It’s been a long time since I wrote.
You may not even remember me.
I was the skinny blonde kid living on Wheeler Ave in Lake View Terrace? In the San Fernando Valley out by Hanson Dam and Laurel Canyon?
I lived there in the 1960s.
Just me and my mom and dad to begin with.
It being southern California, we didn’t have much of a chimney, so you probably wouldn’t remember that.
Maybe Santa you remember kids from the presents you give them?
The first present you ever gave me was a book.
A gift for which I truly thank you.
It was a how-to book about drawing animals.
Boy! I must have drawn 10,000 horses from that book before I ever saw a live one! Most of these 10,000 horses were pretty poorly drawn I admit, but after about eight or nine thousand they started to get better.
From this book I learned something about myself I never knew before; that I really liked to draw. I used to show my drawings to my mother when her headaches weren’t too bad. Usually she didn’t feel good and would look at me with big shiny eyes and say, “Please Rusty. Some other time, okay? I’ve got a headache.”
So I left her alone as much as I could.
Maybe you keep track of this stuff Santa, because everyone says you know naughty from nice and even keep a list, so I suppose you know my mother passed away a little bit before the next Christmas.
Which the grownups said was a blessing.
I guess that’s true, but she wasn’t their mother.
That was the Christmas you didn’t come.
Did you think we’d all been naughty?
I was living with different aunts and uncles that holiday season while my father got better. He was in hospital with the DT’s whatever that is I didn’t know but I overheard aunt Tootsie say it to the milkman while they had a cigarette in the kitchen.
They’d come out of the bedroom, her and the milkman, laughing and playful as children, while he tucked his shirt into his trousers and she straightened her hair.
Then she called my father some terrible names, thinking I couldn’t hear.
The milkman laughed and said too bad, some guys can’t take it.
Yeah she answered, and now I’m stuck with his brat!
Never mind, Santa, I understand you not making it that year.
It’s difficult to visit a family that isn’t a family anymore.
Besides, what I wanted was impossible. I know that now.
How could you bring back my mother?
But things got better, like they always do.
You brought me a blue and yellow remote-controlled robot in 1962 that was so wonderful I still remember it to this day! It rolled on treaded wheels and was powered by batteries and out of its head would shoot little spring-loaded missiles!
I shot them at my new stepmother, saying look isn’t it great! but she hardly noticed.
She didn’t care for little children or robots, she said.
I named my robot Asimov, after the writer.
I used to imagine Asimov talking to me when I was lonely and helping me with my homework when I was dumb.
Sometimes I imagined him blowing-up my stepmother.
Alas! Asimov fell into the pool and short-circuited one day during a battle with the neighbor’s cat.
Then Santa next Christmas you gave me a football and a helmet and a jockstrap and my dad thought they were great presents and he played with me a lot for awhile. That was a wonderful time until my dad saw that I was useless at sports and really I’d rather read a book or draw a bird in a tree than catch a ball or block a linebacker.
I could see he was disappointed.
He called me a little sissy but I don’t think he really meant it.
I think he was still sad about mom dying, and this made him a bit mean sometimes.
Then the next year Santa you brought me a bicycle.
I didn’t have it very long because I forgot and left the garage door opened and it got stolen!
In broad daylight!
Plus they took my dad’s golf clubs and some other stuff.
Boy! was my dad ticked off!
Well, there goes your xmas, stupid, said my stepmother. That’ll teach you to mind your shit better, she added.
Sorry, I said. (Too bad they didn’t take my football helmet and jockstrap was what I was thinking.)
So instead of riding my bike I made a skateboard with a board and a skate and broke my leg falling off it before New Year’s day arrived.
I learned to my amazement that even the smallest pebble can stop a hurtling skateboard dead in its tracks!
I also learned that a body in motion tends to stay in motion, as I flew through the air after my skateboard had been stopped dead in its tracks.
I was learning a lot until I landed.
Well, there goes your new years, dummy, said my stepmother when I got out of hospital the next day. Maybe that’ll teach you, she added. But she never said teach me what because she’d turned away and started watching her tv shows by then.
Bring me another drink, stupid, she said without looking at me.
So I hobbled into the kitchen and made her a drink.
She’d taught me to make gin and tonics, with lemon.
Not fucking lime, you idiot! she’d yelled at me when I got it wrong. Then she slapped me a few times to help me remember.
Lime’s for fucking tequila, dumbass! she added.
So I remembered.
Lemon in her G&Ts.
After four operations in the hospital that year, my leg healed pretty good.
I missed a lot of school, but I don’t limp hardly at all now.
Or was it the pebble?
To be continued…