The Best of Andy Rooney

What are the best Christmas presents you ever got?

I was trying to recall my favorites. My parents gave me a Buddy-L truck that was strong enough for me to sit on when I was 5 or 6, and I can still remember everything about that truck. That was certainly one of my best presents ever.

A year or two later, they gave me a little steam engine that actually worked. It ran from a boiler that was heated with a can of sterno. The steam made the wheels go round, but I'm a little vague about what the wheels did once you got them going. It was a wonderful little toy, but in retrospect I think my uncle, who was there that Christmas, had more fun with it than I did. It certainly didn't compare with my Buddy-L.

Another uncle used to give me some dumb thing he found in his attic. I never liked whatever it was but he usually gave me a $5 bill and a $20 gold piece, too. By the age of 10 or so, I preferred the cold cash to the gold piece because, of course, my mother never let me spend that. I don't know what happened to all those gold pieces he gave me. I suspect my mother might have cashed them in one of those years they were having a tough time. Mom wasn't very sentimental about things like Indianhead pennies or gold pieces that I'd saved.

Considering that I got dozens of presents every Christmas, it's not very nice of me to have forgotten all but a few. I remember the year I got an Iver Johnson bicycle and the year I got a pair of high leather boots with a jackknife in a little pocket on the side of the right one.

Once you get over being a kid, there's no telling what Christmas presents are going to strike you as exceptional. I have a cashmere scarf a friend gave me about 12 years ago. It looked just like any other scarf when I got it but I've never lost it and I've worn it a lot on very cold days. Scarves don't normally turn me on when I get one as a present but this one was very special.

My four grown kids have been great gift-givers. There's no reason I should be surprised, but I always am at how intimately they know me. Its fun to get a present you weren't expecting that indicates the person who gave it to you knows you very well.

My son gave me a saw that must have been hard to find. I still use the pasta-maker that one daughter gave me, and I love the wood-identification book that my other daughter found for me. It has little samples of more than 100 different kinds of wood, describing their properties. I once received a whole case of tennis balls. I love anything in wholesale amounts, but it had never occurred to me to buy a case of tennis balls.

One of my great all-time presents was given to me by Arthur Godfrey in about 1954, when I was working for him. He gave me a woodworking tool called a Shopsmith. It must have cost a bundle at that time and I couldn't have been happier if I'd been 6 again getting that Buddy-L.

I realize how personal all of this is. I even understand that a reader wouldn't care specifically about the scarf or the Buddy-L. When you write something like this you hope it will be understood that the specific examples represent something more universal. By which I mean, I'm sure you've all had your own equivalent of my Buddy-L, tennis balls and $5 bills.

If you're reading this column, Merry Christmas.


Andy Rooney is on vacation. In his absence, we are reprinting a classic column originally published Dec. 21, 1981

The Best of Andy Rooney - Humor & Satire Classics

Humor & Funny Stories - My Best Christmas Presents | Andy Rooney

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