It was the ONLY toy I wanted that year. 1967.
Tricky Tommy Turtle.
Oh yeah, I wanted that toy badly. I’d watch television all day just to see the commercial. I was a starry eyed seven year old back in the olden days, as my children refer to them. As I watched the commercial each time, my excitement about finding that toy under the Christmas tree exploded within my little beating heart.
Tell me, if you were my age, and saw this commercial, wouldn’t you want this beautiful toy?
Remember, I was seven years old and still believed in Santa Claus.
So I sat down before I even considered doing any homework and wrote my letter to the jolly old man with the colorful red suit and addressed it to the North Pole. All I remember writing in that letter was, “I only want Tommy Turtle. I don’t need any other toy. Please give me Tommy Turtle.”
I was so desperate to get Tommy Turtle, I even altered my behavior, quite a big task when all you know is fun. I quit teasing my older sister. I did my homework when I was told to do so. I ate that awful liver my mother served. I even pretended to enjoy it. Heck, I even ate the carrots. I drank my milk. Kept my room neat. Went to bed on time. Faked sleeping when my parents checked on me at night. Brushed my teeth. Cleaned behind my ears.
I even studied for my tests…without much resistance.
I was THE model seven-year-old.
I remember the excitement leading up to Christmas. I counted down the days on that small Advent calendar my mother kept hanging inside the top closet door in the kitchen. She’d X them out, day by day. I can see the bright red Xs now…15…16…17…18…19…20
I kept watching TV to see the commercial. It was the same one yet it seemed even better each time I saw it.
The countup continued … 21…22…23…
I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. The day could not go by quickly enough. I even offered to do chores. Anything. Something to make the hours evaporate faster. My heart was racing as the afternoon turned into evening.
I even volunteered to go to bed early.
Santa was coming.
I kept my eyes open for as long as possible, hoping to hear the pitter-patter of reindeer feet on our roof. There was a sprinkle of the white stuff in the air, I thought, looking out the window.
I heard my parents come up the stairs so I dashed back to my bed, turned over and gave my best pretend snore.
I wasn’t sure whether I convinced them or not. But I didn’t care. No one was going to deny Santa his entrance into our house. I stacked a pile of chocolate chip cookies not only in the kitchen but near the front door.
We didn’t have a chimney. Mom told me that Santa would use the front door. I made sure it was unlocked. 😉
I heard my parents settle down for the night. So I got up to take another peek outside. Much to my dismay, it was quiet and peaceful.
Where was the big guy? Perhaps we were his last stop.
I went back to bed and began my struggle to stay awake. I finally gave in and closed my eyes, dreaming of Tommy Turtle. Dreaming of blowing my whistle and scaring my oldest sister as Tommy Turtle crashed into her unsuspecting body.
Dreaming of frightening her in the most horrific ways.
Yes, it was a toy. But it would be my weapon.
My weapon against my oldest sister.
Before you judge me, remember that I was like any other seven-year-old boy with an older sister. I was devious. I plotted revenge with all sorts of plans.
I awoke to the jingle of the morning and raced to the living room tree.
Yes! There it was!
It had to be. I saw it was from Santa and tore the wrapping off in two quick handfuls. Beautiful! Santa was my hero. Best buddy. Only pal. Numero uno in my young life.
I opened the box. I found some batteries in the drawer and popped them in. Then I waited for my older sister.
Ah, there she was. So innocent, yet so deserving of my vengeance.
I hid Tommy Turtle under the couch as she began to open a present. She wasn’t even looking my way, never suspecting what was about to happen.
I took my whistle, laughed a little, and blew.
It was the most beautiful whistle I had ever heard. I blew again. My sister kept unwrapping her presents.
I blew the whistle harder. Was I not close enough to Tommy Turtle? I blew it again. I moved closer. I blew it again.
“Why do you keep blowing that?” my sister said, turning around.
I ignored her. Something terrible was happening.
I grabbed Tommy Turtle, placed him in front of me, maybe six inches away. I blew the whistle hard and long. Tommy Turtle never budged.
I found another set of batteries and tried again.
Tommy Turtle’s huge eyes stared at me.
He was dead.
I told my father and he frowned.
“Santa gave me a dead toy,” I complained bitterly.
He frowned again. He grabbed the toy and blew the whistle. He shook poor Tommy Turtle up and down several times.
If Tommy Turtle wasn’t dead already, he would be by now, I thought to myself.
I tried to rescue him later from my father. But he was held captive in his box in my parents’ room.
“What about Tommy Turtle?” I asked later.
“We’lll get another toy,” my father promised.
“I don’t want another toy. I want Tommy Turtle.”
“The toy is broken.”
I hung my head. The next day my father took me a toy store on Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven, Queens. I remember him handing the toy back to the man behind the counter. He tossed it into a big pile of Tommy Turtles.
“Go pick out something.”
I did but it was half-hearted. Nothing could compare to a Tommy Turtle. It confused me too.
“If Santa brought me this toy, shouldn’t we return it to him so I can get another Tommy Turtle?” I asked my father.
He didn’t answer. He looked sad.
“Can I keep the whistle?” I asked.
My dad smiled. “Of course.”
Michael John Sullivan is the author of Everybody’s Daughter, The Greatest Gift, and An Angel Comes Home.