Gift of Silence

January 3, 2012

A compilation of old-time Christmas gun ads dusts off a cobwebbed memory. I was in the seventh grade. “What do you want for Christmas?” my parents asked. I knew they knew and this was a dance of formalities. So I paused as if deliberating before answering. “A .22 rifle.” They said nothing, and I felt my father’s mind-probe stare. He didn’t like guns, and I managed to bargain down to a BB rifle, a defeat that thrilled me on Christmas morning. That afternoon, Dad took me to the city dump, site of an an informal gun range. As I began setting up tin cans and bottles, I recognized a classmate nearby. His Christmas gift was bigger. To be precise, he shouldered a .20-gauge shotgun that kaboomed every time my rifle pinged. He didn’t smirk, didn’t comment, didn’t acknowledge the obvious: we occupied two different strata — his manly, mine puerile. At school he said nothing, though we both knew the injury he could have inflicted. That may have been the best Christmas gift I ever received. Wherever you are, Karl, thank you.

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