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'All I want for Christmas ...'
Some gifts may not last through the years, but the memories live on
Times staffers relive their favorite Christmas memories, including opening a few of those must-have gifts Christmas morning.

For Ralphie, star of the 1983 film "A Christmas Story," the ideal gift from Santa was a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.

After a bootkick to the face from old St. Nick himself, and suffering the humiliation of wearing a pink bunny suit made by his aunt, Ralphie ultimately gets just what he wanted — a Red Ryder.

If he was a real person, instead of a character in a 1940s era film plot, that gift would probably remain on his list of favorites well into adulthood.

For some real-life adults, childhood gifts continue to be what Christmas dreams are made of.

"When I was little, I wanted this Rock'em Sock'em Robot set. They were these little, plastic robots that you could move around a mini boxing ring and make them fight," said William Jackson, a 49-year-old Dawsonville resident.

"If you hit your opponent just right, their head would pop up — that's how you know you won the fight. A few of my friends had one, but my mom said ‘No.'"

"I guess I still talked about it a lot because three years ago, my daughter bought me one for Christmas. She found it online somewhere. Man, it's just as fun as I remembered, but it's even more special because my daughter went through so much trouble to fulfill one of my childhood dreams."

Over the years, some people have discovered that the things you need can be just what you want on Christmas Day.

"I had a big family — five sisters and three brothers. I was the youngest of them all. Since there were so many of us to buy clothes for, just about everything that I wore was a hand-me-down," said Sharon Wheeler, a 40-year-old Oakwood resident.

"One year, I think I was around 10, there was this big box with my name on it. Inside was a brand-new, navy blue pea coat. It had shiny brass buttons and a little beret. We got new coats as we out grew the old ones, but mine was always a cast away from an older sister.

"So getting that pea coat was such a thrill. I cried when I outgrew it, but I still have it hanging up in my attic somewhere."

For 19-year-old Kaitlin Howard, Santa left her an unexpected playmate 10 years ago.

"When I was 9, I got an Amazing Maddie doll. She talked, played games with you and even told stories," said Howard, a Gainesville resident.

"She was my favorite Christmas present because she played with me when my older sisters wouldn't. I loved her."

In addition to helping ease sibling loneliness, Christmas gifts can sometimes bring out the inner romantic.

"I've gotten a lot of great Christmas gifts over the years, but last year my husband's gift became my new favorite. He bought me a sterling silver necklace with a heart pendant," said Veronica Daniels, a 47-year-old Buford resident.

"It's my favorite because it shows that he really does listen to me — I love sterling silver jewelry. And it was such a surprise because he never buys me jewelry. In the 30 years that we've been together, this is only the second piece of jewelry that he's given to me."

Surprises, when thoughtfully planned, are often the basis for memorable gifts.

"Last year, my daughter surprised me and redecorated my bedroom. I came home from visiting my oldest daughter to find that she re-did everything," said Annie Lee, a 69-year-old Buford resident.

"She bought me new furniture, new bedding, new everything. I'd been saying for a while that I wanted to re-do my room, but I never expected her to go through the trouble of doing all of that for me.

"I think I'm still in shock. It was a really good surprise and I'll never forget it."