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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

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BanditosOnly Barry (2nd from right) has a real bandage … the rest wear socks!

Christmas at the Blackwells has always been a festive –

Noisy! clarifies Screen Three happily.

– event, despite Mom’s best efforts to keep it seasonably, reasonably calm.

Christmas, gently applauds Five, never loses its wonderful peace, its honoring sentiment, its joyous celebration. Your mother actually does preserve the day’s significance.

Right! shouts Six.Twas always the night before Christmas that saw so much tomfoolery from you hooligans. No mouse could sleep in that house!

Last-minute cards mailed, says Two.

Last-minute gift-wrapping! declares One.

Last-minute gift-buying! trumps Six, catching the competitive spirit of the moment.

Cookies baking in nonstop ovens, smacks Four hungrily.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, sings Three, poorly mimicking the eternally honey-voiced –

Crooners“NOT King Cole!” I pun, then reign in all my screens with this question. “What happens the night before Christmas that makes it so memorable, guys?”

Dart guns appear! they roar back in unison.

“And who makes the dart guns appear?”

Ma Blackie!

Six Blackwell offspring really aren’t sure how it happens. We only know that Mom, mischief illuminating her pretty eyes, suddenly appears in our fairly calm midst. “One for each of you,” she says, handing out exactly half a dozen wrapped packages to questioning hands. “And when they break, they break. Don’t be sad. Just enjoy them.”

Your mom isn’t worried about something breaking? questions disbelieving Two. Been in the special egg nog, has she?

History does not say which sibling first loaded and fired a dart gun –

Bet on DiAnnie Oakley, Six says of my sharp-shooting twin sister.

– though history does say that with 12 projectiles per child –

Child? wonders Five, seeking precision. All but Barry are in their teens, and even Barry is 10.

– the skies rain darts so heavily they engulf the light of nearby lamps. Knowing it would be this way, Mom cleverly buys rubber-tipped darts which can do no harm to sibs and sofas.

To sofas, no, affirms One. But your ever-scheming next-oldest brother, Jeff – he of “JB” and “Big Blackie” fame – licks the rubber end, nicely predicts the rising of Barry’s head above the couch, and fires.

Take that!Perfect shot! Six heartily cheers. Dart swiftly hits Barron’s forehead and, with a wet, sucking sound, sticks snugly. Wild laughter emanates from all but the growling Bar.

Plastic guns are cocked so quickly, so repeatedly that dime-store springs wear out long before humans, requiring us to creep ever closer to one another to effect lethal shots.

Because of this, we experience through the years (Mom breaks out new dart guns every December 24th) unanticipated mishaps with tragic trajectories, like the shot that …

Tipped Mom’s porcelain vase off the fireplace mantel, marvels Four.

Knocked Mom’s handcrafted Taras Bulba bust off the bookcase, observes One.

Blew Mom’s carefully hung ornaments to bits, boasts Six.

Caught Mom’s youngest son – yes, Barry again – in the eye, sighs Two.

Poor little guy, sympathizes Five. Had his head wrapped to keep his eyeball in.

Paramedic Mom tends Barry’s swollen eye, launches several more bullets at unsuspecting progeny, then slips away unnoticed. At the urging of my six screens, I put down my weapon, walk through a hail of laughter and darts, find our matriarch feverishly stirring something bodacious on the stove.

“Your dad and I are cooking up caramel popcorn balls,” she says, unprompted.

I ask, “Don’t you want to keep an eye out – no offense to Barry – on the nuclear nonsense in the living room?”

She smiles – so warmly, so wonderfully even terrible accidents cannot erase the memory – holds my face with two deliciously scented hands and murmurs, “All six of my children are one room away. They are safe, sound, seriously, deliriously happy.

“That, son, is all I need to know. That’s Christmas.”

Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 6.52.03 PMPostscript: “Please,” asks Mom, “watch Barry (just three at the time) while I shop for one last present. Home in an hour.”

Minutes later, Thor and I are wildly wrestling in the downstairs recreation room.

“Rec room,” you call it, reminds Four, and that’s pretty much what six Blackwell kids did to it.

Inexplicably, Thor realizes Barry is absent. I race upstairs, sure my 13 years of life are at end. A child’s soft singing leads me to our family Christmas tree.

Beneath bulb-laden branches, Barry sits, his tiny body hidden by packages he wiggled past. A better vantage point shows me he has re-piled gifts upon himself. To these presents, he now sings improvised lyrics – wrapped in a catchy tune – praising the unknown wonders he gently holds in awestruck hands.

Thor joins me for a shared but quiet laugh, sneaks downstairs again. I stay, captivated by the innocence of a young heart hoping the best will come of this still-to-be-known bundle. It is, almost, the modern version of youthful Mary tenderly holding the Christ Child.

Only Screen Three dares speak, reverently whispering four single-syllable words that remain my prayer for the nations:

Joy to the world.

* * * * *

“Feliz Navidad” with one guitar and five GREAT players

Fully clothed Barenaked Ladies bring comfort and joy

Into the Silent Night