Press play for some mood music
Looking back, I can say with complete authority that Mom was usually a fun sponge who could suck the joy out of a Saturday morning cartoon with just one look.
I put up with it for years. And so did Pop. After a while, it was the norm. So much so that when we saw a smile, we got worried. Nevertheless, she was always dependable and Pop and I relied on her to keep the house above water.
It had been a while since they entertained and it must have been Pop's birthday because I remember hearing over and over about some sort of present he hadn't received. Something he seemed to have wanted a while.
Devouring my Saturday morning bowl of Cap'n Crunch while staring hopelessly into an episode of "Super Friends," I remember hearing about this so-called present and how Mom had it. I was stoked. I mean, shit, what little kid doesn't wanna help unwrap a gift, right?
After a few minutes of slurping milk, I snuck my way up the stairs. They didn't have a lock on any of the doors because I had a habit of barricading myself during hide and seek sessions and hiding for hours. After creeping into their room, I didn't see any box or gift wrapping.
# # #
That night, I watched Pop blow out the candles of his cake and for once, he looked relaxed. Happier. Even Mom didn't look quite as miserable as she normally did.
Me? I was fucking bored. The neighbors brought over their daughter Karin who kept egging me on to play with her Malibu Barbie. After saying no a few times, I don't know what compelled me to rip off the doll's sundress and run into the dining room. Even worse and somewhat perverse was the fact that I was also clutching onto a Mickey Mouse figurine.
And there I was. to the horror of my parents: A three year-old going to town on Barbie's milk bubbles.
"Ralphie!" Mom shouted in a whisper. "Stop that!"
I heard her but I kept slobbering on the bulbous plastic. In fact, I think I might have even moaned a bit. Our guests were cracking up, so I kept on. The little showman that I was...
My Pop ran over and kneeled in front of me. He laughed, more out of embarrassment and said in front of the group almost reassuringly, "Little boys don't do those things. You're hurting the doll..."
And this is where it gets good because I stopped licking Barbie's boobs and answered, "But it didn't seem to be hurting Mommy this morning."
Half of our guests stifled their laughs -- the other half made it painfully obvious that they were glad to have made our soiree.
After that night, Mom went back to being miserable, Pop disgruntled, and in the process, I think I subliminally became an "ass man."
Music: The Pink Panther theme by Henry Mancini. It can be downloaded HERE.