Christmas, 1981 by Steve Campbell

I wipe a film of condensation and peek through the smeared glass to a driveway covered in slush and ice. What remains of the previous week’s snowfall is 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 from an unseen garden. Excitement gnawed at my stomach.

Prompted by the signs of life outside, I decide it’s okay to wake up Amy. I give her shove but didn’t wait aroung long enough to see if it’s enough to fully wake her before I shoot across the landing and down the stairs two steps at a time, making the noise of a laser gun noises as I go. The momentum almost takes my feet from beneath me, but I don’t slow down. Please. Please. Please.

As I clear the last step, floorboards creak overhead and I see the landing light flicker to life. They’re right behind me. I skid around the bottom of the stairs – a half-eaten mince pie and empty glass of milk are still on the telephone table next to the front door – and head down the hall towards the lounge. Paper chains hanging against the wall flutter in my wake.

I breath in fresh pine from the six-foot tree looming large in the corner of the room, the aroma contradicting the chill that licks at my feet. I dive straight under it, without turning the lounge lights on.

Baubles bob and clash, and pine needles stab my knees as I begin to heave presents out over my shoulders. I’m so engrossed in the rummaging that I don’t notice  everyone appearing in the room behind me.

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

Maybe I should, but I don’t and, after a little more digging, I find what I was looking for. And that’s all that matters. I drag it out, checking the tag to make sure it’s mine and then drop it into my lap, bouncing up and down in ples. Yes! Yes! Yes!

The box is heavier than I’m expecting but it’s the right shape and size. I give it a little shake – listening out for any telltale sounds – but the box gives nothing away. It has to be a Millennium Falcon. I’d been dropping hints since September. It has to be.

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

None of them move.

“Suit yourselves.” I shrug and claw at the top of the box. “This is the best Christmas ever,” I mutter to my blurred hands.

After several frantic seconds of ripping and tearing the paper is gone and I’m left holding a box with the words ‘Black & Decker’ printed across the front. I frown and re-read the bold orange lettering. A drill?!  The strapline reveals that it had a ‘patented hammer action’. I flip the box over. The underside displays images of a grinning middle-aged man in various poses, drilling stuff.

“You don’t need to borrow my dad’s anymore,” Amy says through a broad smile that dissolves when she sees the look on my face. It takes all of my self-control not to punch a hole through the box.

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

“Do what you like,” I say, getting up and stamping out of the room, a shred of wrapping paper flapping from the heel of my foot. “I’m going back to bed.”

Biography
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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