Age 6: The Legend of the Barber Chair

By Cal Evans

The origins of the “Legend of the Barber Chair” are shrouded in mystery. Some say that the family was on an ‘antiquing outing’ in the Carolina foothills. Others say it was a trip home from a day at school with Dad. (Gardner Web College for those who are interested in such trivia) What is known is that on this fine day found the family happily traversing the highways of North Carolina in our aging Datson Almost Wagon.

As always, Dad was driving, navigating the byways with the skill of an experienced pilot who had a live snake in the cockpit. As was our tradition, my sister and I were fighting in the backseat. Occasionally, Dad would pivot his head 180 degrees, glower at us and make threatening noises. In later years, after graduation, he found innovative uses for his new class ring. He found that by spinning it so that the stone was on the underside, he could rake his palm across the back seat and raise a whelp on each of our skulls with a single pass (My sister and I not yet being bright enough to duck). But I digress.

Mom was keeping watch out for the next antique store. In those days, long before Starbucks, antique stores occupied every other street corner, which is why it took us so long to get home most days (and explains the fact that Mom can’t pass a Starbucks without stopping, old habits die hard). And so it was, we found ourselves in the dusty gravel parking lot of “ Trash or Treasures” in the wastelands of Generica.

We piled out of the Almost Wagon. My sister was nestled snug Dad’s arms because Mom had leapt from the moving car as we entered the parking lot. By the time we had caught up with her, she had spied several treasures and was now eagerly working to convince the shop owner that she wasn’t really interested in them but might be persuaded otherwise. Mom continued to sleuth treasures from the trash heap as we, the roadies from her personal ‘Antique Road Show’ wandered aimlessly through the aisles of ‘tarnished treasures’ and ‘hidden values,’ or so the sign tried to convince us. From my kneecap level view, it looked more like piles of dust, lots of piles of dust. I kept thinking how much trouble I would be in if I brought something like this into the house.

Suddenly, we heard the victory cry of ‘Jackie, The Antiquer.’ It echoed through the isles like the call of the mighty Viking warrior, striking fear into the hearts of all men carrying wallets.

“Jerry!” The sound hissed from her mouth as she was at once trying to draw my father’s attention but not the shop keepers.

“Jerry, come here quick.” I could see my father’s shoulders sag slightly as he realized what the call meant.

“Look!” she stage-whispered and did her best Vanna White imitation. (Quite a feat since “Wheel” would not begin airing for another 15-20 years!)

The object of my mothers affection was…well…it was moth-eaten. The first thing you noticed when you came near it was the smell of rotting cotton. It was, to put it mildly, pungent. The odor rose, almost visibly, from a turn of the century barber chair. Caked in dust and mold now, if you squinted your eyes you could almost see it shiny and new, the wide porcelain base gleaming white, the red vinyl seat shiny and new with silver piping to match the large chrome pump handle used to raise it. In the right light it was a sight to behold. Unfortunately, the ‘right light’ burned out 30 years ago and now it was just so must dust and mildew and sharp pointy things, sticking out of the cushions at odd angles.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” she exclaimed in a low voice. Dad and I looked around to see what she was talking about as she stood there pointing. Finally, it dawned on us that she was talking about the chair. We stood dumbfound, which she took as agreement.

“I could fix this up and put it in Cal’s room.” she said.
Now we had never been a wealthy family, as our string of chalk-yellow vehicles will attest to, but up till this time, when I did get new furniture, it was usually new. Once in a while it was hand-me-down, but it had never been junk! I stood in shocked silence, which she took for glee.

“We could paint it, and stuff it, and re-chrome the metal. I could sew a new cushion (I almost giggled knowing that my mother cooked far better than she sewed.) and then put it in your room for a reading chair. I said the first thing that came into my mind (which in my case is NEVER a good thing to do).

“It Stinks.”

Proving once again that justice in the Evans family was swift if not fair Dad promptly applied the palm of his hand to the back of my head as one would to a handball in a championship match. I stood there rubbing the back of head tenderly, while Dad tried to think of some reason, any reason that would dissuade her from this course of action. I like to think that Dad was looking out for me. That he realized that there were many ways a child of six could get hurt on this reject from hell’s amusement park. But I have come to realize that Dad, in that flash of an instant, saw briefly into the future. He saw himself trying to fit it into the car. And so he faltered, which mom took as acquiescence.

Dad had not even fired a shot before realizing that he had lost the war. He lowered his eyes and turned slowly towards the car. He opened the hatchback and began rearranging the other treasures found that day including a kerosene heater. It was this heater that taught us the chemistry lesson later that same day. The smell of kerosene, spilt onto plastic car mats, will integrate itself into the very metal of the car and will linger for years to come. I wrote a chemistry paper on it years later in high school.

Laying the backseat down to reveal the wagon part of the Almost Wagon, he began working the chair that the owner, smiling more than he should have, had just rolled out to us on a furniture dolly. He and Dad grunted and groaned but finally it was in and as secure as a ball of twine could make it. My sister and I were then shoe-horned into the remaining spaces around it for our ride home. (She still insists that we were used as padding but I like to give them the benefit of the doubt.) Since the seat was laid down, we were not afforded the safety of a lap belt. Therefore we held onto pieces of the twine tied to the bumper and the bottom of the hatchback. And so we rode, passing the rest of the ‘Starbuck’s placeholders’ by because Rules of Antique Acquisition states that when the car is full, the shopping is done. And we are nothing without the Rules of Antique Acquisition.

The Almost Wagon struggled valiantly up the 40 degree incline that was our driveway and into the back yard. We piled out and Mom took my sister into the house. Obviously what was about to happen was ‘man’s’ work, but I stayed anyhow.
Dad backed the car up to the back of the house. There was a small 3 foot wide strip of grass that ran between the house and the sidewalk, along the back of the house. It was onto this fertile ground that my father, for the first time known to man, planted a barber chair. The porcelain base hit the ground with a thud I could feel through the soles of my Keds. It was as if it knew, this was its final resting place. The chair knew it was home, the rest of us were living a charade in pretending otherwise.

Dad parked the car and discovered the truth about Kerosene as Mom exited the house, tea in her left hand for Dad, hair in a kerchief in a look that all mothers make beautiful and a toolbox dangling from her right. She handed Dad his tea and kissed his face, which was darkened with anger by this time over the kerosene. Then she headed over to her prize. I watched as she circled it, inspecting her new project. A diamond cutter takes no fewer precautions before cleaving a new stone as my mother did with this chair. Round and round she went, examining it from each angle, sizing up her line of attack.

Soon it became apparent that she was unsure where to start. It was only as Dad was about to enter the house, to wash the kerosene off his hands that she found her inspiration.

“Jerry!” she said with a loving forcefulness in her voice, and for the second time that day, I saw resignation in my father’s eyes.

“Come help me take this apart,” cleverly disguising her meaning of “Come take this apart for me” in a word ‘help.’ Dad obediently sat down and began attacking the first screw he saw. Mom began to dust it off as Dad struggled. The more she cleaned, the more we could clearly see it. The dust veneer served the important function of protecting the rust from the elements.

Dad grunted and groaned. He sprayed liberal amounts of canned lubricant on each thread and slowly and purposefully, he dismantled the beast. With each piece, a small part of his anger and frustration came off. By the end he was actually whistling, sitting there covered in dust, rust and kerosene fumes, he resembled several of the treasures Mom passed over in the store.

Finally the last piece was removed and laid aside. The screws were all secured in a baby food jar and placed on a shelf and Mom began making plans for rust removal, re-chroming and reupholster.

Summer turned to fall, which was followed by winter. Winter turned into spring and was quickly followed by summer again. We passed one full rotation around the sun. On a bright summer day, a friend from church was over visiting. As we walked out of the house, he glanced over at restoration turned horticulture project and asked the question I had now answered 100 times.


“It’s a barber chair.” And I left it at that.
Four more revolutions around the sun and it was time for us to move. In the contract to sell the house was a most peculiar clause requiring the new owners to take possession and responsibility for one barber chair… dis-assembled.


Age 12: Nightmare on SW 167 Terrace

By Cal Evans

Punishments when I was growing up were an experience in my family. We had the normal wrist-slaps, “washing-your-mouth-out-with-soap” and the parental favorite, the “butt-blistering.” But those were usually reserved for those special occasions when Dad had “had enough.” Everyday punishments were metered out by Mom.

My mother, who obviously studied under Gandhi, was a master of non-violent behavior correction. After honing her skills for years as an elementary school teacher, Mom was a master. She could punish you 4 ways before you finished your crime AND she never left a physical mark! To her credit, I attribute the fact that I love to write to the fact that one of her standard punishments for me was “Write a 500 word essay on what you did and why it was bad.” By the time I was in high school, I could write them in my sleep. There were times I would, on a whim, write the essay before committing the crime. (Might as well fit it conveniently into my schedule).

From writing sentences, to copying paragraphs to one of the most dreaded of all, copying a passage out of the Bible; (not only were the words hard to memorize but as a by-product, you actually learned something) she was the undisputed master. My only revenge for these perceived tortures is much to her horror, now that I am a parent, I can practice this black art as she taught me. Many a time, after discussing with her the fact that I had made my daughter or son write sentences she has quipped “If I knew that you would do this to my grandkids, I would have never done it to you.”

But my mother reached the pinnacle of her art in the spring of my 12th year. We were living in a suburb of Miami, FL named Perrine. It was a simpler time, a time when you knew your neighbors, when it was ok to trust people and you left your doors unlocked. Well, at least that was my story because during a brief period that year, I had trouble remembering to lock the door after coming home from school.

Maybe it was the trauma of growing up a latch-key kid. More likely it was the trauma of growing up a latch-key kid, having to go to the bathroom, and having forgotten my latch key! Whatever the scapegoat, I had a serious mental block going here. Many times, I would come home from school, head straight for my desk to do my homework oblivious to the fact that I had left the house open for anyone to come in and steal our 12″ color TV (by color I mean the molded plastic case was color), the 15-20 dead plants mom was hiding from the neighbors, or – for a brief period that even my therapist thinks I should repress – my hamster. All this wealth was for the taking because I could not remember to lock the door.

After many attempts both traditional and non-traditional, Mom and Dad were at their wits end to get me to remember to lock the door. They met together one night after putting us to bed to discuss the subject. The debate was long and furious. There were discussions, filibusters and backroom deals. In the end, like an episode of “I Love Lucy”, the most devious of plans was hatched.
My memory is fading now but if I remember it correctly, the sentence handed down prescribed the following routine.

Every day for a week, when I arrived home from school, I put my books down and began. I walked to the end of our front sidewalk and turned to face the house. Then I recited; “One…I will now lock all the doors in the house.”
Upon evoking this incantation, like a Minister of Silly Walks, I goose-stepped down the sidewalk until I reached the front door. Entering, I turned sharply and grasped the doorknob. Closing the door and staring straight ahead, recited “I am now locking the front door.” I engaged the locking mechanism on the doorknob and continued, “I have now locked the front door. I will now go check the other doors.”

With the echoes of my words fading into the air, I turned to my right and headed to the laundry room. Grasping the doorknob on the laundry room door, I examined it to ensure that it was in a locked position. Upon satisfying my thirst for this knowledge, I proudly recited “The laundry room door is indeed locked. Sector 7G is secure. I will now check the den door.”
Goose-stepping out of the laundry room and into the den I again repeated the procedure. Upon its successful conclusion, I recited my next line in this monolog; “Sir! This point of egress is secure. I will now check the sliding glass doors in the living room, Sir!”

Turning with precision that would make a Drill Sergeant weep with joy, I headed back into the foyer. I stopped exactly next to the front door, slowly executed a 90 degree turn to my left and stepped off to the sliding glass doors.
I was now at the trickiest part of the entire drill. Using only my left hand, I had to ensure that the sliding glass doors were indeed secured against unwanted intrusion. All without leaving fingerprints on the glass. Upon completing the maneuver, I stood at attention and recited. “Sir, the sliding glass doors in the living room are secure! The Evans family fortress of solitude is secure Sir,” finishing the entire parade with a crisp salute.

I then turned and marched to the front door. I broke the security seal and comprised the secure state of the house by opening the door. I goose-stepped my way out to the end of the sidewalk, returning from whence I started. Turning to orient myself once again, I took a deep breath and said “Two…I will now lock all the doors in the house…” And so it continued.

Yes, that’s right, for 1 week my punishment was to march a parade route ten times each day, securing the various points of egress along the way. Day one wasn’t so bad. As with any mind-numbing punishment, it took some getting used to but as I learned the ropes and perfected my turns I generally stopped wishing for a frontal-lobotomy and endured my punishment.

Day two started out well. As I was finishing up repetition three, a friend of mine ambled by. He watched me like Cletus for two full repetitions before mustering the wit to speak.

“Whatcha-doin?” he asked ever so eloquently.

When I did not return his verbal drooling, he became perturbed and stormed off. Little did he know that I would not interrupt my routine to talk to him or anyone else. Any interruption in the routine caused the daily counter to start back over at one. I ignored his presence and departure and continued along my parade route of stupidity. Soon he returned, having sensed an opportunity to humiliate me, with several friends. The afternoon drug on slowly. By repetition 8, they had setup a small card table and were holding up were holding up score cards as I marched back out grading my performance on precision and speed. It went down hill from here. (But I did manage a high score of 9.7 out of 10.)

Day three saw a crowd gather at the edge of our property line. Kids I had never seen before had the opening script memorized. They began to recite along with me as I started my script. It took on a festival like atmosphere and deep down inside I was glad that my personal humiliation could bring joy to so many.
By day four I was seeing adults show up with lawn chairs. It had become a neighborhood event to watch me execute my punishment/drill. The script was now available for all to participate. Copies could be purchased for a nominal fee before the day’s festivities began. I half expected to see street vendors selling T-shirts and glow necklaces. Through it all, I kept my head held high and my mind on my drill. All in all, it was bearable.

Then came day five, Friday, my last day of what I had come to think of as “The Perrine Death March.” I was ready for this ordeal to be over. I marched out the front door and to the edge of the sidewalk where the reserved seating began. I pausing briefly to allow the audience to get ready and then we started with once voice, “One…I will now lock all the doors in the house.” With the audience shouting along, we looked for all the world like a bad scene out of “The Rocky Horror Show.”

I strode through my first repetition without incident. Stepping back to the front door, I smartly executed a precision door-open maneuver just as the doorbell rang. Startled, I looked up and almost broke stride as I found myself standing face to face with a Rev. Paul Ball of the evangelical team of Rev. Paul Ball and Mr. Don Boon. Fearing an additional day of punishment if I stopped to talk, I side-stepped him and strode out of the house and to the end of the sidewalk. The crowd murmured as the judges conferred amongst themselves as to whether this incident would weigh against my score. Luckily it did not and as I was turning, I saw a 9.4 out of the corner of my eye. Rev. Ball stood there bewildered watching the carnival before him and the small boy marching to the beat of no drummer reciting like a lunatic monk in a Gregorian chant.

I turned and with precision and gusto started; “Two…I will now lock all the doors in the house.” His jaw was agape as I strode back past him and into the house. I could only imagine his look of disbelief as the door shut curtly in his face. I would have loved to see the look on his face 10 seconds later when the crowd, exactly on cue, erupted with “The laundry room door is indeed locked, I will now check the den door.”

Having secured the den door, rounded the kitchen and heading into the living room, I broke with the script for the first time in a week by shouting “MOM! There’s some guy at the door!” and continued on in stride. As I was completing the living room door check, Mom opened the front door for Rev. Ball. The crowd outside and I recited “Sir! The sliding glass doors in the living room are secure. The Evans family fortress of solitude is secure, Sir!” I snapped my turn to the applause of those who could see me through the now open door and strode out the door as Mom quickly ushered the bewildered Rev. Ball into the house and off the parade route offering up explanations of insanity on my father’s side of the family as she went.

I finished all ten repetitions of my drill that day. Upon completing the last one, I took a bow before a standing ovation of adoring fans and judges, many of whom I never saw again. I am happy to say that I never had to repeat “The Perrine Death March” in any form. I’m not sure if it was because I learned the lesson or that Mom was embarrassed over the festivities it drew. I was satisfied to know that punishment by parade marching had been retired.

What I did not know that that time, what I could not have known, what I would never have imagined in my wildest nightmares is that Rev. Ball and Mr. Boon, would continue to float in and out of my life. My parents eventually opened a business selling music to churches. Mr. Boon, who gave up the glamorous life of a traveling evangelist to settle down as a Minister of Music in a church, would not only become a customer but would frequent their workshops. Every year I attended a workshop Mr. Boon would greet me with a smile and say, “I am now locking the door.” It never got funnier than the first time he said it.
Needless to say, this was one lesson that will stick with me.


Age 9: …and God Spoke

By Cal Evans

Growing up in church is an experience in and of itself. I do not mean growing up going to church but literally growing up in a church. If the doors were open, and many times when they were not, we were there. Such is the life growing up in the house of a Minister of Music. In my ninth year in this ever unfolding play we call life the church I was growing up in was in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a beautiful church and at nine, it seemed huge. One time I remember thinking that the baptistery was big enough to host a pool party in. Funny how I knew even then that if I acted on that thought the consequences would be grave. I wish this brief flash of common sense had stayed with me for other impulses for it would have saved me no end of trouble, especially in this one instance.

The thing I remember most about this particular church was the balcony. This was the first church I remember us attending that had one. Truth be told, it is only the second church I remember us attending and the memory of the first one is pretty fuzzy, but I’m almost positive that it did not contain a balcony. If it did, it was not grand enough to make an impression on me as this one did.
Each week, during choir rehearsals, Deacon’s meetings, and other non-worship times at the church, I would find myself inevitably drawn up into the balcony to play among the chairs. Great cities rose and fell amongst the aisles of chairs when I and my small collection of cars would arrive. It was my imaginary playground.

But during any worship service, it was strictly off-limits. During the service, I dutifully took my place on the front row, right side, aisle seat, where I was visible by both parents; Dad from his perch in the high-backed chair reserved for leaders of worship and Mom from her front-row seat in the choir loft. They would take turns keeping a watchful eye on me and whatever friend sat with me. Usually a well behaved child, I knew immediately if and when I had crossed the invisible line into mischief. Even before I would look up to confirm, I could feel the weight of Mom’s stare on my head. Many times I foolishly tried to ignore it, thinking that as long as I did not look up, she could not scold me. When I could take it no longer, I would sneak a peek. She would still be watching, the look on her face instantly conveying a tirade that would have lasted ten minutes had it been vocal. I knew I had been caught, tried and convicted; sentence would be passed down on our way home that afternoon.

Then it happened, one magical week, I asked my father if it would be ok if I sat in the balcony instead of my normal perch. In a moment of weakness, he acquiesced with the stern warning that if I misbehaved, he would still be able to see me and the punishments would likely be more severe. I stood tall and assured him that I would be on my best behavior. I was a man. I was grown up. I was allowed to sit in the Balcony! I boldly, walked up the stairs, dragging one of my friends, whose mother was also in the choir, with me. We would be worshiping in the balcony today.

We took our seat on the front row. The seats were theater style seats. Made of wood and connected together, the bottom half folded up allowing more room for walking. Each seat was individual, as opposed to the bench style pews located in the lower auditorium. It was like sitting in a 30’s era movie theater up there. I chose the aisle seat and sat down, my friend next to me. The safety rail in front of us cut most of my vision of the lower auditorium but I could see the podium just fine, and they could see me as well. This last fact slipped right out of my mind and onto the floor where it was promptly forgotten.

The service began, as all Baptist services of that era did, with the congregation standing to sing from the hymnals. All around me, people were gathering hymnals, finding the proper page and singing along with all their might regardless of their level of proficiency. Being the son of a minister of music, I had been taught to perform this ritual years ago. Before I could count, I could find Hymn #215 in my hymnal. The first words I learned to read were “How Great Thou Art” and though I could not read music to save my life, I had memorized the melodies of the popular hymns and could sing along as well as anyone. But this particular time, my friend and I stayed seated. Obviously mistaking the safety rail for an invisible force field, protecting us from our parent’s sight and wrath, we sat there giggled quietly and drew on our bulletins. This being my first service in the balcony, Mom had not learned yet how to project her looks that far, so I had no idea that I was digging myself a hole. She glowered at me to no avail, I did not feel her stare therefore, I did not look up. I was blissfully and blindly walking off a cliff.

The song came and went without us moving. Our giggling swelled with the music but as the song came to an end, we brought our noises back down to barely audible. The service continued, the sky had not fallen. We felt we had gotten away scott-free. This was working out too well. The second congregational song began with the normal rustling of pages and grunting as people stood. The first verse and chorus came and went without much notice from my friend and myself. By now, we were in full-blown mischief mode. We were in the middle of a rousing game of connect the dots when the room grew silent. I heard a voice from far off calling my name. Slowing, it penetrated our force field and I recognized it as my father’s voice. I looked up. The entire congregation was standing, many looking back up my way. My father stood at the pulpit talking to me.

It took my nine year old brain a second to comprehend what was going on. For the first and only time I can remember, a Baptist worship service had stopped so someone could deliver a personal message to one of the congregation. Time had stopped in my little world. Deep within me a hole opened up and I could feel the life slowly start to drain from me. There was no way that this could be a good thing. There was no way it could be anything but a very bad thing. All of this happened in the split second it took me to look up and glance at my father and from there to my mother’s face to confirm. I was in trouble and in deep.

“Cal” he said, after excusing himself to the congregation, “I want you to stand up and take your hymnal, turn to the proper page and sing along with us, Son.” His voice was calm and level. His look conveyed the true message.

With his eyes, he said “Cal, when we get home, you won’t be able to sit down for a while, your rear will be so sore from the beating you will receive. I’m pretending to be calm for the sake of the people listening but you and I both know that I’m going to cut lose on you when we get home. Your only hope for redemption is to do exactly what I am telling you right now, with a smile on your face. Possibly, if you do that, and an earthquake opens up a chasm and swallows me up before we get home, you will survive the day.”

Slowly, I stood, a smile frozen on my face. Without looking down, I picked up a hymnal and with a practiced hand thumbed to the proper page. As Dad retuned to the congregation, he flicked his wrist and time returned to normal again with the restarting of the music. I sang at the top of my lungs for the rest of that song. It was important to me that Dad and Mom not only see me participating they must hear me as well.

My mind chose not to record what happened that afternoon. I’m sure that with years of therapy and hypnosis, we could pull it out but why? I know in my heart what happened. I got a beating like I had never received that afternoon. It must be that, because even now, years later, every time the Minister of Music stands to lead the congregation in a song, I frantically, thumb the hymnal to find the proper song and stand quickly always glancing at the choir loft looking for a look of approval from Mom.


Age 6: The Humpty-Clause

By Cal Evans

Cal’s First Law of Nature:
Mothers are the most precious of all the natural resources we have.

I can’t recall many memories of my childhood that my mother was not a part of. In some way, shape, form or fashion, Mom was always there, the ever-present guardian of beauty, truth and wisdom.

Mom taught me to read but more than that, she taught me to love to read. She taught me that there are things beyond my imagination and that’s ok as long as I continue to expand my imagination. She taught me that biscuits need not be foodstuff but could be paving stones or, in time of national emergency, weapons.

She taught me the 100 reasons shopping should be considered as an Olympic event. And that age old piece of wisdom handed down from mothers to their children since time immemorial; “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” But one of the greatest gifts my mother gave me was the memory of my 6th birthday.

I attended kindergarten at a small church school in a suburb of Mobile, Alabama. I will confess that I do not remember much about the school, my peers, the teachers or even Mobile at that time. But I do remember my mother explaining to me that for my birthday, she had arranged to have a party for me at school with all my friends. She prepared the goodies and even a special treat. For my birthday that year, we were going to have a piñata!

My birthday, being in December, usually has somewhat of a Christmas theme. Usually it’s not overt, but let’s face it, that time of the year, where do you find anything but red and green napkins and plates. This year was no different. We had the room decorated up for Christmas, were served red Punch-Aid in festive Christmas cups and everything was a red and green wonderland.

My piñatas was no different. Shaped, for all the world, like a 3 foot high egg, it was painted to look like Santa Clause. Actually, it more closely resembled Humpty Dumpty if Humpty had cotton balls glued all around him and was hanging from a stick.

And so we had a party. After cake and goodies, Mom brought him out to the squealing delight of 10+ kindergartners. There she stood, beaming with delight as we all squealed happily starring up into the smiling face of Humpty-Clause. Mom and the teacher tried to calm us down to explain to us what a piñata was and the part we were to play in this ritual.

As they explained, the room began to grow quiet. The squeals of delight faded as they explained that we were to take the stick, put on the blindfold and swing at the piñata. We missed the part about candy flowing from the broken piñata; all we could think of was that we’ve just been told to smack Santa upside the head with a stick. To a 6 year old mind, this is a concept to be grappled with for a moment. After all, if you were successful, you got candy, but what happens if you failed? Did Santa know you were out to split his skull open? How would this affect your gift this year? There were major issues that had to be carefully weighed here. I’m firmly convinced that years later several therapists have heard renditions of this story from patients.

Slowly, the groups split into 2 groups. There were those of us who, like myself knew that there was no Santa Clause or at least were willing to chance it for the candy. The other group, were the mortified ones. As the news of Humpty-Clause’s imminent demise sank in, they slowly began to tear up and cry.
So there we stood, our class of 10 raggedly divided into 2 groups, one group trying to claw their way into Humpty-Clause, the other working up a full-pitch wail at the atrocity that was about to be committed. In the middle were my mother and the teacher, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. And Humpty-Clause hovering scant feet above our heads on the pole Mom was carrying him on like a disembodied spirit of Christmas.

Then, passing the piñata to my teacher, Mom took me aside. Since I was the birthday boy, I was to have first shot at cracking Humpty-Clause’s head wide open with a sawed off broomstick. While this might sound fair and sweet, it occurred to my 6 year old mind that this would put me at a significant disadvantage. See if I actually did crack it open, I’m standing there with a blindfold on as candy pored out around me. If I’ve got a blindfold on I can’t see the candy to grab it. This was not to my liking at all but for Mom’s sake, I went along.

She placed me under the piñata, blindfolded, spun me around like a top for a minute or to and then began to wield my wooden broadsword to the urging shouts of my classmates, almost all who now wanted the candy, Humpty-Clause be damned.
THWAK! A good solid blow. I could feel the stick resonate in my hand like a bat after hitting one out of the park. I knew I was well on my way to busting that piñata open and into candy Nirvana. Well, I was half right, I had busted something. I took out a chair. Gotta swing higher.

POW! Yes, that felt different. It was up higher; it was a solid surface, a little more solid than I thought paper should be but still, I could tell I made first contact from the squeals of delights around me.

Energized by drawing first blood, I flailed about even harder. POP! BIF! BANG! ZOOM! On and on it went. Surely, by now candy must have been everywhere and Humpty-Clause would have been in tatters on the floor. Then I heard my mom say “Ok, Cal, let’s give someone else a turn.” Much to my surprise, as she took off my blindfold, Humpty-Clause was intact and still grinning at me. Grinning in defiance the paper surface not even scratched. I glowered back at it menacingly. There he hung, silently mocking me, laughing at me for my weakness.

I let the next child go, and then the next and the next…finally, my teacher mentioned to Mom that something had to be done because we were fast approaching nap time. Besides, after a while even watching someone whack the snot out of Santa gets old. We were getting restless and scouting out other targets. Still after all of us had taken a stab at him, there hung Humpty-Clause, grinning back at us, his treasure safe within his rotund, unscathed, shellacked belly.

Finally, her mother super senses tingling and sensing that things were going awry, Mom, in her infinite wisdom (which had obviously been set aside last night as she made a piñata out of newspaper and polyurethane) took a knife to Santa’s belly like she was gutting a fish. With a flick of her wrist, Humpty-Clause released his treasure trove.

Once again, squeals of delight came from my classmates as candy poured from the eviscerated Santa. Laugher as we innocently fed on the stuffing pouring out from him. I glanced up, he was still grinning at me but it was now a vacant stare I knew I had won. My eyes moved over to my mother, standing there with her piñata, her hair slightly disheveled. She was smiling down at us looking for all the world, like the most lovely angel in the world…who had just slain Humpty-Clause.

Love you Mom.