How Dare You!

Growing up in Southern California, I didn’t have the four seasons. Summer meant sloshing on the Slip n’ Slide and sticking the garden hose inside my dad’s inflatable lifeboat to fill it up for our own homemade swimming pool. Winter meant we might need a jacket while playing outdoors.

All in all, I grew up in a world of sunshine, orange trees, blooming hibiscus and bougainvillea.


This is some of my childhood gang. I was so envious of the girl on my left. She was 7-years-old and I wanted to be “grown-up” and older like her. I lived in my cowgirl outfit. The doll I’m holding will soon get lost at the beach. I will cry forever and my mom will feel bad and rush to the store and buy me two new dolls exactly like the one I lost.

I don’t recall much about Thanksgiving at our house. We usually had a turkey dinner with no one invited to join us. My dad had ongoing feuds with relatives, so I’m sure that had a lot to do with us dining by ourselves. One Thanksgiving my dad’s Aunt Myrtle invited us to have Thanksgiving dinner at her house. This seemed like a wonderful treat to go to someone’s house for Thanksgiving. Aunt Myrtle’s daughter, a teenager at the time, passed me a bowl of peas soon after we had all seated ourselves at the table and the prayer said. I passed the peas right on by as I hated peas. The teenage cousin said to my mom in a haughty tone, “Aunt Bev, shall I make her eat peas?”  My mom told her it was okay for me to not eat peas. As you probably have guessed, I was never fond of that cousin after that.

We didn’t have any Thanksgiving traditions. No turkey piñatas or pin-the-tail-on-the turkey feathers. No stating to one another what we’re thankful for. I do remember we always had the tug of war with the wish bone and I never won.

Christmas meant a lot more fun because my mom would hire on at the post office to help with the onslaught of mail during the Christmas season. This meant she made money to buy us kids more presents. On Christmas day, Mom whipped up her special hot chocolate made with evaporated milk and powdered cocoa. She warmed Van de Kamp pastries in the oven until the icing melted and looked gooey. Every year my sister and I had the great fortune of finding gold, foil-wrapped chocolate coins in our Christmas stockings, (we hung our stockings on a wrought-iron end table because we didn’t have a fireplace). After filling up on the hot chocolate, the pastries, and the chocolate coins, we were bouncing around the tree with sugar-fueled mania. One Christmas morning I found a shiny blue bicycle parked by the tree. It gave me such excitement and thrill, I didn’t even want to wait around for the warmed-up pastries or the special hot chocolate. I pedaled right out the door, feeling happier than winning a hundred bucks (which I thought was a lot of money).


Take my picture on my new bike, please! Two years later, I got an even bigger bicycle with a horn on the handlebar. I loved honking and beeping my way everywhere I went.


Every year, when New Year’s Eve rolled around, my sister and I were allowed to stay up late while my dad snored away in the bedroom. Just before the clock struck midnight, my mom grabbed her cowbell (to this day I don’t know why she had a cowbell as cows didn’t exist in our neighborhood). My sister and I dug through the kitchen drawers to find the largest metal spoons and then scoured the cupboards for the biggest metal pans. At midnight, Mom stood on the front step and waved her cowbell, clankity, clank, clank. My sister and I galloped around the front yard banging the spoons on our pans and bellowing as loud as we could, “Happy New Year!” No other neighbors came out of their houses to ring in the new year. Just us making as much racket as we could (it was new year’s after all). Thinking back, I can imagine some of the neighbors, already in bed for the night, probably had to put the pillow over their ears while wondering aloud, “When will those girls and their mother shut up!”

Back then, Kwanzaa didn’t exist and no one said “Happy Winter Solstice.” Everyone said Merry Christmas to one another, even teachers and bank tellers and the saleslady at J.C. Penney’s. No one said with indignation, “That’s not my holiday.” No one looked aghast like, “How dare you say Merry Christmas to me!” When people were offended back then, they had the opportunity to say, “I’m offended,” and we had the opportunity to say, “Oh, I’m sorry, please forgive me.”

I miss those days when we could be open with each other, rather than worry if we might offend someone because we celebrate a different holiday than someone else. If someone ever says “Happy Kwanzaa” to me (and no one ever has) I think I would say, “thank you.” Why would I be offended? Would I want to say, “How dare you say that to me when I don’t celebrate Kwanzaa!”

I get it. I understand we’re a more diverse society than we were back then. I understand that retailers want to make as much money as possible so they have resorted to the all inclusive “happy holidays.”

Yet, I miss the Christmas season of my childhood. People happily wished others a ‘Merry Christmas’ without apprehension.  People had nativity scenes on their lawns. No one worried that someone might object and file a complaint. And Christmas trees were a custom and a fun tradition and not considered an exclusive symbol of Christianity.

There are things about my life as a child that I don’t miss. I don’t miss cigarette commercials…”Winston taste good like a cigarette should.” I don’t miss the lack of support for battered women. I don’t miss the belief that divorced women were somehow shamed. I don’t miss the belief that “ladies” wore dresses. I don’t miss the limited opportunities for women. Girls grew up to be housewives, teachers, nurses, and secretaries. Men did the “real” jobs.

Wow, cigarettes were so awesome that even Santa endorsed them.

Wilma Flintstone smoked Winston cigarettes.

What I do miss, however, is the general feeling of goodwill toward others no matter what a person believes, instead of today’s suspicion and fear that we might offend.



6 thoughts on “How Dare You!

  1. Phyllis Ritter

    I agree, I miss the good ol’ days. I grew up near you in California and we would make lots of noise outside. I never thought about the neighbors but I bet they wished we would shut up.
    I will NEVER stop saying MERRY CHRISTMAS or thank you to someone who greets me with their greeting. I’m offended at all the PC nonsense.

  2. Layla

    Ahem, maybe you couldn’t hear all the other neighbors banging pans because yours were sooo loud in your own ears . There was plenty of going on at my end banging down the street too!
    Merry Christmas, Happy Hannuka, Happy Kwanza and a have great, prosperous, happy New Year!

    1. Bronwyn Wilson Post author

      Ohhh, so you were down the street banging pans too! I wish we had teamed up. It was quiet on our end, I imagine Mrs. Pavusa was in bed getting her beauty sleep, or trying to.

  3. Layla

    I didn’t remember Wilma smoked. That;s horrible!!
    The military didn’t help out seeing how they gave their WW II enlistees cigarettes for free.
    Thank goodnes people should know better now.


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