‘Tis the season… for thinking back to those exciting days of yesteryear. It’s funny as I get older (heading inevitably towards both my dotage and grumpy-old-man syndrome) I think back upon childhood. Christmas, with all its frantic and heart-pounding anticipation is often brought to mind.
I am wierd, no seriously. I never get excited about something like Christmas until the day before and then it’s multiplied by 1,000,000. I would be the first one up waiting the “go” signal.
You see our Christmas tree was downstairs in the rec room, not upstairs. We, the Newman children, were forbidden to go downstairs until our parents got up. My father, the eternal jokester would have to have his coffee and cigarette before we could plunge into the ripping, tearing and shrieking of joy. So like runners awaiting the starting gun, we were perched upon the top of the stairs with trembling nerves and quivering legs. There was a lot to plan, for that mad dash. Our steps lead down to the front door, curved around a foyer and went back down to the basement. Then there was the narrow hallway that lead into the rec room. You had to watch cutting the corner of the foyer lest you slam into the banister on the right or make your turn too wide and smack into the banister on the left. Aside from all that you were in slippers, an aptly named set of footwear, which made rounding a bend as dangerous as telling Donald Trump his hairstyle sucks. Once onto the carpeted second set of stairs the basement floor had a door on the left (to the garage) and then two more in the hall facing one another (the laundry room and the closet). Doorknobs are useful things. But slamming into one with an unprotected elbow or hip wasn’t pleasant. Plus it would put you in last place in the Christmas Race. Also you had to prepare for the basement floor’s icy linoleum, treacherous and slick. Once into the rec room the frenzy could take place in earnest.
But back to my Father. Smirking and sitting in the kitchen, puffing slowly on a cigarette and sipping daintily on his coffee we would glance over our shoulders at him in desperate anticipation. He would chuckle and tell us to be patient, he was almost done. Then he’d go back to smirking, smoking and sipping. I swear he could make those two things last all day! They were the slowest, most leisurely cup of coffee and nicotine stick of the ENTIRE year. Often I would accuse him of lighting a second one or refilling his mug—he didn’t it just FELT that way! Then he’d crush out the cigarette, down the last dregs of his java and say….”Go ahead”. The race was on!
My poor sister, the youngest and smallest of us would be buffeted by her two older brothers as we leaped into action! Being the eldest (and for the longest time the biggest) I would easily shove past my brother and take the lead. It didn’t last since he was faster than me and due to my clumsiness I always managed to bash my arms, hips and elbows into the banister and doorknobs slowing my frantic progress. In the end somebody always fell on the foyer or the basement floor but all pain and agony was forgotten when we burst into the rec room to find Santa’s booty (presents that is, get your mind out of the gutter this is a Christmas or if you like Yule story).
To this day when I see a staircase I wonder how to best dash down it and beat all comers to the ground floor…