Christmas By the Numbers


Writing an entire story about math for our Christmas column this year may seem a little strange … then again so am I. But have faith, Dear Reader, by the end of all the words below, it’ll all make sense.

Early on in life, I discovered doing math, no matter how complicated the problem, came easily for me. Not because I was brilliant, far from it, but rather I had the unique ability to actually “see” numbers in my head. Adding, subtraction, and even multiplication, were as clear in my head as if the teacher wrote the problem on the board. I knew it was a weird ability because when I told my brothers they all agreed and said the same thing, “That’s weird.”

If I could associate a number to it, I could remember it. Number of times Bully Brad beat me up every week: at least once. Ten was the number of summertime water balloon fights between us and the kids who lived over on the Duke of Gloucester. And two was the number of times our dad told us to do something before he’d get mad because we hadn’t done it yet. And one of the best examples of how numbers help me to remember things, is how they relate to Christmas.

Eight was the number of reindeer who landed on our roof every year. I know because I heard them every Christmas Eve — except the year it snowed. I thought I had heard the first deer land on our roof, but I guess all the lights from the ambulance scared off the rest of Santa’s reindeer. You see, that was the year Dad had to be rushed to the hospital for a broken arm because he had fallen. When we asked how the nice fluffy snow could break his arm, he didn’t answer. We all thought he was in too much pain to think of something to say. It wasn’t until years later he admitted where the reindeer stomping really came from.

Seven was how many Christmases my three brothers, The Sister, and me spent growing up at 110 Flamingo Street. Waking up to the many smells of Mom cooking in the kitchen. Running downstairs to see if Santa had missed us. Watching Dad as he burned the used boxes and wrapping paper in the fireplace and hearing him say bad words under his breath each time hot embers popped out and landed on his bare arms. Playing for hours on the living room carpet with everything we had received for being good during the year. All are memories I cherish from the time spent growing up on Flamingo — all those seven years.

Six will always be a very sad number for me. It’s the number of Christmases we were able to spend with Older Brother Richard before he was taken from us. The following Christmas and each one since, we’d set an empty chair at our dinner table as a reminder. None of us are granted tomorrow, and none of us really know when our last Christmas with our family members will be.

Five was the happiest number at Christmas for us kids. If we each found at least five presents underneath the tree with our names on them, it was gonna be a good Christmas. Finding less than five presents meant Santa knew we hadn’t been as good as we should’ve been all year. But more than five? Finding more than five presents under the tree for each of us kids meant it was gonna be a GREAT Christmas. And, if you were wondering, every Christmas we spent growing up on Flamingo was great.

Two — two isn’t really a part of this story — at least not yet. Two is the number of weeks this story spans. I hope you find time, after all the shopping is finished, to visit this column next week as we continue counting down the numbers of a Flamingo Street Christmas to number one — the best Christmas number of them all!

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]