Presents of Mind
Getting presents as a child ran the gamut from ambiguous to painful. In my case it was better to not give and not receive. Nothing was good enough to give and it seemed the receiving part lacked a little something.
My mother attempted to celebrate the holidays, but couldn’t quite make it through. One particular Christmas Eve on Henry Street, my brother and I had been “acting up.” I don’t remember my step father being around, so I imagine it was a time when my mother was “between” men.
My brother and I were counting the presents that he had gotten and then comparing the numbers to what I had gotten. I had long stopped believing in Santa Claus. I guess my mother couldn’t stand the chatter, the noise, or whatever her flavor of annoyance for the day was. The excitement of Christmas was building along with the expectations of presents. Not being able to stand it any longer, my mother started to yell and pulled out a belt which meant beatings for both of us. I of course dive under the bed, he throws himself on top of the bunk bed to get away. But she didn’t pursue the beatings this time. She just stopped. Had she changed her mind? Was Christmas Eve good enough reason not to beat us?
Nope. As I looked out from under the bed, I saw her pick up the presents underneath the 3’ white artificial Christmas tree and walk out the back door, making two trips to collect both sets, Frankie’s and mine.
I went to the kitchen window, looked out the back and she had thrown all the wrapped presents into the incinerator dug into the ground, ceremoniously lit a match and stood back and watched the presents burn. I went to bed. There weren’t that many presents anyway.
We moved to another town when I was 12, which was considered to be upscale from Henry Street. I had my own room at this time, chosen for me. Frankie got the big bedroom with 2 windows, I got the sun porch with a wall of windows that didn’t open, which might be fine for the spring and fall, but in summer you baked and in winter you could actually see your breadth. In the winter I was constantly being screamed at by anyone sitting in the living room which was off my bedroom. The issue was that having my bedroom door open into the living room would let the cold air in.
During this time, the clock radio had just come out. This was the precursor to the digital clock radio. It had an analog clock and an AM radio, no FM, but this didn’t matter.
This clock, for some reason was all I thought and dreamed about. For my birthday I requested to anybody and everybody that all I wanted was a clock radio.
On the day of my birthday my mother was working. It was a Saturday. My mother called and told me to take the bus downtown to the White Tower. She had something for me.
The expectation grew. I really wanted that clock radio. Maybe, just maybe it would happen.
I arrived at the White Tower and waited until my mother finished serving her customers. Without a word she went into the back room where her coat and pocketbook were kept. When she came out she was carrying the largest Pink Clock Radio I had ever seen. The face of the clock was cracked and the electric cord was dirty and frayed. She handed it to me and said, “Here, now you can stop complaining about not having a clock radio, Happy Birthday."
I took the bus home, went into my room and plugged the radio in. The radio came on with nothing but static on all stations and then the cord sparked.
The radio was dead.
I never mentioned the clock radio again and she never asked.
To this very day I have never had an alarm clock or clock radio in my room.
Someone or something wakes me up every single morning no matter what time I need to get up.
Who needs a stupid clock radio anyway?