My Christmas tree is loaded with ornaments from past years. Most special of all was a gift to me in about 1930 when I was 7 years old. It was a small 4-inch wooden penguin with hollow insides, which let his wooden feet dangle so that when there is an uneven surface on which he stands, his feet move and he literally waddles on the slanting surface. Playing with it was such fun. It was in the days before batteries; just an uneven surface and the penguin performed its miracle.
In 1942 my future husband joined the navy and was away in Seattle at Christmas time. Mother and I pondered over what to give him for Christmas. He really didn’t need anything, and as he would be transferred from ship to ship, he needed something small to carry with him or something he could dispose of after a few days. What could we give him? I thought of my little 14 year old penguin. It would be an un-essential gift but something he might enjoy as the ship rocked back and forth on the uneven seas. I knew I’d never see my beloved little penguin again as Jim could hardly carry it with him in his sea bag when he moved from ship to ship. But it seemed important to give him something with which he could entertain himself and the crew for even a few minutes on this lonely Christmas away from family. And so with some misgiving, that was what we gave him.
And lo and behold, 4 years later when Jim returned from the navy, what should appear out of his sea bag but this little wooden penguin, safely brought home again. What a special surprise. That penguin had traveled in Jim’s sea bag to Florida, back to Seattle, and many trips to Alaska and the Aleutians and. back again. That penguin has since resided under Jim’s and my Christmas tree every subsequent year. He’s now about 81 years old and still performing on uneven surfaces to the delight of any audience. His battery never quits!