts. I vividly recall struggling to put my first pair of contact lenses in using it, and anxiously doing my make-up in it for my first proper job. It stayed with me for a good 30 years of my life!
Alice Smith, 52 It was the 70s and I was desperate for a pair of wet-look boots, but, being as popular as they were, they were far too expensive. So, Father Christmas bought me the next best thing – wet-look socks! I got a black pair and my sister received a red pair, and we’d wear them pulled up with our shoes to give the illusion of boots. We really did think we looked the business…how wrong we were!
Vikki Harrison, 30 For my second birthday, my grandma’s sister gave me a knitted pig, and, at 30, he’s still my favourite thing in the world. Piggy, as he is inventively called, is a comfort for me. I can go weeks without giving him a hug, but if I have a bad day he’s there! He’s a reminder of my grandma, my best friend. I always felt I could be myself when I was with her and that’s the same with Piggy.
Vivienne Hughes, 40 Years ago, I was shopping with friends when we saw this beautiful old-fashioned doll’s house in a charity shop window. I told my husband about it and, what with him not being the most attentive of men, I never imagined anything would come of it. But, a few weeks later, he said he had a surprise for me in the car - yes, it was the doll’s house! For every birthday and Christmas since, he buys me something special to put in my house. You wouldn’t think I was a grown mum of three boys!
Theresa Azzopardi, 41 As a teen, I attended a school that split the boys and girls. We didn’t have mobile phones back then, so we’d communicate by writing notes to one another, quickly exchanging them at our secret meeting point. Every Valentine’s Day, we’d wait to see if the boys we liked came to give us anything, and year after year we were left waiting. But I won’t forget the year things changed! James, who I’d been ‘talking’ to for a while, arrived with a letter and a bracelet he’d bought at the seaside. It’s still sitting neatly wrapped up in my jewellery box!
Melanie McAuliffe, 48 I was absolutely obsessed with a pair of red and yellow lace-up platform shoes that my mum bought me when I was about 12 - the kind you'd probably see in fancy dress shops today! I loved them so much that, when I wasn't wearing them, they sat right in the middle of the window sill to be admired! The problem came when I was told I wasn't allowed to wear them to Guides...I resigned of course!