Christmas, 1977 or so.
I remember waiting at the top of the steps in a ‘Crouching Tiger’, ready-to-pounce, squatting position next to my little brother, who was more or less in the same boat as me.
We could hardly stand the suspense. Our Mom downstairs moving around, her slipper-feet leaving only subtle thumps on the carpet; we were going crazy trying to imagine where she was down there, what she was up to at any given moment.
But then, I remember staring down the long tunnel of stairwell before us and seeing the illumination hit the walls, the new electric colors smooshing up against the old paint of our living room. She had plugged in the tree lights!
It was almost time!
Our scalps itched with insanity. There was nothing we could do to ease our jitters. Our hearts were hyenas escaped from the zoo and bolting down the wonderful streets of the city.
Then, her voice.
“Okaaaay, guys. C’mon down here! It looks like Santa Claus might have stopped by!” (Yes, I still believed at that age. And I still do. Deal with it.) We rumbled down the steps, jostling each other like the last two starving beasts on a post-apocalyptic planet. And at the very last step, we swung around on the soft padded landing and stared out at the enchanted scene our single-mom had worked pretty had to make happen for us.
Robots were moving in opposite directions, their eyes blinking fast and their limbs moving them clumsily across the carpet. The handheld electric football game I had so wanted was turned on and was blip-blipping over beneath the tree.
There were Star Wars ships that made galaxy-soaring noises when you pushed a tiny button.
There was a pair of plastic walkie-talkies squelching away over by the TV, a shiny bow on each one.
It was glorious, I tell you. Just glorious.
Thinking back on it now, it’s kind of charming and funny to me in a way to imagine my Mom, awake long after her boys had hurried off to bed, and shoving batteries into all the stuff she had manged to accumulate for us by saving for months. Slowly, one by one, I picture her making things come to life as she popped and locked each AA or D into the little compartments down on the bellies of spacecrafts and on the butts of robots and on the flip-sides of the first portable electric games the world had ever really seen.
I grin a little when I stop and imagine her trying to find where the batteries go on the Millenium Falcon. It makes me realize that there is so damn much more to the memorable moments in our lives than we will ever really realize, huh?
My brother and I ran down those stairs to emerge into a land of instantaneous magic and Christmastime magnificence.
But, as a parent myself now, I’m starting to understand that there was so much more to it than that.