Dylan Jack James
“Attention K-Mart shoppers, please direct your attention to the flashing blue light in the toy department. For the next ten minutes only you can grab a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figure for 20 percent off. Yes, you heard it right, that’s 20 percent off the retail price for 10 more minutes only.”
I walked quickly from my spot in the Hot Wheels aisle when, behind me, I heard a stampede.
I glanced over my shoulder to see a group of women rushing toward the blue light. I was several steps ahead of them and made a b-line to the turtle figures. A bunch of dads hovered around the blue light. I squeezed my way into the middle of them, my hand reaching toward one of the last few figures remaining. Another hand reached toward the shelf and grabbed ahold of the Leonardo figure I had firmly seized.
“Hey, that’s mine!” A husky man in a black and red lumberjack shirt tugged on the toy as I tugged back. “I had it first, man!” I growled at him. He tugged on the toy harder and I tugged back again. The flock of ladies had arrived in the toy aisle just in time to witness who would claim the toy.
“C’mon man, you’re gonna rip the package!” I yelled. The lumberjack glowered at me. My angry eyes met his.
“Honey, let it go would ya? That guy had it first!” A woman in a tight black dress and black pumps scolded the man. He relinquished the toy to me. “C’mon now, let’s go!” she took his hand and led him away from the scene; he followed her sheepishly. Myself and the other men roared with laughter as the lumberjack obeyed his coaxing girlfriend.
No matter, Leonardo was mine and my son would be thrilled. Plus, we were about to come to blows and I didn’t feel like getting arrested on Christmas Eve over a popular toy.
My cart was pretty full. The checkout lines were long and a snowstorm was inching its way toward my hometown.
My son and I had recently moved home with my parents so I could get back on my feet after a nasty breakup with the woman I was living with. My brother had moved back home a year before me when his girlfriend tossed him to the curb as well. He moved back out so I guess it was my turn. My parents were always eager to support and help their sons and grandsons, and – although no man in his early twenties wanted to move back home again – mom and dad were very supportive and understanding of my plight. I had just landed a job in a warehouse and received my first check a couple days prior which was why I was shopping on Christmas Eve. I was happy with my haul for my son and the gifts I bought for my parents that night.
I drove home from my shopping spree in the city and crossed into my suburb. The flakes were huge and the snow was coming down at a pretty good clip. Each mile I drove, the snow became heavier. I could barely make out the buildings. The wind started blowing the blanket of white in all different directions. I felt trapped in a giant snow globe. I slowed to a crawl through Mother Nature’s Christmas Eve wrath.
Come hell or high water, this Santa Claus was going to make damn sure his kid had the best Christmas ever! I pulled into my parents’ driveway and hauled all my bags into the front hall. As soon as I stepped in the front door, the smell of mom’s mouthwatering roast beef teased my nose with delight.
Mom stood at the stove stirring a pan of homemade hot cocoa. “Oh, thank God you made it home OK honey; your dad and I were getting worried. How was the driving? Are you hungry?” I nodded and she heaped a good portion of her famous rump roast with gravy on a plate with a generous helping of mashed potatoes. “Your son is waiting for you to tuck him in, go ahead now, be quick so your dinner doesn’t get cold!” She kissed me on the cheek.
It was a comfort to be home with my mother’s love and amazing meals and the conversations I would have with my dad about war and politics. So much better than that nagging bitch I had lived with for almost three years.
I tucked my son into bed. “I can’t sleep!” he whined as I made my way out the door. “Go to sleep so Santa can come with your presents, buddy.” I shut the door and made my way back to the kitchen and mom’s delicious roast beef.
“Here ya go honey, I put it in the oven to keep it warm.” My mom kissed me on the top of the head, clearly happy that I was back home and away from Katy. She never liked her anyway. “That girl’s not right for you and she can’t cook worth a damn!” Mom told me after one of her visits for dinner. After my meal I sat down with my father in the family room while my mom served us blueberry pie. Once dinner had settled, I retreated to the basement for a smoke. “I can smell that up here!” Mom shouted. I butted it out in the cast iron ashtray that belonged to my grandfather and made my way to the spare bedroom to wrap the gifts I had bought. Mom sat with Dad on the couch and my wrapping spree began.
A couple hours later everything was wrapped. Mom and Dad were heading to bed when they saw me struggling with an armful of gifts. They helped bring the presents downstairs and put them under the Fraser fir my father and I had cut down. My mom turned out all the lights except for the Christmas tree lights and ooo’s and ahhh’s tumbled out of each of our mouths as we stared at the marvel before us.
“Gosh, you bought a lot of gifts!” Dad said. “Yeah, Mickey deserves it!” I said. Mom chimed in: “I can’t wait to watch him open them all!”
Exhausted, we all made our way up to bed. I plopped in my twin bed and stared at the wallpaper. My room was just the way I had left it when I moved out at 18. The sailboat wallpaper, my trophies on the dresser, my cub and boy scout uniforms still hanging in the open closet all illuminated by the Virgin Mary night-light mom had placed on my dresser. “She’ll protect you, ya know.” That’s what my mom told 13-year old me the night the Virgin mother took up residence in my boyhood bedroom.
I fell asleep fully clothed to the sound of the howling wind and the sleet hitting my windowpane.
The next morning I woke up, rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and peered outside my window. The storm had passed and this Christmas morning a silent blanket of white covered the ground. I could hear my dad sawing wood in their bedroom across the hall. I glanced at the clock which read 7 a.m., walked the few short steps to my son’s bedroom and opened the door.
The covers were thrown back and the room was empty. I walked down the stairs and into the living room to see my son sitting smack dab in a sea of tattered and torn wrapping paper, happily playing with all his Christmas presents. “Look what Santa brought me, Daddy!” He grinned at me while holding up the ninja turtle that almost got me in a fist fight the night before.
My son continued, “And Santa brought me this and this and this and this.” He held up each toy and named it, grinning from ear to ear. I got angry and yelled at him. “You know you’re not supposed to open up your presents until everyone is watching!” I scowled at my son like Scrooge; my yelling woke up my folks. My son’s bottom lip started quivering and he broke into tears. My parents made their way to the living room.
“Oh my gosh, sweetie!” My mom soothed and cradled my crying son in her arms. “He was just excited about Christmas, that’s all!” She threw a dirty look my way. “Come here, son,” I said as I grabbed him from my mom’s arms, wrapped him in a tight fatherly hug, grabbed the Batman figure and pushed the ninja turtle into his hands. “How about it, sport? Batman always wins!” I smiled.
“No, Leonardo, Cowabunga dude!” he said. We wrestled the plastic men into a knock-down, drag out fight.
My father held up an unwrapped electric razor. “Is this mine?” he said. I laughed. “Yeah, Merry Christmas, dad!”