Christmas dinner would still come the day after and it was always a big affair in my house - and all through Christmas Day I would play with my toys the same way most children do. But Christmas Eve was the time. We would have a light dinner, dress for church (I was raised Lutheran) and fidget through the service waiting for afterwards. Then we would come home and - keeping our church clothes on, though I was allowed to loosen my little boy's tie - we would wait for my parents to be ready. That is, until they complained for half an hour about the service or the other church-goers (this was tradition all year round), had a light drink (my parents were social drinkers) and were ready to commit themselves to letting their three children get started (I'm the youngest).
Thus, the anniversary for my getting the AD&D books in 1979 is not tomorrow, but today. 36 years ago. I was 15.
I had seen the books, I asked for them for Christmas. That was policy as well in my house; by the time we got into our teens we were encouraged to ask for things and if it turned out they were reasonably priced, we could get them. The books, I remember, were $20 each. Perhaps they were $25. I can't quite be sure. I had my doubts that my parents would know where to find them or if they would be willing (it was a strange request from their perspective) - but as it turned out they managed fine. The store owner convinced them to buy some dice and I got nine of them - exactly what a player would expect. Two d20, a d12, a d8, a d4 and 4d6. There were no d10s in those days, something that a lot of people either don't remember or don't believe. The d10 came years later.
Of course I loved those books. I still have the DMG and the Player's Handbook I got. The Monster Manual was stolen by a player around the fall of 1982 and the copy I have today was given to me by the girl I was going to marry, whom I never did (brutal, unpleasant story that taught me love does not conquer all). I got that for Christmas, too, opening it on Christmas Eve, 1982. Inside the cover it reads,
Many happy years of "death and destruction."
I don't look at that often. It is bitter sweet. It is one of the reasons I despise being called 'Alex' and it remains a reminder that things don't work out, that 'always' is one of those mutable things we can't trust.
Death and Destruction for D&D was an inside joke between us. She did play in my world, for several years, during those years when there was a lot of slaughtering, gratuitous combat. And despite everything, yes, it has been many happy years of both.
Today I'm having my family around, my daughter and her common-law husband, who three weeks ago finally (after 9 years) stepped forward to give her a big ring and ask the question. I'll also have three close friends to join them, players in my world and with whom I've shared a great deal of love and warmth. It does not matter with whom we share blood, but with whom we are willing to give our blood. Thank you, Dickens.
So have a Merry Christmas. My tomorrow will not have a big turkey dinner, we're doing that tonight (I don't go to church any more) - so I will probably write a few posts to a big empty internet for something to do. Christmas online is always very quiet, deservedly so. We should all take a moment and say a kind word for the trolls, who have no one to pester for these three days, leaving them to suffer in their basements in quiet, unhappy misery, waiting for the chat rooms to fill again and the flame wars to emerge. Who, I ask, will think of the trolls this holiday?