Sunday, November 19, 2006
Once, in 26 years, I was beat so badly I couldn’t sit down for a week. I’m not saying I didn’t deserve it . . . but, in my opinion, it was a bit excessive.
My mother later admitted that she had to leave the room. Not because she couldn’t stand to see me hurting so badly. But because she was afraid if she stayed, she would kill me.
The year was 1989. Christmas Day. Morning, to be more exact.
4:40-ish to be extremely exact. Mom and dad had been up and down all night trying to keep my brother and I in bed. Ty had given up the fight and was cuddled under a (Lord, save me) Dallas Cowboys blanket, fast asleep.
I was just biding my time. I knew, eventually, the parentals would abandon their posts.
Sure enough, they did.
By 4:00 AM, mom has retired to bed, but daddy remains vigilant. He checks to make certain that my brother is still snoring loudly and then comes to my door. I close my eyes and burrow deeper in the covers.
"Meg, you awake?"
Why do parents do this? If I’m feigning sleep, do they really think I will be stupid enough to say "Yeah, daddy." Silence. "Meg?" Last ditch effort. Finally, he turns and leaves the room.
I wait an eternity. Which, at age 9, means I wait 6 minutes. I spring from the bed in my very adult, pink "Hug Me" night shirt. Run to the door and look side to side.
The coast is: Clear.
James Bond music is playing in my head as I check the hallway.
No sign of the guard. The living room is alight with the multi-colored tree. The presents are left unattended.
But I don’t trust the silence. Not just yet. Daddy snores like a freight train.
If all is silent on the Western front, this does not bode well.
I retreat to my bedroom, planning my attack.
It takes everything in me, but I read 4 chapters of a Dean Koontz book ("Lightning", in case you were wondering) and wait silently.
Back to the front lines.
Checking doorways. Stealthily creeping to the living room. Thunderous heartbeats are momentarily eclipsed by the snores of my father.
I frantically sort through the oceans of presents. Any one labeled Meg is thrown to the side.
I’m not going to open them. Of course not. I just want to count my loot. I need to make sure that I have more presents than my brother. Sibling rivalry and all. But . . . .
This one sounds funny when I shake it. What in the world can that be????
It’s not a book, it’s not a purse, it’s not clothes . . . Oh please, oh please, oh please, I have to know.
I pull it back to my bedroom. Lest the tearing sounds of paper rouse my father. Shrinky dinks??? Has my mother forgotten I’m not 5 (even if I still look it)? Though, they are Transformer shrinky dinks. Which makes a vast difference. Alright.
(Note: I’m 26, but if I got some Arkansas Razorback Shrinky Dinks, I would be ECSTATIC!)
Curiosity satisfied. Back to the pillaging and counting of the loot.
Something catches my eye. What is that enormous shiny thing BEHIND the fireplace? The box is twice as big as I am. Oh holy buddha! Does that tag say "Meghan"???? Goody, goody, goody!!!
Wait. What in the world could it be??? It’s the size of a small city state!
I move it side to side as best I can. Semi-shaking it. It is silent.
A silent, large present?? I can’t bear it! I must know!
I get behind it and push with all my might. Navigating it through the living room, curving into the hallway, pushing with all the strength in my 9 year old body. Finally, the bedroom.
I remember the paper just falling off. No ripping, no tearing. The angels of Christmas just pulled the paper from the box in one smooth, easy motion. Fully intact. I'm sure that this isn't how it really happened, but in my nine-year old mind, this moment was magic.
Sony?? But I already have a TV. Oh, no, wait. A real live stereo.
Dual cassette deck, record player, AM/FM radio, speakers.
The whole shebang! Who could want for anything more??
I yelp before I can contain myself.
Oh no no no. Look around. Listen intently. Nothing.
Maybe it was an internal yelp, after all.
Well, there’s no way I can hide this massive unwrapped present.
And since I’m already going to be in trouble. . . in for a penny, in for a pound.
So, my young mind begins to rationalize:
I may as well open ALL my presents.
I mean, there could be some tapes or records that need to be played on the stereo.
There could be some super cool dancing duds that need to be tried on.
I have to open them all now.
I HAVE TO.
I get my Radio Flyer wagon and load it as quietly as possible. I drag it, in my barefeet, to my bedroom and open every present.
I fall asleep in the middle of my floor. Wrapping paper as a blanket. New clothes as my pillow. Dire Straits and Tiffany albums under my feet.
I am happy.
I am sated.
I am at peace.
Until . . .
I am rudely awakened by my father jerking me up by my arm. The force should have rent my shoulder from it’s socket. It’s only the flexibility of youth that saved me from bodily harm . . . at that moment.
My mother is shrieking "You’ve ruined CHRISTMAS!!!"
My father is purple. Literally, purple. The purple of Barney and Grimace and new Crayola markers.
I can’t even begin to compose myself enough to TRY and place my hands in the way of the spanking I KNOW is coming. My father bends me over my little blue writing desk and beats me senseless. I can’t even cry it hurts so badly. EVERY fiber of my being is concentrating on the pain.
My mother has left the room, as I said, not to avoid watching my pain - but to circumvent the desire to kill me where I lay.
I am locked in my room for the remainder of the day. My presents have been placed on the highest shelf in my closet. To taunt me.
"Here we are, your lovely books and clothes and music. You can not have us. When you finally get us back, you will have outgrown us or we will be out of style. Ha ha! We will teach you! You will get your Swatch watch in 1999!"
The stereo system is placed on top of my bookshelf. My father refuses to hook it up.
I cry everyday for the loss of the music that should have been.
It is New Year’s Day before I can sit down without wincing.
It is Valentine’s Day before I can listen to the Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms album that was wrapped in ThunderCats wrapping paper.
"Money for Nothing" still pains me.
Do not play "Sultans of Swing" in my presence.
"Romeo and Juliet" will never be a love song for me.
But a lesson went unlearned.
I still have the most horrid sense of immediacy.
The past has taught me nothing.
And isn’t that just sad?