I’ve written a couple of Christmas related stories I think. Let me go look. Yes, here is one where my Dad felt the urge to be benevolent so he shared the truth about there not being a Santa as he was walking out the door (link), (probably headed out to the local tavern). Oh, and just to prove that the teasing gene does indeed get passed down through the generations, you’ll read about a couple of nice tricks I played on our youngest boy in this same story.
Ah, Christmas. What images does it conjure up for you? Do you recall 24-hour binge watching of The Christmas Story, (aka You’ll Shoot your Eye Out), on TNT or TBS? Perhaps you have fond memories of trudging through a foot of snow in a forest somewhere, in search of the perfect tree to cut down just so your cats could climb it and knock down all your favorite ornaments? Or maybe, (and hopefully not), you’re the type that gets so lonely at Christmas that you listen repeatedly to Joni Mitchell’s River all day as you’re making nasty reviews on Yelp.
Yes, I know. When the kids grow up and move away and begin to forge their own way in this world, Christmas can become a lonely time of the year. I think this happens mostly if you’ve been lucky enough to have great memories around this same time. Most of mine are happy. I love my boys and I miss their loudness as they’re teasing each other and laughing at themselves, especially at this time of year.
I don’t have a lot of strong memories from Christmas as a child though. Luckily, no one in our family has bitten the big one or some other tragedy around this time of year, so most childhood memories are around Santa and wishing for goofy little presents. There was the time my parents bought me a really cool set of headphones I just loved so much that I still have them (check out the pic if you don’t believe me). I had them repaired once for loose wiring maybe 20 years ago and they do still sound quite awesome though honesty…only a sad person at Christmas or a stoner would want to sit around with a couple pounds of stereophonic power on their ears.
There was one Christmas as a kid that convinced me that Santa was real and had magic; it was the only Christmas spent in Indiana. The year was 1964 and I was in Kindergarten. How do I know this, you ask? I had to look it up, I admit. It was the year of the Johnny 7 OMA – One Man Army! Despite the fact that Captain Kangaroo refused to allow Johnny’s commercial to air on his shows, we kids had plenty more opportunities to get intoxicated by the notion that we could become a one man army killing machine. There was always Uncle Al – Uncle Al & Captain Wendy didn’t stay on the air in Cincinnati for 35 years without knowing their viewing audience, (i.e. us kids), and knowing how to sell to us.
The war in Vietnam was in full swing in 1964 but we kids didn’t have a clue about world politics or anything having to do with some country we’d never heard of in Asia. Unless your daddy or big brother was away in the war, we just didn’t hear about it (yet….times would soon change). But the toy companies knew of Vietnam. Oh yes, you betcha they knew of the war. The best selling toys that year were Barbies for the girls. We boys had our own Barbie Dolls only we called our Barbies GI Joe. Sixty-four was the year Joe hit the shelves and our Christmas trees.
I never was a GI Joe kid. My dad wouldn’t have his boys playing with dolls, no sir. I never asked Santa for any boy Barbies, but I did ask him for a one man killing machine. Problem was though, I was going to be in Vincennes, Indiana that year. How would Santa know where I was? My dad tried to convince me that Santa knew everything and would know where I was. I was having nothing of it, however. If Santa was going to know where we’re going to be on Christmas, then I better be the one to give him the news. I begged my dad on almost a daily basis to take to one of Santa’s helpers so I could tell him we were going to be on vacation. Santa can’t possibly know where I’ll be unless I pass on the message!
Eventually my dad got tired of my nagging. Normally my dad would tell me to shut up about something and I’d close my mouth faster than a bear trap on a fox leg. But during this time of year, he’d give us kids a little more latitude. So when he finally got tired of the nagging, he dragged me along on one of the trips to our downtown Sears where Santa had a helper. The only thing I remember about that day was the sitting on the lap and spouting – my Grandpa Thompson’s house in Vincennes, Indiana! That’s where we will be at. Do you know where that house is? He has rabbits. I’m not quite sure why I thought Santa needed to know my grandpa raised rabbits or how that piece of information would clarify my grandpa’s location, but apparently I thought it was a key piece of information to be passed on! Can you remember that? Can you make sure Santa knows that’s where I will be? I really want a Johnny 7 OMA rifle. That’s all I want, a Johnny 7 OMA. Should I spell that for you, Santa? O – M – A!
I should tell you about this one man killing machine and I cannot do a better job than this entry from Wikipedia:
All of the firing mechanisms are attached to the main rifle assembly – the pistol inserts from the bottom to provide the rifle grip (the pistol also holds caps for authentic firing sounds). The “Rifle” function shot twelve white bullets one at a time via a bolt action spring mechanism through the silver barrel. Three different “rockets” (The green Anti Tank, Anti Bunker and the red Armour Piercing fired via spring-action on the main barrel. The Grenade Launcher was on top of the gun. Johnny Seven also featured a bipod that provided stability for the various rockets and grenade. The stock could be removed to shorten the weapon while in the “Tommy Gun” mode. The toy when fully assembled was over three feet long and weighed about four pounds.
I ask you – what red blooded, American male, son of a Marine wouldn’t want this baby? I might have been only 6 years old, but my previous five years had been filled with orders from my drill sergeant. If for nothing else, I knew the OMA would protect my family from those nasty flying killers (the cicadas).
So there we were, me and my two brothers, at Grandpa’s house, waiting to see if Santa had gotten the message. In hindsight, this was only a year or two before Grandpa left us with lung cancer (and I remember my mom bawling her eyes out that day). Christmas morning, I woke up early, just like millions of other children my age. One peek around the corner into the living room confirmed that there was indeed magic – Santa had pulled it off! He had found us and he had gotten the request for the killing machine. (Santa must have grown up in a good old red state).
We had three large blue spruce trees in our yard on Goodman Avenue. The house was a rental and so the owner thought he could successfully remove a couple of those nice spruces for relocation to his home. For a couple of years those trees had large moats dug all around them and we kids would use those pits as protection from our enemy armies. Before I fall asleep tonight, I plan to think long and hard about my yard on Goodman Avenue where I lived when I believed in magic and the ability of a toy gun to make me feel safe and content. Fifty-one years have passed. Is there still any magic in the air? Will Santa find all the children this year? Wouldn’t that be nice……