All the days on Elm Street were happy days. And no days surpassed Christmas. Everyone had a role. My role was by far the best. I was the youngest and this fact bestowed in me the right to wake everyone up on Christmas morning. Vicki was easiest to wake up on Christmas; I’d push her door open to find her awake and smiling. Aleta’s room, when she visited, was opposite Vicki’s and mine. When we peered in her room, Aleta would be under piles of blankets her darkly colored curls barely visible. After Aleta came Keith and Vaughn.
The other two bedrooms were only accessible from a different set of stairs. Keith, when he visited, would be in the blue room to the right of the stairs and Vaughn would be in the larger bedroom beyond the bathroom. I always used the same technique to wake Vaughn. I used Barney. Barney (aka Einstein), would follow my instruction without fail when I’d say, “Go wake Vaughn up!” I’d rush upstairs after Barney to see him nuzzling Vaughn who was hiding under the covers trying to keep his face dry from mongrel slobber.
Mom’s role was simple -- feed us! That was her role every day. She sometimes said she could feed an army on the budget of a platoon. But on Christmas, we were a platoon that ate like an army. Breakfast was elaborate, our dinner unrivalled.
Dad’s role was simple too, he got to ‘safety’ test all cool toys first. He was the first to fire the rubber bullets. Or ‘test’ the fire truck that shot a stream of water. Both of which seemed to find mom’s legs with predictable frequency.
But Vaughn’s role was perhaps the most important. On Christmas, before mom made those elaborate meals, even before Dad could play with my tank, someone had to put things together. That was Vaughn. I understand he helped on Christmas Eve to assemble various toys for Vicki and I. Sometimes things were left until days after Christmas to assemble or build. I remember Vaughn, patiently putting together puzzles and building models of planes and ships with me.
It wasn’t Christmas, but it was a boy scout contest to make something out of a bag of just stuff. I remember the family helping out as we created a crusader. I think it was Vaughn’s idea, but I can’t be sure, a knight on horseback made of dowels, and leather, and string. He could fix things that were broken, but more importantly, he knew how to approach a problem from whatever perspective required, so that it would be built correctly, the first time. I think he could do that with people too.