In the spirit of the season, I thought I’d share some of my fondest Christmas memories…
Christmas in the 80’s: One thing was certain on Christmas Eve. Before any presents could be opened, a never-ending list of chores would have to be completed. You see, this was the one night of the year where my dad could develop an extensive work list for his children with very little backtalk or insubordination. Needless to say, he took full advantage. Every family has their special Christmas traditions. Ours were unloading the dishwasher, shoveling the driveway and cleaning our rooms.
Growing up, I loved seeing presents under the tree. I would race home from school and make a fortress with my presents. I’d sit behind a barricade of gifts, and bring my Transformers or He-Man action figures back there to keep me company. So you can understand the psychological torture I experienced when forced to delay opening presents for the sake of helping out around the house. It was tantamount to depriving a diabetic of insulin.
Of course, the gifts we received were always worth the wait. One year, I received a toy laser gun that made a particularly loud and high-pitched noise at the pull of the trigger. It was as if Hasbro designed a toy encompassing all of the annoying characteristics of a car alarm.
Naturally, I spent an entire three-hour car ride home after Christmas blasting my sister in the head with it. And naturally, she cried like a little girl. Since she was a little girl at the time, I suppose this reaction was justified. As always, my parents failed to see the humor in making my sister cry. They made repeated threats to confiscate my laser gun if I shot it one more time. Of course, these warnings would buy them about 45 seconds of silence before I would shoot her again. To reiterate, this went on for three hours.
Finally, my father reached his breaking point. He pulled the car over to the side of the road, ripped the gun from my hands, and pretended to throw it into the night. Of course, he didn’t really throw it away. He simply tucked it into his jacket during his follow-through. It was slight of hand that Houdini would have been proud of. I was devastated, thinking a pack of coyotes would soon make off with my laser gun. And sadly, for the rest of the ride home I had to resort to other methods to make my sister cry.
Christmas 1997: I was living with Krusty at the time. A week before Christmas, he brought home the leftovers from his company Christmas party, which included five gallons of eggnog and rum in a giant stainless steel coffee urn. The two of us drank the whole thing over the ensuing weekend.
While that is a landmark achievement in itself, the really amazing aspect of this story is that the urn was too big to fit in our refrigerator. The entire five gallons was kept at room temperature over a 48-hour time span. Towards the end, we were pretty much just drinking cups of salmonella, but it was easily the most festive case of food poisoning we ever got.
Christmas 1999: Surprisingly, I just could not get into the Christmas spirit that year. Somehow, even erecting a fortress of presents failed to deliver any Christmas cheer. It wasn’t until Christmas morning that it happened. Under the tree Santa brought me a lightsaber… just like the one I had when I was six years old. Even though I was 21 years old at the time, I gleefully ran around the house fighting imaginary Storm Troopers and pretending to lop off my sister’s head. And in that, I found the true meaning of Christmas.
Watershed Moments: I remember when I first figured out the true identity of Santa Claus. I awoke on Christmas morning to find a handwritten note from Santa, apologizing for breaking a toy that he had tried to assemble the night before. It didn’t add up. Somehow Santa, a toy maker by trade, is inept at assembling toys? Even at six years old, it didn’t take the cast of CSI to solve this mystery.
Finally, my all-time favorite Christmas gift? That’s easy. My Nintendo back in the fifth grade. This was all the sweeter because I didn’t think I’d actually get one. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, my dad actually cut out newspaper articles detailing the shortages of Nintendos at major retailers. I wanted to believe that a Christmas miracle would bring me a Nintendo, but it was hard to argue with the Wall Street Journal’s supply-chain forecasts.
Thankfully, economists had underestimated the inventories overseas and the short-term production capacity at manufacturing plants. This was a huge oversight, as these things often constitute the necessary ingredients of a Christmas miracle. As I clutched my Nintendo on Christmas day, it was a scene of Christmas joy only Norman Rockwell could possibly capture.