Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Christmas Story

The following Christmas Story is true; and none of this namby-pamby changing the names to protect the innocent! I am telling this tale bare, unvarnished, and exactly as it happened. Sort of...

It was Christmas Eve 1969 and the entire brood; my sister, Mary, my brothers, Denis and Chip, and I were all lined up against the kitchen wall a police line-up in miniature. Dad was doing his best Colombo impersonation as he strode back and forth before us. It seems that my parents had just discovered that someone had carved two small (practically invisible, really) notches into the top drawer of one of the cabinets. Mom was off in another room somewhere. She was "so mad she could spit tacks" as she used to say. (Something all of us would have loved to see if she could really do... but none of us ever had the nerve to ask her to demonstrate.)

"Now, here, you see," he said, "we have a dulled knife. And over there you see the notches in the kitchen drawer." Dad displayed the evidence as he explained it to us and then looked at us expectantly. We'd all seen the TV show. We knew he was waiting for one of us to crack, but we just stood there looking at him. Well... Mary, Denis and I looked at him. Chip just kind of fidgeted. The weight of the evidence was clear. There was the notched drawer. There was the newly dulled knife. The implication? One of us little people had used the knife to notch the drawer. Open and shut case. But who? Who would do such a thing?

Now, about this time, I expect that you are asking yourself "But, Don..." which is strange, because unless your name is "Don" and you are in the habit of talking to yourself, but I digress. You're asking yourself "Didn't your parent's see your name written all over this one? Weren't you the trouble maker in the group? Shouldn't they have know that they should at least suspect you? Have I asked enough rhetorical questions for you to resume the narrative yet?" to which I say

"You sure ask a lot of questions. Whose story is this anyway?"

No, seriously! My point is that you are right. They should have known that I was guilty! They should have just naturally assumed their troubled middle son did this. But no! When we were children, our parents were idiots! My siblings and I could not believe excruciatingly dim our parents could be! We kept fearing that the men from the government would some day arrive at our door and inform our parents that they were just to nitwitted to have children and we would never see them again! But that is another story. Back to Christmas Eve - 1969.

So there we are, all cool as cucumbers, the little kind that they make sweet pickles out of, standing against the kitchen wall and none of us willing to speak up and claim responsibility. Dad was livid. "Okay, then" he decreed "we'll just let you sit here and think about it. When one of you wants to tell us what happened, your mother and I will be in the living room." You see, the idea was to let us think about the ways that they might punish us and have us turn against each other so that the guilty party would turn themselves in.

Dad's plan was devious enough for me to appreciate, but not good enough to trap me into confessing. (Assuming that I was in fact guilty. Please note, all that I have admitted to at this point is that they should have suspected me.) We sat there. My brothers and sister probably wondering who had done it, how they would be punished, if whoever had done it would go free, or what was on TV that we were missing.

My thoughts were on Santa Claus. I knew that he was on his way and that he wouldn't be stopping at our house if the Bergquist children were still in the kitchen when he made it to Miami! I had to think of some way to get us out of the kitchen so that we could all enjoy Christmas. A selfless act, if I must say so myself.

"Look," I said to Chip, eyeing my elder siblings conspicuously and lowering my voice to a conspiratorial tone, "Chip, we've got to get out of this Kitchen before Santa makes it to Florida of there will be no Christmas here. Now, I would go out there now and tell Mom and Dad that I did it, just to get us out to the kitchen, but you see the laws in the state of Florida say that any kid over the age of six can be legally killed by their parents for acting this bad." I looked to my elder siblings for support. I think they just wanted to see what was going on. Or perhaps they were still thinking about what was on TV. The result is the same... not a word of back-up!

"Now, which ever of them," I continued jerking my thumb at Mary and Denis, "did this horrible thing to Dad's kitchen is in for it! They're old enough that they are goners for sure! You don't want Mom and Dad to kill which ever one of them did this, now do you?" Mary and Denis eyed each other. I think that they were following my impeccable logic and thinking that I may have hit on something. Or perhaps they were thinking that my parents' idiocy had passed down to at least one of the members of our generation.

"As I said, I'd tell them that I did this, but I can be legally killed." I said again. "Now, who do we know who is under six years old who could save Mary or Denis..."

"I'm three." Chip said.

"That's right! You are only three! You're too young to be killed and since you're the youngest and the cutest they would let you get away with anything. You could tell them you did it and save Mary or Denis. Whoever did this horrible thing!"

It was a lovely plan. It was also only seconds after Chip left the kitchen that Dad came back with Chip in tow. He explained exactly how unlikely it was that Chip was actually guilty. He was way too short to reach the knives. Wasn't able to reach the drawer. And could produce no reason he would want to do what he had claimed to have done. No, Dad, for all his lack of mental capacity had seen right through my beautiful plan. Chip was allowed to leave the kitchen and the time passed.

And I'll tell you. Coming up with a Plan B wasn't easy what with the miniscule half life of my Plan A, with the prospect of Santa bypassing our little house on 122nd Avenue, and with Chip dancing around outside the kitchen door as if to say "Ha ha! I don't have to stay in the kitchen because I'm young, cute, and they love me!" I had to have a Plan B and I needed it now! (If for no other reason than to get out of the kitchen so I could thump my brother for so horribly spoiling my beautiful Plan A!)

I looked at my siblings, I looked at the drawer, I looked at the dog... nope, nothing there I could use. I looked at the clock. I couldn't actually tell time yet, but it seemed that it was getting late. And then I had it! It was a lovely plan. It was simple, it was elegant, and best of all it would work! There was no way that Plan B could fail. It was, the best performance of my six-year career of being a trouble maker.

I cried! I flopped apoplectic against the kitchen wall. I threw a full-blown class a tantrum. I screamed and pointed at the general area of a point midway between my elder siblings and shouted that which ever of them had done that horrible thing to the cabinet drawer should just admit it and get it over with. Midnight mass was coming up soon and it was my favorite mass of the year and I wanted to go to midnight mass right away. If we didn't get out of the kitchen we would miss mass and it would be all their fault.

Miraculously (and who said there are no miracles any more... it was Christmas Eve after all) I was right... it was getting late. Mom and Dad came into the kitchen, herded us into the bath, then into our Christmas Eve finery, and then off to church. The incident was never mentioned again. Santa came and stopped at the Bergquist household that night and all was, if not actually forgotten or forgiven, at least not discussed in polite company again.

And I want to go on the record once again. I didn't admit to it then, I haven't admitted to it now. I just can't imagine who did this horrible thing. Not on Christmas Eve, at least!

Merry Cristmas all!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - Lakewood, Colorado - 25, December, 2004

*Editor's Note:

The author would welcome comments from anyone out there who might have enough legal expertise to be able to tell what the statue of limitations on this kind of thing would be. Say someone, me for instance, were to have done such a thing thirty-five years ago in, say Miami, and then moved to somewhere out west, does that change the culpability? I am not admitting to anything, mind you, just interest. And a little fearful. I am still over the age of six!

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