My writing and other perversions
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
A Christmas story, huh? Hmm, that’s kind of difficult. I have a couple of good ones.
One that I remember vividly is cheating at Christmas. And getting caught.
The day before Christmas Eve and all of the presents are wrapped and under the tree. Now, my dad was well known for being… thrifty. He would use whatever paper was cheapest, usually left from the year before, or found in an off-rack at the store. For a long time I believed that I was subjected to the ultimate insult. See, my dad wouldn’t spend money to buy special paper for my presents. No, I wasn’t good enough.
Or so I thought back then. Whereas my brother was treated to (somewhat) top of the line wrapping paper, I ended up getting mine wrapped in the Sunday comics. Cheap, came with the Sunday paper, comics.
Back then, I thought it a grand injustice. I believed that he loved my brother more than me. Why else would he use newsprint on me, and actually costs money wrapping paper on my brother?
It took me almost 20 years to figure out why.
See, I love comic books. I love comic strips. Just about anything with the word comic in it, I love. Pictures of superheroes, funny cats, and hyperactive kids in humorous, dangerous or bizarre situations were always my favorites. I inherited it from my father.
He wrapped my brother’s presents in whatever wrapping he could find, usually left over from the year before. Then, he wrapped mine in the Sunday comics, because he knew I loved them. He thought I would appreciate the gesture.
How wrong he was. Unfortunately, back then I wasn’t appreciative. I figured that he was cheap, and was showing how much more he loved my brother than he did me. What does all this have to do with cheating?
Well, in an orgy of self-pity, something I’m sure that we’re all guilty of; I broke
the cardinal rule of Christmas. Never look at your presents beforehand. It’s okay to shake them or guess what’s inside, but one should never, attempt to find out. That’s cheating. Well, I cheated.
I had what I thought was a foolproof plan. My father, fan of Sherlock Holmes that he was, would never give the presents more than a cursory glance. He had more important things on his mind, and anyway, he trusted us.
I figured, that if I made the most minuscule of tears in the wrapping, I would be able be peek into the packages and ascertain what was in there. I would tear it on a corner, or on an edge. A couple of times I couldn’t make out what was in it by a corner or an edge, so I got a little bit bold and tore it right on the front of the box, then switched it so that the shred was facing the tree. Well, he wasn’t going to look, right?
Needless to say, it worked. Tearing open the first of my prizes, I espied a familiar box. I had wanted this toy more than life itself. At the time, Hasbro had a toy brand out called the Transformers. They were robots that changed into another form. I was in love with them from the moment I first set eyes upon them. Opening that first box, I knew that my many wishes had been answered. Along with the list I’d given my dad and the many times I’d pointed it out on the television. And how I’d hinted around it all year long.
Inside this box Megatron himself awaited me. Leader of the Decepticons (the bad guys of the Transformers), he transformed into a gun. Can you imagine the magic of a robot that changed into a gun? What a wonderful boy’s toy.
One after another, I tore open box after box.
Ugh, shirt. Ooh, ugly shirt, red with a blue collar! Must be from my aunt and uncle. They have no kids, so anything that is really ugly or really sugarcane sweet is what they buy for me.
Oh no, underwear! Not again! I bet another one of these is socks.
Some books. Good choice, I’ll check those out later.
Then, like a bolt from heaven, another Transformer. Inside this box, Shockwave, Second in command to Megatron. Another robot that transforms into a gun! I'm the two-gun kid now!
Box after box was torn, usually in a corner. I attempted to make sure that my handiwork would never be noticed. I would carefully tear, ripping what little I could. But, I became too brash. I couldn’t figure out what was in one of the boxes, simply by a corner or an edge. I ended up tearing it right in the center.
I paid dearly for this mistake.
In this box, was the ultimate of Transformers. Omega Supreme. Truly a paragon among Transformers, this beast of a toy stood 3 feet tall. It was a city, a whole city, that changed into a robot. The box was so big, I my arms didn’t even fit around it. I was in heaven.
Secure in my knowledge of what awaited me come Christmas Day, that night, I went to sleep a happy boy.
The next morning, I awoke, excited about which one I would open that night. It was Christmas Eve, and we were always allowed one present every day. I knew which one I would open. The biggest, the best, Omega Supreme.
No doubt in my mind, no second thoughts. It would be that one, it had to be
that one.
When I walked out into our living room, I was grinning from ear to ear as I looked at the tree. Happier than a boy should be, I looked for that present among the brightly colored jumble.
I looked again.
I got on my hands and knees, hoping to find it, hoping that it had been moved from somewhere among them. I was distraught. I was hysterical. I was horrified.
I looked and I looked, in vain.
I was close to crying, not having any other options.
The rest of the day passed in silence. Both my brother and my father woke up later than I had, both of them walked right past the tree, as if nothing was missing. I wanted to scream at them. I knew one of them had something to do with it. I wouldn’t put it past my brother to hide one of my presents, out of pure spite. I wouldn’t put it past my father to have taken it back to the store. I had no idea what had happened.
That night, at dinner, we sat around chatting after we'd eaten. I’d been angry all day, wondering whether or not my toys had been hidden, destroyed, manhandled, whatever. I was depressed. I knew that it had been there, I’d looked at it! But I didn’t know where.
After dinner, my dad turned to me and said “I saw what you did with your presents, Paul, “
I was shocked, needless to say. My mouth dropped open
He went on, “See, Paul, you cheated Christmas. You tried to find out what you had, before it was actually yours. Until the moment that the clock strikes midnight, nothing under that tree belongs to you. It all belongs to me, or whoever bought you those presents.”
I, of course, thought this to be a horrible idea.
“Instead of waiting to see what you got, instead of letting yourself be surprised, instead of enjoying the anticipation, you decided you would sidestep it all and get in on it beforehand. I’m ashamed of you.” He said, shaking his head.
And before you think, “Normal people don’t talk like that,” my father was an English teacher. He talked like that all the time.
“Now, instead of getting that one toy that you wanted the most out of them, you get nothing. You’ve ruined it for yourself. You’ll never get to play with that toy, you’ll never have a chance to see what it was like, you’ll never hold it in your hands, all because you decided that you’d lie and cheat.”
I was terrified. He was right, of course, but that didn’t make it any easier. If anything, that made it harder, because it meant that I was in the wrong.
When midnight hit, I didn’t even want to open a single thing. Knowing what I had done wrong, knowing that I had lost something that was so close that I’d touched it, really had an affect on me. I walked up to my father, and I apologized.
“Dad, I’m sorry.” I struggled with the right thing to say, I tried to figure out a way to tell him about how I felt. I couldn’t. In the end, I left it at sorry. Then I went to bed, heart heavy and angry at myself for thinking I wouldn't get caught.
The next morning, the same toys I’d left the night before greeted me. I had been moping that my apology to my father would have been sufficient to get it back. But apparently, I was wrong. The other toys were good… Actually, they were great. But not good enough, not compared to the one that I’d almost had.
When my father woke up, he was happy to see us playing with what we’d gotten. He laughed with us, as we staged impromptu battles between the Transformers. My brother was the bad guys, of course.
Then, my father disappeared into the bedroom for a couple of seconds.
When he came back out, Omega Supreme was in his arms. A picture of my face
survives somewhere, a perfect O of surprise on my mouth, my eyes lit by 100-watt bulbs of pure joy.
Apparently, he’d just wanted to make me suffer a little bit more. He actually said “Well, it was too late to take it back to the store anyway.” but I knew the real reason.
Well, that’s my Christmas story. If I learned one thing, that has stayed with me to this day. Over and over again, I’ve practiced it in my life. It has never failed me since, it’s a lesson that everyone should learn. If you’re going to do something stupid, don’t get caught. The next year, I took a knife a cut underneath the tape on the wrapping paper, and then re-stuck it.
Never fails.

Powered by Blogger