The Great Countdown Begins


The great countdown to Christmas has finally begun, and I couldn’t be more excited because I’ve been so very good this year.

Just ask me and I’ll tell you, or you can just finish reading this story. For example, this year I’ve kept all my columns around 500 words. Well, most all of them. Okay, just a few, but I’ve really tried. And trying to be good means you’re not on Santa’s naughty list (or the editor’s).

While growing up back on Flamingo Street, my three brothers, The Sister, and I tried being extra good around this time of year. But we quickly found out being good can be hard — especially when five kids are sharing a limited space, like a house with small rooms and really narrow hallways. And the older we got, the smaller our house, and the hallways, became. If you ask me, it was a system designed for failure. Here are just a few examples of how we tried being good and what eventually happened.

A crayon masterpiece. How could five little kids get into big trouble just by doing what their mom said? Trust me. For us it was easy.

When I was seven, the day before Thanksgiving it was pouring rain outside. Mom told us to stop running around so she could concentrate on cooking, “Y’all get your crayons out, and find some paper to draw on so I can cook!” The Sister actually came up with the idea that each of us should draw our portraits, but it was Big Brother James who found the paper. Just ask any of us kids. That grand mural we drew on the ugly yellow bathroom wallpaper only made it look better.

Hardwood floors make for a great skating rink. When I was eight, the Saturday before Christmas the weather was perfect for outdoor fun — 80° with blue skies. It may seem impossible that I could remember such detail about a day that was over fifty-four years ago, but it was the perfect winter day — and our parents told us to stay inside.

Dad had to go to work early in the morning for a couple of hours and told us kids to obey Mom. About 10 o’clock, Mom said, “Stay inside, and no fighting. I have to run to the grocery store and get a few things for dinner. I’ll be back in an hour. Do what Richard says.”

We did what Dad said. “Obey your mom.” We did what Mom said. “Stay inside and no fighting.” And we did what Older Brother Richard said to do, but we still got into a whole lot of trouble.

Being only eight years old, even I knew that riding our bikes inside the house was a bad idea … but skating down the long wood hallway? It was a good idea right up to the point we crashed into the furniture and then the walls breaking a lamp, flower vase, and putting a huge new hole in the wood paneling.

Yes, I still remember the Saturday we turned our wood hallway into a skating rink, and I also remember the next Saturday we turned it into a bowling alley. But that’s for another time. And, if you are counting, this story was only 555 words.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]