View From a Cop: Assembling Toys in the Wee Hours of Christmas Morning

Sandy Springs Police Lt. Steve Rose remembers Christmas past.


Hello and Merry Christmas [or insert your politically correct name for what we used to refer to as Christmas.]

The important thing to remember during the holiday season is this: Shelve the attitude and enjoy the season. We can get back to the dismal reality of life in January but for now, especially if you have young kids, take a time out and make it good for them.

My kids are grown, at least in years. The youngest is in college so although shopping is easier [cash and gift cards], the ‘Christmas Morning’ thrill is gone. Our Christmas Day now starts about 10 a.m. and even then we have to wake them up.

Although I miss their surprised faces, the sleepless night before, their shrieking voices at 5 a.m. ready to open gifts - I don’t miss waking up early. I am not good at coming out of a deep sleep and then stepping into the mass confusion of the present frenzy.

For years, I was up late on Christmas Eve quietly constructing what should be a simple bicycle or some sort of ‘must have’ toy, being careful not to wake the kids, whose rooms were padlocked to them keep at bay.   

I have fond memories of quietly mumbling curse words for the Chinese or Koreans for their lousy assembly instructions and their stingy parts lists. (Would it kill you to put an extra washer or screw in the little plastic bag??!!)

I would go to sleep at about 2 a.m. but lie awake for an hour wondering if the bicycle wheels were securely in place, or if Barbie would crash through two floors of the Barbie Playhouse because I failed to properly “Place flooring section “A” into the left flooring structure “D,” and then twist counter-clockwise so as to secure secondary flooring section “B” into the left quad-section of flooring section “C,” which attaches to the Barbie Toilet.

Oh yeah and Snap “A” into section “B” and then rotate 67 degrees to the left and snap into place with flooring brace labeled “Q.”      

For you who are new to this late-night construction, here is a good piece of advice: Start hitting the eggnog early and make sure it’s spiked.

Christmas Morning

After getting only a few hours of sleep, I was suddenly awakened by excited and insistent kids. Their awful shrieks seemed anything but human causing me to roll out of bed with seemingly little brain power.

The time would hit me. It’s 5 a.m.!  And the noise was coming from my two daughters, who probably had been awake for hours.

My wife or I would give the green light and they’d charge down the stairs, diving head first from the third stair, and then head first into the stack of presents.

Trying to follow, I’d stagger down the stairway staring at these two little people as if they were aliens. Without coffee I was not capable of competent behavior but if one chooses to detour to the kitchen to make coffee and miss the children’s initial act of ripping up the paper and boxes in what appears to be a blood thirst quest to find the holy grail of presents, well, one goes to hell.

In my exhaustion of having spent hours trying to interpret impossible instructions, I had forgotten to pre-set the coffee machine. For some reason, I also blamed this on the Chinese and Korean toy makers and their lousy directions.

The intense screaming continued. I felt numb but sat there, on the couch, next to the tree, in my housecoat, my hair sticking straight up and with a look on my face like I had just been hit in the head with a baseball bat.

The children continued their gristly onslaught of ripping up anything that resembled a present—whose present, it didn’t matter. I just sat there looking at the tree and cursing the Chinese, the Koreans, and now, for some reason, the Yugoslavians, who had absolutely nothing at all to do with toy making or our Christmas.

As the Barbie Playhouse was viciously unwrapped and tossed about by my daughter who resembled a small feminine Godzilla, I noticed that it held up to the violent thrashing around. Apparently I had rotated it exactly 67 degrees to the left and snapped it correctly into flooring brace “Q.” I would have smiled if not for the fear of just drooling on myself.

Somewhere in the fury of paper flying about and the shrieking sound of adolescents on an adrenaline overdose, two or three presents were tossed my way. The kids had found them, tossed them over to me, and momentarily stopped the maddening shrieking to look over at dad. They wanted me to open my presents! They had actually stopped the frenzy to watch me open my gifts!

I was touched.

I smiled and drooled on myself.

I remember, they were homemade, better than anything they could have purchased. I was really touched. Risking more drool, I smiled and said, “Thank you, this means a lot to me.”  I probably sounded more like Frankenstein when he first saw fire.

The gifts were now all opened. The kids were now acting somewhat human and going from toy to toy. This was my chance to find coffee. I staggered to the kitchen and fixed the first cup. I felt that I would survive.

For several years, I constructed first girl’s toys and then later, boy’s gifts. Bikes, electric cars and jeeps, and swing sets. (Swing sets should be assembled earlier and then moved into place during the late hours. Don’t attempt this on Christmas Eve. You’ll die.)

I miss the years of early morning madness and the surprised looks. I don’t miss the instruction books and in all fairness, I should apologize to the Yugoslavians.

Enjoy the moment. It comes and goes quickly.

Just remember, pre-set the coffee—strong coffee.

Merry Christmas!


mike johnston December 29, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Thought of this column as I was assembling a baby doll bed Christmas Eve/ Christmas morning (toy Made in China, of course) at 1a.m. with brandy egg nog in hand and the Vatican Mass on tv. Even cursed the Yugoslavians, just because. I apologize now to those folks. The instructions were just about fine aside from the two screws that had to be replaced. (WHY would you assemble a wooden bed with machine screws!?)


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