'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE THE MORNING AFTER

 

Published Sunday, December 1, 1996 in The Miami Herald

With apologies to Clement C. Moore, and his attorney

'Twas the night before Christmas.
Or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever religious holiday your particular family unit celebrates at this time of year via mass retail purchases
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Except Dad, who was stirring his third martini
In a losing effort to remain in a holiday mood
As he attempted to assemble a toy for his 9-year-old son, Bobby
It was a highly complex toy
A toy that Dad did not even begin to grasp the purpose of
A toy that cost more than Dad's first car
A toy that was advertised relentlessly on TV with a little statement in the corner of the TV screen that said "SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED"
Which was like saying that the Titanic sustained "some water damage"
Because this toy had more parts than the Space Shuttle
And speaking of space
Dad was now convinced that extraterrestrial life did indeed exist
Because the assembly instructions were clearly written by beings from another galaxy
And these beings insisted on Phillips screwdrivers
And Dad could not find his Phillips screwdriver
In fact, he was wondering who "Phillips" was
And why he needed a different kind of screwdriver than everybody else
That was the festive holiday thought that Dad was thinking as he took a slug from his martini and attempted to attach Part 3047-b to Part 3047-c
Using a steak knife
But other than that, not a creature was stirring in the house
Although Mom was definitely stirring OUT of the house
Mom was at the Toys "R" Us store
In fact, this was the fifth Toys "R" Us store that Mom had been to that night
In her desperate quest to find the one thing that their 5-year-old daughter, Suzy, wanted this holiday season
It was, of course, a Barbie doll
But not just ANY Barbie doll
It had to be the new model
Abdominals Barbie
The one who came with her own little pink stomach-muscle-exercise device
It was the hottest Barbie doll of all this holiday season
Every girl age 3 through 12 in the entire United States HAD to have it
Or her holiday season would be RUINED
And so of course the Mattel Corporation
Which is run by evil trolls from hell
Had manufactured exactly eight units of this doll
And the very last one in the world was in this particular Toys "R" Us
Which means that the odds were against Mom
Because on this same festive night
Thousands of other frantic parents had converged on this same store
Kind of like the flesh-eating zombies in the movie
Night of the Living Dead
Only less ethical
The store was a war zone
Mom had to fight her way into the doll aisle
Where, wielding a Tonka Truck like a club
She claimed her prize
And then, trailed by a screaming mob of rival parents
She raced from the store, leaped into her car and roared out of the parking lot
Barely missing the Salvation Army person
She raced back to the house, burst through the front door and staggered into the family room
Where she found Dad
Actually she found Dad's feet
The rest of Dad was under the sofa
A strange gurgling sound was coming from down there
Dad, now on his fifth martini
Was trying to strangle the dog
Which, Dad was convinced, had eaten Part 8675-y
And just at that very moment
Out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
That Dad let go of the dog
And he and Mom went to the window to see what was the matter
And what to their wondering eyes should appear
But Santa Claus, yelling the names of reindeer
"Now Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Vixen! Now . . . Umm . . . Now . . . Dancer!"
"He already said Dancer, " observed Dad
"He can't remember them all, " said Mom
"I think one of them is Pluto, " said Dad
"Wasn't Pluto the guy who was always fighting with Popeye?" said Mom
"You're thinking of Bluto, " said Dad
"Now . . . Umm . . . Now Flicka!" said Santa
"Flicka was a horse, that I DO know, " said Mom
"Do you think the reindeer are wrecking the lawn?" said Dad
"They're going up on the roof," said Mom
"Like hell they are," said Dad, who had recently spent $875 on shingle repair
But before he could yell at St. Nicholas to stop
Down the chimney the jolly elf came with a plop
He had a broad face and a round little belly
That shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly
Which was pretty gross
"What's so funny?" asked Dad
"You two," said St. Nick. "Why are you getting all upset about toys? The holiday season isn't about material possessions!"
"Do you have kids?" asked Mom
"Well, no," said Santa
"Hah," said Mom
"But I am beloved by children the world over," said Santa
"Well," said Dad, "you won't be beloved by our son if I can't assemble this toy"
"What seems to be the problem?" said Santa, coming over to have a look
"I'm stuck on Step 824," said Dad
"Who wrote these instructions?" asked Santa. "Martians?"
"Apparently," said Dad
"I used to be pretty good with tools," said Santa. "Hand me that steak knife"
"Sure," said Dad. "Care for a martini?"
"Heck yes," said Santa
And so he went to work
And after a while Mom and Dad, exhausted, went to bed
Leaving old St. Nick in the family room
He said some pretty unsaintly words
But he eventually got Bobby's toy assembled
And although he spent so much time that he was unable to visit the rest of the little boys and girls in North America
Not to mention South America, Europe, Asia and Africa
This particular household had a very happy Christmas morning indeed
When Suzy came downstairs and saw Abdominals Barbie
And Bobby came downstairs and saw his incredibly complex toy
Which he broke in under four minutes
A new holiday record
But it was still a festive day
Especially when Mom and Dad told the fantastic story of their late-night visitor
Which, at first, the kids did not believe
In fact, even Mom and Dad were not 100 percent sure it had happened
Until Dad got out the ladder
And one by one they climbed up to the roof
And there they saw it . . .
As real as life . . .
A Holiday Miracle . . .
Reindeer poop.

(And $1,097.36 worth of shingle damage.)

Read more Dave Barry stories from the Miami Herald

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