Christmas, 1981 by Steve Campbell


I remember wiping away a film of condensation and peeking through the smeared glass to a driveway covered in slush and ice. What remained of the previous week’s snowfall was dimpled with footsteps and brushed with the orange glow of a streetlight. No fresh snow. A handful of houses in the street were leaking squares of muted light into the morning and I heard a dog barking in an unseen garden. Either that or my memory added the sound later.

Excitement gnawed at my stomach.

Prompted by the signs of life outside, I decided it was okay to wake up Amy. I didn’t wait to see if my shove was enough to fully wake her before I shot across the landing and down the stairs two steps at a time. The momentum almost took my feet from under me, but I didn’t slow down. Please. Please. Please.

Clearing the last step, floorboards creaked overhead and I glimpsed the landing light flickering to life. They were right behind me. I skidded around the bottom of the stairs – the mince pie and milk had gone from the tray on the telephone table next to the front door – and headed down the hall towards the lounge. The paper chains hanging against the wall fluttered in my wake.

I breathed in fresh pine before I saw the six-foot outline looming large in the corner of the room, the aroma contradicting the chill that licked at my toes.

Without turning the lights on, I dived straight under the tree.

Baubles bobbed and clashed, and shards of green stabbed my knees as I began heaving presents out over my shoulders. I was so engrossed in the rummaging that I didn’t notice when they appeared in the room behind me.

“Shouldn’t you wait?” Amy asked through a yawn.

Maybe I should have done but I’d almost fetched everything out by now and, after a little more digging, I’d found what I was looking for. And that’s all that mattered. I dragged it out, checked the tag to make sure it was mine and then dropped it into my lap. Yes!

It was heavier than I was expecting but it was the right size and shape. I gave it a little shake to investigate, listening out for any telltale sounds, but the box gave nothing away. It had to be. I’d been dropping hints since September. It had to be.

“Come on!” I nodded at the pile of gifts I’d gathered on the floor, my own present clamped between my arms.

None of them moved.

I shrugged and clawed the top of the box until my fingers caught a lip of paper not secured by tape, then yanked it up. My scraping and pulling soon created a hole large enough to glimpse the dark box within. “Please. Please. A Millennium Falcon.” I muttered to my blurred hands.

After several frantic seconds of ripping and tearing the paper was gone and I was left holding a box with the words ‘Black & Decker’ across the front. I frowned and re-read the bold orange lettering. A drill?!  The strapline revealed that this model had a patented hammer action. I flipped the box over. The underside displayed a series of images of a grinning middle-aged man in various poses, drilling stuff.

“You don’t need to borrow my dad’s anymore,” Amy said through a broad smile that quickly dissolved. It took all of my self-control not to punch a hole through the box.

“Dad, is it okay if we open ours too?” Harvey asked, his dinosaur dressing gown hanging loosely from one shoulder.

“Do what you like,” I said, stamping out of the room, a shred of wrapping paper flapping from the heel of my foot.


Steve Campbell is a designer and writer from Birmingham, UK. He’s still waiting for his Millennium Falcon.

Image: Andrew Neel