The Ghost of Christmas Past, Part II


Now Playing: See How We Are, by X. “Now that highway’s coming through, So you all gotta move. This bottom rung ain’t no fun at all. No fires and rockhouses and grape-flavored rat poison, They are the new trinity, For this so-called community. See how we are. Gotta keep bars on all of our windows. See how we are. We only sing about it once in every twenty years. See how we are. Oh see how we are.”

Last week, I blogged about my all-time favorite Christmas gifts. Then on Facebook, I posted a couple of times about my all-time favorite Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street, and how it makes me cry every time I see it. The same is also true for It’s A Wonderful Life, my second favorite of all time.

So today, I’ll address the convergence of nearly favorite Christmas presents with nearly favorite Christmas movies.

I’m speaking, of course, about the movie A Christmas Story and the Daisy BB gun I once got for Christmas. A Christmas Story isn’t my favorite holiday movie, but I do laugh at several scenes, most involving the great Darren McGavin. I watch it at least once, and sometimes more, every year. An aside: I never realized until watching the movie that other kids also thought they’d go blind to teach their parents a lesson. Similarly, the BB gun wasn’t my favorite present, but I used it often, whenever I had BBs. (I actually preferred my brother’s, though. It had a really cool pump action that you had to do between shots.)

When I posted the teaser this morning, my friend and neighbor Debbie Dyer Lawson warned me about shooting my eye out.

Well, once again, this is an occasion where art meets Arthur’s life.

I didn’t shoot my eye out, of course. Nor did I shoot anyone’s eye out with my BB gun. Nor, even before reading Atticus Finch’s admonishment, did I ever shoot at birds, particularly mockingbirds.

But, as you probably have guessed by now, I did shoot someone. With his own BB gun. In the eye.

It was my friend Mike Lipford. Mike lived about a quarter of a mile or so away from me on the same business U.S. 501. But we were great friends, particularly in elementary school, and often walked back and fourth between houses to play. We’d play wiffle ball, ride bikes or sometimes just go exploring, including to the rock quarry where we actually were forbidden to play. I don’t remember the hole for the quarry, but I do remember the giant mounds of gravel we’d often climb.

We also walked to the elementary school and played basketball nearly every day, and we’d even walk to the swimming pool where we both belonged. One or the other of our mothers usually would pick us up. Mike’s mother drove an old Ford with a push-button automatic transmission. My mom drove a 1957 pink Chevy Bel Air.

But on this day, we were playing at Mike’s house, which we often did. His mom was less stern than mine, and his house was slightly closer to the places we often walked too. We were playing in the back yard with the BB gun, and we’d gotten tired of shooting at cans. So Mike had a plan. I’d shoot at him, and he’d dodge the bullet (BB).

Well, to my credit, I wanted no part of this plan. (Even then I wasn’t crazy about guns. I don’t think I’ve ever fired a real one, though it’s possible I did shoot my brother’s shotgun. Once.) So I decided I’d aim at Mike and then shoot down at the ground. Which would have been a solid plan. Except we lived in red clay country. And the clay was studded with rock. My BB apparently found a rock. And ricocheted. Right at Mike.

It hit him in the eye, scaring the s-dash-dash-dash (an homage to A Christmas Story) out of both of us. I was scared for Mike and, I’m sorry to say, terrified of the trouble I’d get into with my mom. We ran in the house, where we initially told Mike’s mom that he’d fallen down and hit a rock.

Which was a pretty good cover story on short notice. Except, that while Mike and his mom were poking at his eyebrow, where the BB actually hit, the pellet popped out and bounced in the bathroom sink.

We were busted. We told Mike’s mom what had really happened. She understood that we were just goofing around, and she was so relieved Mike wouldn’t have to become a pirate that she told me she wouldn’t tell my mom. And she never did.

“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” _ Dale Evans (the one Lyle Lovett couldn’t bring himself to marry if he’d been Roy Rogers (If I Had a Boat)
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