OPINION

OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Back in childhood


Editor's note: This is a revised and updated version of a column first appearing Christmas Eve 2015.

On a Saturday morning that spring, I sat alone, having breakfast at Leo's in Hillcrest. A text came in from Gwen Moritz, at the time the editor of Arkansas Business. She is a regular estate-sale scavenger.

She said she was at that moment looking quite possibly at the very item I'd written longingly about in a Christmas column.

She was at an estate sale at a house maybe five blocks away. I hurried over and went upstairs.

Indeed, she'd found it, or, more precisely, one very much like it.

There was a brief discussion of estate-sale strategy. You could take a chance that the item wouldn't sell, in which case you could get it for less on Sunday afternoon.

I took no chance. Full price. Right now. Into my Jeep. Then into the attic--until it was time.

And now it is time.

* * *

If all goes according to recent tradition this evening, at or about midnight, I will sit in a comfortable chair sipping a deeply warming splash of Jameson's.

I will turn off all lamps, overhead lights, smartphones, laptops and television sets. I will gather the beagles Roscoe and Sophie at my feet.

Shalah will be nearby, pleased to behold my rare serenity.

In the darkness, I will gaze upon, and lose myself in, the vintage 6-foot aluminum Christmas tree, circa 1965, in the corner, a wonder of glorious nostalgia and tackiness.

I will watch the slow-circling color wheel transform the shiny tinfoil of the tree to a calm deep blue and then a peaceful yellow and then a shining green and then an understated red, and then back around.

I will listen for the brief grinding sound each time the wheel reintroduces blue.

I will escape to my childhood, to life at 10 to 12 in that flat-topped, four-room house at the end of a graveled lane in southwest Little Rock. I will recall a tree like this one, and a permanently creaking color wheel a little bigger and better than this modern online discovery.

I will be returned to that hardwood floor of the mid-1960s, flat on my stomach, eyes fixed, deep in my happy certainty that this exotic aluminum tree--framed by a picture window outlined in blinking lights--was surely the most magnificent among all monuments of the season.

I will remember the happiness and safety of those 1960s Christmas seasons--of, in fact, an entire childhood.

I will be thankful for the hardworking and low-­income parents who provided that happy and safe childhood, and the little fundamentalist church that nurtured it, and the public school that educated it, and the community that encouraged it, and the backyard that was a field of dreams--a baseball park, a football stadium, a basketball arena, a golf course.

It was there I threw and caught the passes, even punted high and ran to make the fair catch. It was there I supplied the roar of the crowd and the play-by-play announcing and color commentary.

I concocted a baseball card for myself, one with impressive statistics and a brief biography that included the nickname: "Fly Ball Brummett."

My dad told me that you don't want to hit fly balls, boy, because they get caught for outs. And I explained to him that fly balls sent airborne by "Fly Ball Brummett" arced like gentle bombs to distant places that no one could reach.

He said I was talking about line drives. I said these go higher than that.

We'd argue that way, and more seriously, for a few more years, and then each of us would realize that the other was smarter than we had thought. Then we got along all right.

Cigarettes took him much too young, younger by five years than I am now. My mom gave me his cufflinks and tie clasp that Christmas.

I fled the room teary, much as he'd fled the room that Sunday afternoon when I coaxed enough Okinawa memories out of him that he mentioned "Sarge."

After a half-hour or so of tinfoiled hypnosis, I will head to bed. And I will think about Mom, gone more than two years now, and whether in her late stages in "cognitive decline" she remembered if only for a fleeting moment that aluminum tree and color wheel of our cozy little home.

She more than likely remembered the safety and happiness of a certain childhood, her own, which is where she spent most of her late-life time.

There are far worse places to be.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected]. Read his @johnbrummett feed on X, formerly Twitter.


Upcoming Events