So, on Sunday when I went to get Little E out of bed, he was bouncing with energy. After all, he had Sonic and Tails and Knuckles with him. Wait, what!? He wasn’t supposed to get Knuckles until Christmas morning.
This is a story of how karma occasionally delivers a pretty stout bitch-slap decades later. Let’s rewind a bit.
The year was 1985. For some unfathomably stupid reason, I woke up early (it’s not like I was eight – I was 13, for crying out loud) and did something, well, unfathomably stupid (bet you didn’t see that coming). I started opening my stuff.
It was greedy, immature, and childish, even for a child. Again, it’s not like I was in my single-digits and couldn’t wait. I was just a greedy, inconsiderate little SOB. (Anyone who went to junior high or high school with me will probably be saying “No shit, really!?” at this point.) And to put it mildly, nobody was particularly happy with me that Christmas. Disgusted would be a better word. (Actually, looking back, I’m surprised I got to keep any of it.) My mother was especially upset with me, but everyone else seemed to be jockeying to be second in line to vent their fury at me.
My dad was the one who finally asked everyone to just move on. I started to thank him for doing that. “You better just sit down and shut up,” he growled.
A silly episode to obsess over all these years later, but for two reasons.
Most painfully, though it was impossible to know at the time, this was the last real Christmas I had with my mother. She died in March 1987. Christmas 1986 was a very muted occasion; even though no one had let me in on it by then, I think it must have been general knowledge for those in the house who weren’t self-absorbed teenagers that she wouldn’t be there the next time the tree was put up. The last Christmas where we were all there, and there was no reason to assume that this would change anytime soon, that last innocent Christmas, and I completely screwed it up. Yes, it bothers me all these years later, even though no one else in the family ever said another word to me about it.
Which brings me to… Knuckles.
Little E snuck out of bed and found Knuckles in my room, where I had him stashed. (The irony is that I had Knuckles stashed better than anything else – everything else is almost hidden just barely out of plain sight.) Knuckles wasn’t wrapped, and wasn’t going to be, so I guess he was easy to spot. And I guess Little E thought that he was meant to find this surprise.
When he was told otherwise, he surrendered Knuckles immediately and apologized. Over and over. He felt really bad about it.
So here’s how we handled this. Knuckles has gone back into hiding until Christmas Eve. It’s a family tradition that everyone opens a present on Christmas Eve; Little E doesn’t get to do that. He just gets Knuckles. At last. (He’s been wanting a Knuckles for months. It’s not for nothing that I actually got one.)
And as for Little E… he’s off the hook. He feels bad enough about it that I don’t think he’ll do it again. I could probably put all the gifts under the tree right now and I don’t think he’d touch one. But as bad as he feels about getting Knuckles a couple of days early without permission… I’ll be damned if I tell him to sit down and shut up and leave him with the guilt three decades later. It’s just stuffed Knuckles, for crying out loud (and that’s whole orders of magnitude different from what I did many, many years ago).
And so the circle closes, and a lesson has finally been learned, by him and by me: what not to do. Message received. He knows what not to do again as a kid… and it turns out that what I got out of beating myself up over Christmas 1985 all these years was what not to repeat as a parent.
P.S. I just wanted to add that it’s only thanks to a couple of friends of mine who are almost ridiculously generous with gift cards come Christmas time that I was able to get the little guy anything at all this year, what with being unemployed and all. I think they know full well that I wind up spending these on “the fam” and not on myself. There’s also an anonymous benefactor from the “Game Boy appeal” earlier in the year, who provided enough games for me to stretch things out over both Little E’s birthday and Christmas, to thank. What I get for Christmas, every year, is a bunch of really awesome friends. And a new episode of Doctor Who. As a former bratty kid who once committed that most unthinkable of Christmas morning crimes, I’m not sure I would be within my rights to ask for better than that.