"My work may be garbage but it's good garbage." Mickey Spillane
I don’t keep Christmas. I observe solstice instead.
Two Christmases in my childhood stand out over the others in my memories. Mostly they were forgettable events, especially after my mother, Mickey, married my second step-father Mike.
A single image stands out from the Christmas that happened after I turned five. We were living on Turk Street (I have always thought of it as Turkey Street) in San Francisco. Mama, Papa, and I lived in a nice little apartment. The rooms had huge windows that made it very sunny and pleasant. Mama liked linen curtains and they used to flutter in the breeze on warm afternoons.
I had a playroom as well as a bedroom. The windows had deep sills that I could sit on. We were on the second floor. You entered through a narrow glass and metal door on the street, squeezed between two shops, went up to the second floor by way of a narrow stairs, but once arriving on the second floor where the apartments were, it was pleasant.
Papa had always been a weekend alcoholic. Mama disliked this intensely. She taught me early to say to his friends if they arrived wreaking of liquor, “Get lost, you’re drunk.”
Any way, Christmas.
We came home from shopping one day and there was this huge box sitting in front of our door. Mama scooped it up and took it inside without allowing me to touch it. I knew immediately what it had to be and was overjoyed.
It was my train set. I loved that train set.
Fast forward to another Christmas, I was fifteen and I was asked by Mickey what I wanted for Christmas. I told her I wanted a telescope. When Christmas arrived, there was indeed a telescope beneath the tree. However it was not for me. It was for my brother Don. They had bought me a proper present. A sewing machine. It was a used sewing machine with a nick out of one corner of the case. I could put my finger through it.
A telescope, it was explained to me, was not a proper present for a girl, but they had decided it would make a great present for my brother.
As a point of comparison and contrast. Mama had no problem giving me a train set for Christmas.