Christmas Eve Billiards

I've recently discovered that pool (billiards), is the only sport I actually find entertaining (if you call it a sport). Watching a couple hours of it tonight reminded me of all those years in my kiddyhood we spent Christmas eve at my rich uncle's house (yes, certain members of my family were upper middle class, in case you haven't guessed by the sheer amount of privilege I seem to throw around). He had this lush refitted basement... a cozy space for gatherings, complete with shag carpet, wood paneled walls, stocked bar, and three types of indoor recreation: table tennis, darts, and pool. He had a really nice pool table with one of those stained glass light fixtures hanging low above it and all the typical billiards paraphernalia (wooden signs on the wall reading: "Billiards is not just life or death, it's more than that!"...etc.) All the essentials.

"Keep your fingers off the table! You want to get hit with a ball?" That's what they'd tell us. Funny as it may seem, the adults (and when I say that, I really mean the DADS, who I guess are adults) hogged the table as they got progressively intoxicated and left us kids to the table tennis and darts to almost "kill-each-other the night away!" My dad walked around the hot room holding a camcorder with a title card on the lens: "Family Christmas Party/ 1995,"... like he was shooting some amateur film, and that was about the extent of his supervision. Meanwhile, all the kids ran wild with the music cranked. The problem with the darts, besides me almost blinding my brother with them, was there were so few unbroken ones and most ended up hitting the board and falling down behind the recliner. At least it was a nice dart board. It even came with a small slate on the door where you could chalk in your score. One could say it wasn't a good idea to let us play with the darts and paddles and not the pool table, but I guess mixing alcohol and projectiles in a crowded setting would've been a worse one.

The pool table was obviously what us kids wanted to have a swing at though, and soon enough we'd get our break (pun definitely intended). When the adults were having a good enough time they'd head upstairs to really "get serious" and let us kids play with whatever we wanted. My brother and I would break out the sticks, balls, and triangle, and stand tippy-toe around the edges of the big piece of shiny, carved oak. We'd chalk the ends like we'd seen the dads do a dozen times, lay our sticks down on the green, and poke random balls around for a good ten minutes, ignoring any idea of stripes, solids, and numbers. Supervision poopervision! Bah... our rich relatives had their own shot glasses to attend to (and by that I mean literally, wearing shot glasses AS glasses half the time).  "Yep, pool's a man's game," I'd smugly say, trying to sound cool between sips of my non-alcoholic Sprite... I mean, alcohol.

Who won and who lost? Who knows. The game would evolve, and soon we'd just be rolling the balls around with our hands to see how many collisions we could set off or knuckles we could break, and eventually do away with the pool table completely and sword fight with the sticks. My brother whacked me good right across the back with a cue, but he was helpless against my 8-ball air assault! At least some time was spent with the stick between my cousin's legs, pretending it was his "wooden pole," if you know what I'm saying, which I wish I thought of at the time because it was a good one. We didn't break anything except a little skin. I got my brother back with a boomerang toss of the triangle right to he gut. Our cousin still thought his "cue-stick woody" was funny. He was right. Good times. Good times.

"Yep, pool's a man's game," I said.

So once the temperature in the room had risen enough and the energy in us kids was finally flushed out, we'd head upstairs to wind down and enjoy the lit fireplace in my uncle's posh living room (watched Jumanji on television one year). This was Christmas Eve to a dorky suburban boy with a rich uncle.

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