How many of you have seen the movie “Christmas Story?” Unless you have not been part of the living, breathing world, your hand should be going up right now. Do you remember Ralphie and what he wanted for Christmas more than anything in the world? Yes, it was what every boy seems to desire and long after … it is that rite of passage for every red blooded American little boy- the prized BB gun.


    It was no different at the Hastings house. Also, what was no different at our house was my answer. Just like Ralphie’s mom, I heard pleading and whining at every Christmas and birthday for that gun and I used the same age old response that has been used by moms everywhere for years. For about five years straight, I looked right at our boys and flatly said “No, you will put your eye out.” This worked for quite a long time, then when our three sons were about eight, eleven, and fourteen years old, my husband caved. He also did it in a sneaky way by simply going out and buying the BB guns and giving them to our three ecstatic and jubilant boys. Along with them receiving their guns however, we had about three long serious sit down instruction sessions with them. I remember my husband standing in front of them telling them in a very stern and methodical manner all of the rules that must be followed in the use of these BB guns. I well remember him barking out warnings and safety rules like a Marine drill instructor . There would be absolutely no pointing, aiming, or firing in the direction of our house or anyone else’s house…did they understand? Three blonde heads nodded up and down with a chorus of “yes sirs”. There would absolutely be no aiming, pointing or firing in the woods behind our home as other children could be in the woods and not easily seen…did they understand? Again, the “yes sirs” and the head nods. At no time whatsoever, are they ever to point , aim or fire the gun at each other or any other person for that matter….did they understand? Again, the “yes sirs” and head nods. The only time and place that they would be allowed to aim, point and fire the BB guns would be at tin cans and other targets that my husband would be setting up at designated spots…did they understand?  Once again, the “yes sirs” and head nods. You get the picture. The orders had been given and the troops knew what they were. The instructions had been clear and our new BB gun owners had vowed to follow them so all was going to be okay. Think again. It wasn’t but a matter of a few days afterward, that I hear some yelping and groaning from down in the basement . I hustle on down there to see who is making sounds as if they are dying. It is obvious to me that it is my eight year old who seems to be in some sort of pain yet I hear him also half laughing with my eleven year old as his older brother is saying quietly “Just shut up…you’re fine, I’m getting it out”. I run down the stairs to the basement thinking that my little guy must have a tick as they sometimes did with us having woods right behind our house. When I get to the basement,  I see eleven year old Ben bending over eight year old Matty attempting to pull something out of his little brother’s behind..yes, that’s right..his buttocks, the right cheek to be exact. Alarmed, I run over to see where exactly this tick is that is lodged in my youngest son’s back side, but something is not adding up. You see, big brother Ben is acting just a bit too concerned about his brother’s welfare by wanting to help get this tick out. Normally, whenever one of the boys got a tick, the two other brothers would laugh hysterically and say something like “ glad it’s you and not me” and go help themselves to a popsicle and turn on their favorite TV show. This time however, Ben is just a bit too worried about his brother and just a tad too anxious to dig out whatever had invaded his little brother’s posterior and thus, I begin to smell a rat. Just as I arrive, the surgery apparently is successful and finished but as I said, something was wrong with this picture. Both boys were acting a little too cooperative, just a bit too nice with each other and I had learned over the years that they always put up this sort of front when they were both guilty about something but were not wanting to be found out. You know, the typical partners in crime covering for each other scenario. I am glaring at them and Matty is grimacing as he is quickly hoisting up his pants and all I am seeing staring back at me are two guilt ridden nervous looking little faces. What spilled out next after some interrogation which is what every reader now knows. The truth  is that what I thought was going to be a story about a tick, was instead the confession that Ben had plugged Matty in the rear end with his BB gun and they were both trying to perform the extraction of the BB before mom came down and found them out. I also inspected and examined Matty's wound to see just how qualified of a surgeon Ben was and was happy and relieved to discover that it was a shallow superficial wound in which the BB had not been embedded very deep at all. Thank you Lord!


            The really interesting and informative part of the story however, was what I heard confessed next which was that this BB did not arrive at it’s destination by accident…oh no, you see my son's rear end was the target. Ben and Matty had come up with the ingenius game of “Let’s see who can plug who first in the rear end.” It was all planned out with much care and precision and there were even rules to this thoughtfully concocted contest. First Ben would walk  several paces, a good distance away and turn around and bend over and give Matty a chance to shoot him in his fanny…he would get a certain number of tries. Then they would switch places and Matty would walk the same number of paces, turn around and bend over and he was the one with the imaginary bulls eye painted on his bottom. As usual, big brother won again in another of their thousands of unique contests! As I listened to the truth come spilling out, all I could remember were those heads nodding up and down and the choruses of “yes sirs” during those instruction sessions with dad. Needless to say, punishments were administered and the BB guns were put away for a while.


        I will also add that a few years ago, long after my boys had all grown up and were either off to college or married, I took a walk in the back yard and saw BBs lodged in the side of the shed, the beams of the wooden playground set in the back yard, the posts underneath our deck , not to mention many dings in the siding of our house. What is the lesson to be learned here? I suppose that it is that we do our best as parents, we give instructions , we teach, we lecture, we warn, and we threaten. Will our kids always obey? No they will not and we need to trust and pray each day that when they don’t that God will protect them in the midst of their foolishness. We must also let the hammer drop and punish when they are caught red handed, even if is in the midst of a crude surgical procedure in the   basement!  It is another memory that has been recorded in the family record books and one that brings both a shudder and a smile to this mom’s face as she finishes this story. I love and adore those boys and always will but a few of those gray hairs that I see each day are solely there because of the day that my two sons chose to shoot at cans…the problem was, they were not tin cans, but each others!