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 contradicted the chill that licked at my toes.

I dived straight under the tree without turning the lights on.

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

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

Maybe I should have done but, after a little more digging, I 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 – 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 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, then I yanked it up. I soon had a hole in the paper large enough to glimpse the 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’ printed across the front. I frowned and re-read the bold orange lettering. A drill?!  The strapline reveals that it had a patented hammer action. I flipped the box over. The underside displayed 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

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