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My wife and I were at the mall finishing up our Christmas shopping and taking in the sights of the holiday season.

There were grade schoolers singing Christmas songs or I assumed that they were. I couldn’t hear them over the Christmas music blaring over the mall’s speakers.

There were dancing sugar plum fairies. Check that; it was mall cops chasing another shoplifter.

Everyone was in the Christmas spirit. Some could be heard complaining about how crowded it was. Others were busy texting and bumping into shoppers; sending out Christmas messages to their entire contact list, I would guess. Older patrons, unable to keep up with the Christmas spirit, were snoozing on the plush, wooden mall benches. Mall housekeeping staff was standing at the ready to swab up any wayward drool.

“Excuse me” was answered with “screw you”. Ah; tis the season!

I was done with my shopping and my fake knees were in need of a rest, so I told my wife that I was going to sit at center court, while she continued on. She is one who likes to look at merchandise, obsess over making a poor choice and would then purchase a gift card instead.

Besides; from my vantage point at center court, I could scope out the shoppers decked to the halls in their Christmas sweat pants with matching (?) NFL logo sweatshirt. Some would at least have the decency to accessorize with athletic shoes, while others chose hunting boots.

Yes; it’s going to be a Larry the Cable Guy Christmas!

I pulled out my Mp3 player, set it on shuffle, put in my ear buds and cranked up the volume.

My eyes grew heavy from the sights, the sounds and the smells. Ah; the smells! Wait; the old guy sitting next to me just…nevermind.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and when I looked up, there was a pudgy little guy with silver hair and a beard to match looking at me and smiling.

I pulled an ear bud from my ear and said, ‘How you doing?’

He replied, ‘If you could have ONE wish for Christmas, what would it be?’

Thinking that there was a hidden camera, I answered, ‘Peace on Earth.’

He let out a very robust laugh and said, ‘No; this wish is for YOU and you alone. What would you like with but one wish?’

I replied, ‘OK; just between you and me, I would like to be six years old and celebrating Christmas with Mom, Dad and my sisters again.’

The pudgy little fellow replied, ‘That’s an excellent wish. Close your eyes and it shall be!’

I said, ‘Look; if you’re after my wallet, I don’t keep money in it.’

‘Ho, ho, ho! No kind sir; I wish to grant you your wish!’

I closed my eyes.

It’s 6:00 am on Christmas Day.

I run downstairs to the Christmas tree to see several, neatly wrapped presents around the tree. I looked over at the end table and the milk and cookies left for Santa are GONE!

I quietly ran back upstairs and told Connie and Dixie that Santa had been to our house. Donna, Joyce and Judy heard the commotion and yelled for me to get back in bed.

I did, but under protest. I was such a rebel, despite my young age!

The minutes seemed like hours. I couldn’t stand it, knowing that Santa had been to MY house.

I’d jump out of bed, run to the stairway and back to bed, to and fro.

Finally, at 7:00 am, we all went downstairs.

Dad came out and said, ‘It sounded like cattle coming down the stairs!’

Mom came out of the bedroom and was somewhat disheveled.

No; she was definitely disheveled!

I said, ‘Since we are already up, can we open presents? PLLLLLEEEAAASSSEEE?’

Mom said, ‘Well, we might as well, I suppose.’

Since Donna was the oldest, she had the honor of passing out the presents. First, Joyce; then, Judy; then, Dixie; then, Connie and finally, ME. Whew; for a minute there, I thought that I had been denied, because of an errant baseball that went through a neighbor’s window during the summer. It wasn’t exactly naughty, but it certainly wasn’t nice!

The sisters were squealing with delight as they opened their presents. Dolls, clothing, costume jewelry and 45 rpm records abound.

Dad had put on a Christmas record by a guy named Glenn Miller to set the mood.

I opened my first present and it was a winter cap and mittens; not exactly something that I could play WITH…more like something to play IN.

OK; let’s try another.

Socks and underwear? What the …

Mom and Dad were looking at each other and smiling. Something was going on.

Dad asked me, ‘What’s the matter?’

I was too busy pouting to hear him.

He said, ‘Here; try this one.’

I opened it and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a big, yellow Tonka dump truck!

‘Now, THIS was on my list’, I proclaimed.

In my next present was a Ny-Lint flatbed trailer and semi-tractor. Sweet baby Jesus!

My last present was a Ny-Lint crane with a clam bucket that really worked! It wasn’t on my list, but I didn’t care anymore. I was too busy playing with my new toys to notice. Dad was proudly supervising. He knew something about driving trucks and running a crane. Sometimes, I got to sit on his lap when he ran the crane at the scrapyard, where he worked.

Mom was in the kitchen preparing the big Christmas meal; turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and scalloped corn. There were plates of cookies, divinity and fudge. It was in the Christmas candy that she made where she would put the nuts that we would gather every Fall.

The sweet smell of Christmas treats would overpower the smell from the coal furnace on this day!

After we ate, all of us kids would go outside and try unsuccessfully to build a snowman. Heck; we couldn’t even make a SNOWBALL, but we didn’t care. We got out the sleds and took turns pulling each other around the neighborhood. I guess the whole idea was to get wet and cold before we went back into the house, but I was SIX and impervious to the cold.

By early evening, I could barely keep my eyes open and would fall asleep on the floor, right next to my new toys.

Dad would pick me up and carry me to my bed. He would tuck me in and kiss me on the forehead without saying a word.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and when I looked up, I saw my wife with a curious look on her face.

I said, “How you doing?”

She said, “You were snoring.”

“I wasn’t asleep. I was…ah, nevermind. You wouldn’t believe me anyway,” I said rather dejectedly.

“No; you were definitely asleep and probably having one of your weird dreams,” she insisted.

“Well, if I was dreaming, then it was sublime!” I exclaimed.

Just then, near the Hallmark store, I saw a pudgy little man with silver hair and a beard to match.

As I got near him, I said, “You probably get this all the time, but you look like”-

“Lyle; my name is Lyle. Excuse me, but I have to take this call,” he said contritely.

If I had but one wish, I would wish that we could all be six years old just one more time and celebrating Christmas.

Now, when I think back, I believe that Santa used the “layaway” plan, so that families like mine could afford the gifts that we received.

And I think about how, in return, we MADE our gifts for Mom and Dad, who might not otherwise, had gotten any gifts.

I remember the joy on their faces and the love that was shared on Christmas Day and on all the days of the year.

Carry the joy and love every day of your lives.

And Merry Christmas.


The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. This article is protected by federal copyright laws and cannot be re-produced in any form.

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