THE MOTTLEY CREW REVIEW
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A VERY FLAMMABLE CHRISTMAS STORY ARE BOTTLE ROCKETS ON YOUR WI SH L I ST ?
sirens, lights, and all. Christmas music would be playing from the intercoms, and Santa himself would sit and wave from atop the hook and ladder. In my toddler years, this event was huge. Absolutely huge. Around 1980, my family started vacationing in South Carolina, where fireworks were legal. My prankster side quickly saw many uses for the bags of bottle rockets, Roman candles, M-80s, black cats, lady fingers, and smoke bombs we accumulated. Around the same time, my dad, who loved to build things for people, was building wind chimes out of steel tubes and giving them away as gifts. Our shed had tubes of various sizes all over the place. My friends and I quickly found a better use for them. Dropping a lit bottle rocket into one turned it into a rocket launcher that you could mount on your shoulder and aim at something (or someone) with remarkable accuracy! We eventually got bored shooting rockets at each other, the neighbor’s cat, or the girls in the neighborhood. We needed something new and interesting. And that’s when someone pointed out that Santa Claus was coming to town on the fire truck. We crouched in a hedge row, steel tubes in hand. As we heard the music and saw the lights coming, we got ready. And there he was, illuminated on top of the hook and ladder, one hand gently waving to the crowds along the street.
This time of year, with the holidays and all, my mind goes in a lot of directions. It’s a little hard to focus. So, when I sat down to write this article, well, I was stumped. I started thinking about the holidays and Christmas stories, but the typical end-of- year story themes can get kind of repetitive and boring. What popped in my mind was a frequent scene from when my kids were small. They’d often say, “Dad, tell us one of your stories from when you were a kid.” To translate for you, what they meant was, “Dad, tell us a story from when you were a kid when you did something BAD!” You see, when I was a kid, I had a tendency to get in trouble around the neighborhood and at school. I was a prankster and an experimenter. I didn’t hurt anyone, and I didn’t do anything too serious, at least not by 1980’s standards. By today’s standards, well, I might have at least ended up on the local news or a list maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. Maybe worse. So, here is my Christmas story. To my kids, this is one I have never told you. To Mom, this is news to you as well, but it will not surprise you. One of the longest-running holiday traditions in the neighborhood where I grew up was Santa Claus’ annual arrival on a fire truck. The local volunteer fire company would line up all the fire trucks and parade them through the neighborhood, with
When the first rockets were fired and harmlessly exploded around the truck, Santa didn’t register what was going on. But when the second round came, he became very animated. His arms started to flail as he scanned the entire area, looking in every direction, kind of like when bees start chasing after you. As Saint Nick started to holler, the firemen began to search the area with their lights. It was time to run! I wish I could say that was the only time we caused trouble with the fireworks, but it was just another day in the life of my childhood self. It was a fun time, but looking back, I did some pretty stupid things as a kid, and it’s amazing to me that I survived some of them. I guess there are a couple of takeaways from this story. First, to Santa, I am profoundly sorry and embarrassed. Please accept my apology! Second, to my kids and yours, use this story as a lesson on what NOT to do during this season of giving. And finally, use this season to tell you kids something about your Ghosts of Christmas Past. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.
-Kevin W. Mottley
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