Ever notice the sound a glass Christmas ornament makes when it shatters? It’s delicate, almost musical in tone, abruptly falling into silence as the pieces settle in place. I’ve long been captivated by that sound.
The setting… Christmas 1964, I’m ten years old. Under the tree an unimaginably fantastic present: a Mattel “Fanner 50” metal toy pistol complete with plastic bullets and slick western holster. Make no mistake, those shiny white bullets make the Fanner 50 a serious weapon. I was thrilled, oblivious, of course, to the potential dangers… I was a ten-year-old boy after all primed for adventure. War with the kids across the creek? no problem. A troublesome squirrel? just wait! There’s a new sheriff on Norton Avenue… me.
That night I sat at the top of the living room stairs peering through the balusters, my foe twinkling among the colored tree lights… those ornaments were mine.
Needless to say, my gun was ceremoniously confiscated the next morning when my mother discovered the scattered remains around the base of the tree. I immediately confessed. By age ten I had come to realize that owning-up to things was a good life-strategy. I arrived at this conclusion shortly after discovering that shoving books into the rear of my pants was ineffective in preventing a spanking. The incident did, however, provide an early glimpse into the potential of humor as a way to wiggle out of a jam. Fortunately, my parents were more talk than action when it came to serious punishment and always enjoyed a good laugh now and then..
As a first child, you have to cut your parents some slack, they are figuring things out too, Yet, this was not their first error in judgement involving toy weapons. Some years earlier arriving home from a business trip, my dad presented me with a bow and arrow. The arrows had suction cup tips, a half-baked safety precaution and marketing ploy no doubt. Eager to try my new toy and as usual accepting neither direction nor instruction, my very first shot hit dad in the forehead squarely between the eyes just above his glasses. The arrow stuck straight out from his head, held there for a moment by the suction cup tip. To his credit my Dad handled it well, putting up a strong disciplinary front while chuckling at the silliness of it all safely behind his parental facade, Until my mother mentioned it sometime later, he was unaware of the suction cup mark still imprinted on his forehead. I certainly wasn’t going to bring it up.
I’ve never lost my affection for the magic in that shattering sound. About ten years ago I bought a bunch of ornaments at Good Will and photographed them as they shattered on a hard surface. Later I turned the shattered fragment images into the multi-image (think collage) photographs. Some of them appear above.
I wrote the poem to the right just for fun, think of it as an expansion of the smashed ornament idea. Hope you like it!
A Bedtime Disaster
It was a bedtime disaster
a Christmas caper gone awry
from my stairway perch, I spy them
twinkling in muted tree light
pop pop goes my toy pistol
pop pop echo red, then blue, then green
globes shattering in turn
sweet music to my ears
oh, there’s trouble for certain come morning
blame it on my brothers, that’s what I’ll do
what happened next I’m not quite certain
or, how I got back in my bed
“time to get up” mom calls
“oh boy, looks like Santa and his helpers were here”
sweet music to my ears