The worst/best Christmas gift

By BHA Development Associate, Grant Alban


I was twelve, almost thirteen years old and it was Christmas time.  Having learned long ago that Santa wasn’t real, I passed the stage of wanting a million presents under the tree on Christmas morning.  Now I only wanted one really cool gift, and in my case, that was a gun.  As I grew up, my parents always seemed a little miffed at how their only son,


who lived in the suburbs of Southern California, could be so into guns and hunting.  Sure, my grandpa had hunted and kept a respectable mule deer mount over his fireplace that I always fawned over when we visited, but my passion for all things hunting was borderline psycho.  Example:  on road trips I had my mom quiz me on the ballistics chart found in the gun digest books.  Footpounds of energy at the muzzle produced by a .257 Roberts with a 120 grain bullet?  I don’t know the answer now, but I did then… before girls came along and pushed aside all that priceless information. 

So there I was, in the prime of my youth with the holidays fast approaching.  I had been given a Daisy BB gun 2 years prior by my grandpa and had proved myself to be safe and responsible with it.  I was ready to take the next step.  Goodbye pressurized air, hello gun powder!  I dropped hints relentlessly, but in the days approaching Christmas there was no elongate box weighing 6-9 pounds under the tree.  I shook each package hundreds of times, never figuring out what was inside.  One sounded like loose marbles or something similar.  It was a foreign sound to me.  Intriguing, but totally confusing.  Another box felt totally empty.  Where was my long box!?

Christmas morning and I awoke at the crack of 4am.  I woke up my older sister, who had probably asked for nothing more than a new Jansport backpack and trapper keeper.  What a waste!  We stayed upstairs sneaking peeks over the railing at our stockings below.  We were very excited, but at the same time, we were old enough to know that as soon as we opened our presents that Christmas would be over.  So we savored it. 

At 6 o’clock, my parents allowed themselves to be dragged from bed.  We raced downstairs, had some chocolate holiday candy that wedged itself into my braces, and slowly, methodically opened our presents.  Always one to eat my broccoli before my steak, I opened the presents that looked and felt like socks first.  Soon there were only 2 packages left.  The one that rattled and the one that had no weight at all.  My parents nudged the weightless one in my direction and I’m sure they sensed my lack of enthusiasm.  What good could be in there? (Mind you, this was pre-gift card days). I slowly tore off the overly taped wrapping paper.  Opening the box, my worst fears were confirmed…nothing.  Nothing that is, unless you count the two number twos written in green marker on the bottom of the inside of the box.  Two twos?  My parents looked at me expectantly, holding back their excitement until I showed my own first.  It wasn’t making sense.  They looked so excited, sitting there in their terrycloth robes staring at me.  Finally, my mom couldn’t take it.  “22!”, she exclaimed.  The number raced through my brain- my inner monologue telling me that I had heard it before and that it meant something to me.  “A 22!”, my dad said.  And that did it.  The letter A in front of the numbers.  A 22.  I had been given a .22.  Thrilled, I immediately asked two questions of my parents.  The first was, who was responsible for omitting the decimal point in front of the twos. Second, where was the gun?!  After I opened the package that rattled and discovered it to be a mini-mag of 100 .22 cartridges, my parents explained that they were unaware of California’s 15 day waiting period on all firearms.  They had got me a gun for Christmas but I couldn’t hold it till the New Year. 

So, for all you parents and grandparents reading this: a decimal point or mandatory waiting period may not mean much to you, but it means a whole helluva lot to a gun-crazed 12-year old. 

About Grant Alban

Communications professional, conservation advocate, writer, angler. Love to run up mountains and spend time in wilderness. Work + play in Missoula, MT.

See other posts related to Backcountry Stories, The Campfire