Mike Gamble: Almost my best present

Published: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 23, 2013 at 10:08 p.m.

When I was growing up, Christmastime was always a memorable occasion. Our Suburban Heights home was always the epicenter of the holidays. Grandparents, aunts and uncles would come to our home, adding to the chaos of a family of five boys. Looking back, I don't know how Mom and Dad dealt with it.

When I was about 9, I really wanted a drum set. I bugged and pestered my mom for one and dreamed of the day I would have my own drums. It seemed as if Christmas would never come. Finally, Dec. 25 came around, and as usual, I got up around 4 a.m. to scout out what presents had magically appeared in the family room. Lo and behold, there it was — a drum set! Well, it wasn't a real drum set actually, it was a little kiddie set from Sears. That didn't matter to me, it had a psychedelic tie-dye pattern and I thought it was cool. In my mind I was on my way to being a rock star.

Now the hard part was waiting for the adults to get up so we could tear into our presents. They were always good sports about letting us get up early to do that. The Christmas morning photos we have attest to that; no hint of sunshine can be seen through the windows. Even so, the drums were going to be off-limits for a while. It was still too early for the obnoxious noise that I was sure to create banging on them. So I was content to just hold the little sticks and gaze longingly at the set.

After breakfast, I decided to go outside and find out what my friends received. Rock stardom could wait a little longer. There were footballs and other things to break in. After playing with my friends and our new toys for a while, I hurried back to my house, eager to finally start playing my drums.

Instead, I was greeted by a horrible sight. My new drum set was in a shambles. My 4-year-old brother got to my set first and destroyed it. He had taken the sticks and stabbed holes in the drum heads and the cymbals were bent up beyond use. I think he was standing nearby with one of the sticks still in his hand as if to taunt me.

"Yaaahhh, my drums!" I yelled. "I'm going to kill him!" I started after my brother, but fortunately for him, Kevin was pretty speedy. He had some pretty good survival instincts too, and quickly made for shelter behind my grandfather. My grandfather was a kind man who never seemed to get angry, and he shielded my brother while holding me at bay at the same time. Eventually I calmed down and decided I shouldn't kill my brother. Maybe he was just getting me back for the times I used to put on a ski mask and scare him when he was in his crib.

Many years later, Kevin got some real drums of his own for Christmas. I didn't return the favor by punching holes in those drum heads, but I did play them a lot. We get along fine now; I quit scaring him and he quit destroying my stuff.

Mike Gamble is principal of Howard Bishop Middle School in Gainesville.

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