Dave Barry

'Twas the night before the morning after

Over 50 carolers sing Christmas songs down Lincoln Road on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016.
Over 50 carolers sing Christmas songs down Lincoln Road on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016. cjuste@miamiherald.com

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.)

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