One of my favorite Christmas books was a gift from a coworker at my first job after college. I can't remember if it was an office swap thing or if he was just sweet on me (ahem, I was young and charming). I also can't explain this book any better than the introduction from the author, and certainly not without giving away the magic of the story, which touches on love and disappointment and the hard lesson of faith. It's one of the few Christmas miracles I still believe in.
In 1939, my father was nine years old. Then, and for the rest of his life, he was called Red by everyone but his mother, who thought the name saucy. People guessed wrongly that the name honored the thatch of orange debris atop his head that made it look like a freckled ostrich egg on fire. The name's true source was a popular cinema hero of the time: Buck Tweed, the Red Ranger of Mars, protector of the 23rd century and savior of grateful princesses.
It was he, the Red Ranger from the movies, that my father chose to confuse with himself. And it was that universe, cluttered with space Nazis and princess nabbers, that seemed to need him more than his own. But the key to such a world still eluded him: an official Buck Tweed two-speed crime-stopper star-hopper bicycle.
It is with a bicycle that this story begins and ends—a story that my father, the former Red Ranger of Mars, told us on the Christmas Eves of my own childhood. I've put his adventure to pictures here, its historical truth guaranteed by the Red Ranger himself. But truth, like the daydreams of nine-year-old boys, is slippery and prone to readjustment over time.
I can only submit to you the tale itself as he told it in his own words...plus the evidence still there in the forest, of course.
— Berkeley Breathed, Red Ranger Came Calling