My Own Christmas Story by Garasamo Maccagnone
When I was eleven, my thirteen year-old brother Mark received the Christmas gift of his dreams. My dad got him a high powered, air compression BB gun that could hit a target from a football field away. My brother, who typically was never happy with his gifts, was gleeful and giddy that particular Christmas morning. He couldn’t wait until my mother finished cooking breakfast so he could go out in our backyard and shoot at tin cans behind the garage.
Of course, both my father and mother warned him about the dangers of his new gun. My Sicilian father, ever the disciplinarian, was emphatic that Mark never once point the gun at any human being.
“I’ll give you the double whammy,” I distinctly remember hearing him say to my brother on Christmas morning.
Somewhere around 5:00pm that day, our family readied themselves to take gifts, all types of desserts, poinsettias, and our personal favorite Christmas toy over to my Uncle Al’s house for Christmas dinner. Of course, Mark decided to show off his new BB gun to our cousins, so my father made sure he pulled out the BB cartridge. My mother was still nervous about the gun and pleaded with my father not to have my brother bring it. "The cartridge is out,” he said to her. “All the thing can shoot now is air. How can that hurt anyone?”
The back latch of our red Falcon station wagon was down and my other two brothers, Glenn and Tom, made trips with me with various handfuls of presents or pans of desserts from the house to the car. Mark brought one poinsettia, stuffed it behind the back seat and sat in the middle of the seat, clutching his gun between his legs.
My brothers and I were not happy that we were doing all the work. Our complaints to our parents fell on deaf ears as they busily sped around the house. On my second from last trip I muttered an insult to Mark that made my other brothers laugh but did nothing to dissuade Mark from sitting in the car and not helping out. Once back in the house, I conspired with my other brothers to really heave a ton of wisecracks at our brother Mark, to take it up a notch and sort of shame him into helping out.
Once near the car, my brothers pushed their cut-downs into high gear. To this day, I can’t remember what either of them said. I recall walking gingerly holding a pan of Jell-o that was wobbling in my arms with every step I took. When I saw Mark just smirk after my brothers’ verbal assault, it was too much for me to handle. Approaching the half-open window from the other side of the car where my brothers were, I looked directly at Mark inside the car and barked, “Zit face!” as loud as I could.
My brothers started to howl. Mark looked back at both of them, then he looked at me. His face turned as red as the strawberry Jell-o still shaking in the pan that I held firmly in my arms.
Then Mark’s tongue came out and I thought to myself, Oh no – this could be dangerous. When Mark’s tongue came out of his mouth with his teeth clamping down on it, that was always a sign that he was about to lose all control of himself and was ready for battle. In less than a second, he recoiled his air chamber, pointed the gun through the window at me and pulled the trigger.
Fortunately for me, I sort of lifted my head up or the blast of powerful air would have gone right at my eye. I did feel a sharp pain in my nose and suddenly there was blood all over my face and on my Christmas sweater. I dropped the pan. My brothers went running for the house. Mark started pleading with me not to tell our father but it was too late. My dad heard the rifle go off and he came charging out of the front door of the house. When he saw my face all bloodied up he knew the worst had happened so he went straight for my brother Mark, pulled him out of the car by the collar and stormed into the house with him. Mother came out running as well. When she saw the blood on my face, she quickly turned around and ran back into the house to get a towel.
After a quick cleaning up of my face, my mother said there was a little wound near the outer skin of my nostril. It was nothing major. Somehow, she reasoned, the blow of the air must have caused my head to whiplash and it gave me a bloody nose.
After my father took care of Mark, we all proceeded on to my Uncle ‘s house for Christmas dinner. Mark did not have his gun anymore and he was forced to sit way in the back of the Falcon by himself with all the presents and stuff.
Though I felt fine that night at dinner, it wasn’t until the next morning when I awoke with the worst headache I had ever known that I knew something was wrong. There was a lot of dark blood on my pillow and my vision was blurred. I stumbled into my parent’s room, crying from the pain and the sight of the clotting blood on my pillow.
In the emergency room of St. Joes, a quick X-ray revealed a BB was lodged up in my sinus cavity. The doctors reasoned it must have fallen out when my father pulled the cartridge from the chamber. Surgery needed to occur immediately my parents were told. The doctors were nervous that an infection had already set in.
Oh, was that ugly. Too afraid to sedate me completely, I recall Dr. Hirzel pulling out a long instrument with a hook on it and then looking at me. “This is going to hurt son,” he said, while motioning to a staff full of nurses to come over and help with the procedure. I remember there being one nurse assigned to every limb I had. When the doctor split open the side of my nose with the hook, the pain was so unbearable it took all the strength of the nurses to hold me down.
When I awoke, the nurses had wrapped the BB in the smallest of wrappings and presented it to me as a gift. Everyone had a good laugh.
In the end, it was not the greatest Christmas moment of my life, yet it did seem to teach me a lot about the season. As a way to teach my brother a lesson, my father told me the BB gun was mine. Shaking my head, I immediately turned him down. “I shouldn’t have called him the name Dad,” I said aloud. “We’re both to blame for what happened.”
That expression of forgiveness earned me a grin of gratitude from my brother and a bowl of vanilla ice cream from the nurses who overheard me in the room.
It was one day past Christmas, I was still in a lot of pain, and yet, with my family there, I felt as comfortable as I ever had.
I sucked down the ice cream and asked for another bowl, hoping my act of forgiveness would cajole one more act of charity from the hospital staff.
Garasamo Maccagnone studied creative writing and literature under noted American writers Sam Astrachan and Stuart Dybek at Wayne State University and Western Michigan University. A college baseball player as well, Maccagnone met his wife Vicki as a junior at WMU. The following year, after injuring his throwing arm, Maccagnone left school and his baseball ambitions to marry Vicki. After a two year stint at both W.B. Doner and BBDO advertising agencies, Maccagnone left the industry to apply his knowledge of marketing in a new venture in an up-and-coming industry. Maccagnone created a company called, “Crate and Fly,” and turned it from a store front in 1984 to a world-wide multi-million dollar shipping corporation by 1994.
In the mid 90’s Maccagnone decided to fulfill the promise of his writing career, by first penning the children’s book, The Suburban Dragon and then following up with a collection of short stories and poetry entitled, The Affliction of Dreams. His literary novel, St. John of the Midfield was published in 2007, followed by his For the Love of St. Nick, which was released in 2008. Maccagnone expanded the original version of For the Love of St. Nick and had the book illustrated for a new release in June 2009.
Garasamo “Gary” Maccagnone lives today in Shelby Township, Michigan, with his wife Vicki and three children. You can visit Gary online at www.garasamomaccagnone.com.
Two California boys, coping with the loss of their mother, find themselves uprooted when their father, a Navy Commander, is transferred to a base in Northern Michigan. With the youngest boy continuously sick, the family must survive military life and the northern elements as they dwell in their little hunter’s cabin on Lake Huron. When the boys’ father must leave prior to Christmas to fulfill his secret mission for the United States Military, the boys are surprised by a chance encounter that saves a life, and reunites a family.
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