Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stadium Checkers

Christmas was not really something to look forward to.  I guess it could be, if you were really anxious to get those brand new pajamas! Because that was about all there was in my house. My fondest Christmas memory as a kid was when I was five. We were living in Pico-Rivera, my dad was home from the Navy, working as a "Culligan Man," and we lived in a brand new house on Shade Lane. I remember waking up Christmas morning to the sound of a train whistle. When I went into the living room my dad and older brother were sitting on the couch watching a Lionel train moving around the tree.  It was for me! I kept that train for many years. Certainly the best gift I ever received as a child. As you might already know that was the first and last Christmas in that house, and the only Christmas I experienced with a dad, with a "semi-normal" mom, and being anything other than dirt poor.

From that point forward Christmas was something to dread. Now I'm not saying that Pico-Rivera was anything like Beverly Hills, but we were on the bottom end of the economic scale in North Long Beach at that time. Christmas only served as a reminder of what we didn't have. A reminder of how we didn't exactly fit in. Did we have a tree? We did. We even decorated it. We usually made the decorations. We would string cranberries and popcorn on string or thread and decorate the tree. By no means however, did this instill the "yule tide" spirit in me. We even managed to have a Christmas dinner, courtesy of a local church group, boy scout troop, or a generous extended family member. We appreciated the food and it usually arrived somewhat anonymously. This was very important to me because I knew we were very poor, but I tried to not let other people know it. I went to great pains to make sure nobody knew where I lived, or how I lived. Unfortunately though, sometimes the facts got run right up the flag pole for all to see.

Sixth Grade.
It's Christmas Eve and there's a knock at the door. Not suspecting anything unusual, I opened the door to see who it was. "Merry Christmas" was what I heard.  A few adults, and several kids holding gifts was what I saw. Total dread is what I felt.  Most of them were smiling, but a couple of the kids weren't smiling at all, in fact they were smirking. They were smirking because I knew them, and I knew them to be total jerks from school. If I could have melted into nothingness at that exact moment I would have gladly done so.

My mother, who had apparently arranged it all, barged in front of me and invited them in. God take me. Take me now...

Welcome to our humble home, and I do mean friggin humble. Except for the two kids I knew, the rest of them seemed nice and happy to give. The two I knew however, just looked around and shook their heads, still smirking. I knew this was going to get worse before it got better. I walked out of the living room and didn't come back until they left.

When they finally did leave, my mom wasn't very happy with me. I think I ate a back hand or two because of my "rudeness." I finally got to explain to her that I knew two of the kids who were there, and that they were two of the biggest jerks in my entire school. And come the end of Christmas break, I was going to have to fight at least one of them, and probably both. Of course this meant nothing to her. I didn't mind being poor, I just didn't like looking like it, I really didn't like having my face rubbed in it.

Christmas Morning.
It's cold as hell, but we are insulated from the cold by our brand new pajamas! Whoo whoo! We always got to open one gift on Christmas eve, and my mom always picked it out for us. Pajamas again!  Better to give me a straight razor! So with the "prize" gift already out of the way, we got to open the gifts brought over by the boy scouts. I appreciate the heck out of the idea now, but my reality was not the same back then.

My mom passed out the "gifts." The one I opened was a game called "stadium checkers." Don't get me wrong it was a good game and popular at the time. The game "board" was a plastic stadium. It was made up of rings that you had to turn to allow a marble to make it from the top row down to the field. It came in the original box, and all the pieces appeared to be there. So I started to play it. The darn thing was totally broken and just "placed" in the box so it looked right. It was a piece of trash. Merry Christmas!

I told my mom about it and she said I was being an "ingrate" and should appreciate the thought. Yeah right! I told her that she didn't understand. I was going to be made fun of when school started again. My mom tried to console me with some encouraging and uplifting words...I think she said "shut the fuck up!"
  • Christmas vacation over
  • First day back at school
  • First recess
Who do I see walking my way? That's right! It was the smirkers! And they weren't alone.
Smirker #1 said "Merry Christmas" in a very sarcastic voice
Smirker #2 said "how'd you like my broken stadium checkers game?"
Well the apple didn't fall too far from the tree, so I retorted with something witty;
"Shut the fuck up" I said.

Then they started talking loudly about what a shack I lived in and that we were so poor we didn't even get presents. I'm not sure now if it was smirker #1 or #2 that was closest to me, but which ever one it was got both a punch in the mouth and a kick in the nuts in quick order. I'm sure I got in trouble for this because I seem to remember doing some "extra" kicking. To be sure, he was the one on the ground and I was the one doing the kicking. Can't be sure at this point exactly what all happened. Let's just chalk it up to suppressed rage..


  1. Gosh kids can be cruel. I bet it felt good to kick their asses though!

  2. This shit breaks my heart. I really wish I could find these kids and kick their asses today. Can't we do this, Pat? Please? Gather up all of your blogging buddies and we can take 'em all down in a schoolyard somewhere. Oh, you've got me so mad right now :(

  3. I'm pretty sure I got the main guy again in jr. high...

  4. If the world is just the smirkers are digging ditches in a very hot place right now. And boy if they even dip their pink toes into this blogosphere they are going to get a whole new can of whoopass.

  5. You might have been poor but do the smirkers have a cool blog that people read and love?

    Score one for Pat.

  6. copyboy - I hope they learned a lesson. A swift kick in the nuts can do that for you!

    PTM - Thanks so much for saying that!

  7. Yeah, I'm with Ally: I say we find 'em and kick their asses AGAIN!


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