Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Memories

by Jon Egan

I'm not sure how old I was when the Christmas carol, Silent Night began bringing tears to my eyes every time I heard it, but it still does. Tears that aren't accompanied with sobbing, or shoulder wrenching, or deep belly gulps and snot bubbles, just damp, rolling, polite, waiting-in-turn-for-the-previous-one-to-make-its-way-down-my-cheek tears.

It's not sadness that creates the tears. I think it's more of a sense of expectation that this will be The Year. No matter how bad or good the past year was, we get to wash everything away and hit the re-set button. It also really gets me thinking about the innocence of youth, and the opportunity they face. So for me, that's when the Christmas season begins: the first time I hear Silent Night being played. And this year it was actually the 1st of December. Andy Williams came on the radio, and Christmas 2012 officially began.

I don't specifically remember a lot of my Christmas Pasts, but I definitely do remember the following one:

As most of you reading this know, I come from a crazy household. Lots of fun times. Lots of not-so-fun times. Lots of falling outs between sibling and sibling, between parents and siblings, between parent and parent, but it seemed that no matter the relationship boogie, Christmas was always a time for us to come together as a family and bury the hatchet. (Not just like the time Adrian literally tried to bury it in Julian's leg. Luckily it was blunt and only left a bruise!)

So this one year when the whole family was living in the same little mining town way up North, there were a few of us "not talking," to a few others of us. I forget who was pissed at who, but it had been going on for awhile. My older brother, sister, and me had moved out of the house, so when the first one of us showed up to Mum and Dad's we'd be given the assignment by a sobbing Mum to, "Go get your brother, or sister. It's Christmas damn it, and we should all be happy and together."  Dad would huff and disappear to his bedroom, grumbling something along the lines of, "I'm not talking to that feckin' eejit,", or "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, women, can you not just leave things be?" but you knew deep down he wanted the whole family around as well. So off one of us would trot to get the others that weren't there yet, and the negotiations would begin with the one that was on the out. No matter how long they went on, it typically ended with tears and hugs from the envoy, followed once we got back to Mum and Dad's by sobbing, and hugging, and apologies, and "Where's the fecking whiskey?

So this year it was Linden who was the last to arrive, but when he showed up and all the bad feelings had subsided, and the whiskey was beginning to work its magic, he announced that for Christmas he'd splurged and bought himself (Linden loved buying gifts for himself!) an air pistol. No, there is no line here that goes, "You'll shoot your eye out!" We'd never even heard of that movie in Australia.

Linden, being Linden, runs out to the car and brings in this very fine air pistol and the BB's that go with it, and Dad, who loved anything that made a bang or blew things up, couldn't resist. He disengaged his crazy, mischievous, Irish brain and took dead aim at one of Mum's old glass ornaments that she so lovingly transported the 12,000 miles or so when she moved from England to Australia. He pulled the trigger. Mum gasped, and shrieked, and screamed, and cursed, and managed to do it all in a single expulsion of air, and nothing happened to the ornament.

Dad looked at Mum; Mum cursed at him again; Dad held out his hand to Linden. Linden placed a dozen or so BB's in his hand; Dad looked at Mum; Mum snarled. Dad loaded the BB's; Mum told him not to; Dad smiled, and took aim. All the rest of us sat on the blue vinyl couch, shirt backs sticking to it. (It was always in the 100's at Christmas.) Linden told him to aim a little high, Dad did, and he nailed the green ball of glass, shattering it into a thousand little pieces. Mum screamed; Dad roared; Linden looked very proud, and the rest of us smiled at Dad and looked very concerned at Mum when she snapped her head to look at us.
Target practice
Dad's first hit
Dad took aim and repeated the process, only this time it was a little plastic lamb ornament, then he handed the pistol back to Linden and bet him he couldn't take out one of the three Kings. Extra points for the smug looking one with the box of gold. Mum finally recovered her senses after witnessing the carnage from the first two shots, and away she went. The yelling grew louder; the tears began to flow, and dad calmly proclaimed that, "Your mother couldn't hit the fat end of a slow-moving cow from three feckin' feet, could ya, Hazel?"

Mum, never one to shy away from a contest against Dad, didn't give it a second thought. She asked Linden, "How do I work the stupid gun?" He showed her, and the next thing we knew she'd aimed, pulled the trigger, and put a nice little hole in the dry rock wall. Dad smirked; Mum squinted; Linden told her to aim a little high; and before you could say Merry Christmas, the smug, gold-bearing king was history! Dad howled; Mum told-you-so'ed to Dad; Linden was proud again, and we all smiled at mum telling her what a great shot she was.
Mum's second shot.
Mum's first shot

She asked Dad which one next, and away they went, like a sniper crew: Dad spotting; Mum shooting; Linden reloading. We all took turns shooting ornaments off the fake green plastic Christmas tree, and when they were all gone, including the terrified-looking angel topper, we started on anything around the living room that presented itself as target. It was an amazing Christmas day. The walls were a little worse for wear; the Christmas tree was history, and even though the linoleum floor was swept multiple times, months later when I'd come over, there'd be another piece of sparkled glass littering the floor. It was definitely a less traditional Christmas than most people enjoy, but it was such a great encapsulation of an Egan Christmas.
The angel tree topper that got no respect

Love you, Dad. Wish we could have had a few more Christmases together. Sleep in heavenly peace :)
Merry Christmas everyone.

What are your favorite Christmas memories? What Christmas carol is special to you?

1 comment:

  1. This is hysterical! Hope your 2012 Christmas is as much fun with a lot less damage.