Even when not under the influence of Pez, as an easily excitable child of the Sixties I would spend the entire month of December levitating in hyperkinetic anticipation. No visions of sugarplums danced in my enterprising head. Instead, my brainwaves were inventorying the imagined warehouses of Mattel, Ideal, Hasbro and Wham-O.
When asked what I wanted for Christmas, the answer was simple. I wanted to be given up for adoption so I could live with Milton Bradley.
By October, I usually had retained sole custody of the Sears Wish Book, fully dog-eared, researched and annotated. By November, I had memorized the shipping weights of Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots, Creepy Crawlers, Mousetrap and Operation. That left December to compose and dispatch all letters to the North Pole, certified with return receipt requested.
As the shopping days ’til Christmas narrowed, I would meditate in front of our silver aluminum Christmas tree, transfixed by the color wheel and empty terrain that would soon be filled with a sleigh-dump of toys. By December 24th, I was as wired as our metallic tree.
In 1962, my yuletide frenzy was in full rev. It was a typical Christmas Eve. The house was packed with aunts, uncles and cousins. After the last call for fruitcake at 7 p.m., I made an announcement asking everyone to leave so I could prepare for the arrival of Santa. By 7:15 p.m. I had changed into my pajamas, hung my stocking, arranged a 5-lb. platter of Pfeffernusse cookies, and had crawled under the winter coats of 28 relatives to put myself to bed.
I left a wake-up call for 4 a.m.
The Christmas haul of ’62 was bountiful. I received a Kenner Give-A-Show Projector – a glorified flashlight that allowed you to display filmstrips of Huckleberry Hound and Mighty Mouse from the convenience of your darkened bedroom.
My brother received Golferino, a coveted toy hawked as “the exciting new miniature golf game for the entire family.” The tabletop course allowed you to pivot a plastic golfer through nine holes of simulated putting greens, bridges, water hazards and sand traps.
All was merry and bright until tragedy struck minutes after the unwrapping.
While dashing through the living room clutching my Kenner Give-A-Show Projector in a heightened state of glee, I tripped on a pile of holiday rubble and landed sprawled on my brother’s Golferino game.
A Breathalyzer test would later confirm a Blood Candy Cane Level in excess of 0.08%. Pfeffernusse crumbs were also detected at the scene of the crime.
It was a direct hit and the pivoting mini golfer sustained massive injuries, including loss of head. Promotional copy on the Golferino box had begged the question, “Can You Break Par?” My brother never found out that fateful Christmas morning, but he knew for certain who could break Golferino. As far as historical seasonal catastrophes, it was on par with the melting of Frosty the Snowman.
I spent the rest of the day guilt-ridden and despondent while projecting sidesplitting images of Huckleberry Hound on my bedroom ceiling.
The tale has a happy ending. The disabled game was returned and replaced the day after Christmas.
To make further amends, marking the 40th anniversary of the tragic accident, I located a vintage Golferino on eBay and presented it to my brother as a final act of redemption. I’ll never know if he managed to break par. The restraining order prevents me from coming within 50 feet of an unwrapped toy.