The worst was over for that year. I was back in my own little world, safe from asshats like Mrs. Conners, Bobby and his friend, what’s-his-face. Not only did I not have to see them again, I didn’t have to attend CCD for the rest of the year. But all that was like a distant dream to me because it was happiest time of the year for a ten-year old and I had business to attend to.
Is it just me or did Christmas break seem like it was month-long back in the 1980’s? I suppose time moves a little slower when you countdown to a day rather than hurrying like a madman before it arrives. Regardless whether it was perception or an actual month break, it seemed long enough to forget math. But no matter, the weeks leading up to Christmas day was filled with fun like my favorite activity, searching for hidden presents!
I was a kid who could be left home alone for certain periods of time during the afternoon. Once Christmas break hit, Mom would run errands like the grocery store or lunch with friends and she felt a few hours unsupervised wouldn’t be so bad. After all, I proved what I could do to someone with a bible and we own around fifty of them.
These little spans of time alone were perfect for me to get snooping. And also the perfect time for me to play around with the new gas powered fireplace Dad had just installed. It amazed me. With the turn of a key and press of a button, I could have a roaring fire by the tree. It was also the perfect opportunity for a ten-year old boy to do something insanely stupid like, for example, toss in a couple of M-80 firecrackers I had been saving under the bed since the previous 4th or July. I can not explain why this was something I had to do but I had to do it.
Mom wasn’t even out of the subdivision before I had that fire turned on high. Without giving a second thought, I tossed both M-80s into the fireplace and stood back, cupping my ears. Within seconds I saw a the distinctive spark of the fuse from the first firecracker and with an incredible blast, it blew exploded flaming paper out from the stone fireplace and onto the carpet. That sent a ten-year old into a panic and I stomped out the little flames and turned off the fire in one swift motion.
Then there was the issue of the second M-80. It didn’t go off. I was caught in a situation of unexploded ordnance and a possible life grounding event. I had to retrieve the M-80 somehow without blowing my fingers off and even more so, not get in trouble with only a week left before Christmas. As I collected the bits of the exploded firecracker, Mom came home early because she forgot something.
Boy, there was a lot of yelling. I remember this pretty clearly because for the next…well…ever, I was not allowed to even look at the fireplace. I was marched up to my room but there was a silver lining. She had no idea about the M-80. That is a secret I have kept until now.
The one plus about the pre-cellphone and cordless era was I could count on Mom never being more than ten feet from the kitchen thanks to a lan line. That meant I was free to slip out of the room and look around the closets for any gifts that might be hidden. As long as Mom kept yapping, I knew I was free to roam around. And the second I heard the phone hangup, I knew I had 0.05 seconds to get from a closet and down the hall to my room. But such risks brought such sweet rewards.
Behold what I found under a pile of coats, still in the old Toys R Us bag. The GI Joe Cobra Night Raven! I was overjoyed. I didn’t even know this was apart of the Cobra inventory. I sat there looking at the box of awesome when I heard Mom begin her famous long goodbye. You know the one moms do, “Okay…alright…you too…bye now”.
I placed the coats back over the box and with ninja speed and stealth, I raced back to the bedroom. I had to brief the Joes about the new ride they will have in seven short days.
I remember that magical feeling of finding such a big gift and knowing I would be the envy of the neighborhood. I daydreamed about the fantastic battles ahead and sending Shipwreck and Snake Eyes past the speed of sound. There were plenty of doodles with a big black plane strafing jeeps, I am sure.
That Christmas was also the one when I found the famous Tomahawk helicopter too. But I already wrote about that. You won’t have to revisit my gushing over a toy unless you want to. Okay, here is a link.
Later that evening, after dinner, we settled in for a night of Christmas specials. We didn’t have cable then so the primary channels were ABC, CBS, NBC and the dreaded PBS. I had the VCR primed to record every special from How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Merry Christmas Charlie Brown. It was a pure magic and I was at the right age to love the Hell out of them.
We sat there with the lights turned off, the tree aglow, basking in the warm fire as The Muppets Family Christmas aired. These are some of my best memories as a kid. Laughing with my Dad as we watched Animal scream, “PRESENTS! PRESENTS! PRESENTS!” we ate chocolate covered pretzel sticks and I dreamed of my big black jet that was soon to grace the skies of my imagination. Mom sat in her chair, cross stitching something to give to someone. It was a perfect pre-Christmas night full of everything that makes the holid-BABOOM!!!!
Great Jesus’s Ghost, I fucking forgot about the other M-80 firecracker that never went off! It was such a tranquil night until a great explosion that sent all of us to the ceiling. Dad went to great lengths to not use profanity around me but after that shocker, I remember quite a string of obscenities.
Upon investigation, somehow it was ruled the cracking of one of the ceramic logs which sounded like a firecracker was the cause of the blast. The bits of the M-80 must have burned up in the back of the fireplace because the rest was never found. I kept that secret until just this second. You are the only one to know.
We sat back down, a little shaken but otherwise fine. I don’t think my heart slowed down until my bedtime at 9:30. It was the second close call for a grounding over the same stupidity and I can’t believe I got away with it especially since just hours before I was sent to my room over the damn fireplace. Santa might see me when I was sleeping but I knew I what I was getting and it wasn’t punishment. It was a Night Raven.
That concludes part 2 of the greatest Christmas ever. I might drag this all the way to a part 4 but for now, I will leave you with the entire Muppet Family Christmas special. It’s glorious and wonderful and a few years ago I did full review of it. Here’s the link to that too.
Goodnight, you amazing person you.