Ignore the civilians admiring the tank.

A Christmas of corruption, deception and intrigue.

In the early 1970s, I developed an urge to play with dolls. At the age of seven, I was smitten by these dolls thanks to an onslaught of advertising on television. I was very impressionable, and the Saturday morning cartoons were thick with ads for G.I. Joe dolls. They were presented in exciting situations with weapons to kill and gear that allowed them to climb mountains, jump out of planes, or swim under the sea. There were jeeps, helicopters, and recreational vehicles (the last of which was used as a command center).

I wanted a G.I. Joe more than I wanted anything. When you are seven and you don’t have to worry about food, clothing or shelter, a particular toy can become your entire fucking world.

G.I. Joe became my entire world and I didn’t even have one.

Sitting on Santa's Lap

I made it abundantly clear that what I wanted for Christmas was a G.I. Joe. I’m not sure when I learned the truth about Santa Claus. I understood it was my mother who controlled my world, and could make or break my Christmas.

After school one day, as Christmas drew near, my older brother brought me into our mother’s bedroom. He had been snooping, and he found something in her closet.

This was a forbidden zone. We weren’t supposed to go in her bedroom, and we sure as hell weren’t supposed to go in her closet. To be found out was to be punished by our father, brandishing his belt. But I didn’t care about that. I only wanted to know what my brother had found.

The Forbidden Zone

In the closet, buried beneath other things, was a shopping bag and inside the shopping bag was two G.I. Joe figures and two uniform sets.

We were ecstatic. I wanted so badly to play with him right that moment and change his outfit, put a gun in his hand, and pose him in an action-oriented stature.

“You can’t touch them,” Steve said. “She can’t suspect that we know.”

The remaining days leading up to Christmas were torture. All I wanted was to sneak back in Mom’s bedroom and take the toys from the closet.

“If she finds out we know,” Steve said, “she won’t give them to us.”

Then the torture grew worse with the worry that we’d be discovered and we wouldn’t even get our G.I. Joe poseable figures.

Say what? (He's a talking G.I. Joe.)

A Christmas Miracle

Christmas came. Before we went downstairs, Steve pulled me aside. “Act surprised. If she thinks we know, it’ll be the end.”

At the appointed time, I tore open the presents and there was my coffin-like cardboard box with one bearded G.I. Joe with a battle scar on his cheek. He came with a pistol, a holster, and an M-1 carbine. His other outfit was his dress blue, Class A uniform.

I screamed wildly, clearly over-playing my hand. It was probably the release of tension at not having to live the lie or worry that I might not receive the gift.

At first, my brother played action-figures with me, but he soon lost interest. Whereas I spent another five years playing with G.I. Joes, collecting new ones, expanding their wardrobe and equipment.

As far as I know, my mother never knew that we searched her room and discovered the gifts.

Those G.I. Joe dolls were my favorite Christmas gift ever. And I still want to play with them.