Friday, December 24, 2004

I did my Christmas shopping today--not that I had much choice since I was preparing for or taking finals right up until two days ago, and yesterday I drove across the frozen tundra of SE Michigan and Northern Ohio; I'm not saying it snowed a lot Wednesday night in Ann Arbor, but I needed to strap tennis racquets to my shoes to get to my car.

Last night I was in Wal-Mart and saw for $9.99 the special edition DVD of Killer Klowns From Outer Space, with audio commentary and blooper reel. I knew I should grab it for my brother, but I decided against it. When I was all but done shopping today, I decided I needed to go back and get it. I went to a different Wal-Mart with DEK, looking specifically for that single item. We found it (for $7.50--woohoo!), and headed to the register.

The woman behind the register engaged me in standard issue Wal-Mart banter, but asked the one specific question that cuold make me think: "Did you find everything you were looking for OK today?" What could I say? My response:

"Strangely, yes."

I think Kidder may have sprained his pons processing the scene.

And now we bring you this annual Holiday Classic from December 2002:

PTA 1980

On a weekday autumn night in 1980 a 37-year-old mother, her 5-year-old son having just entered the first grade, went to her first and last PTA meeting.

On the agenda for that evening, the Association for the elementary school was to decide how to spend a $1,000 surplus that it had somehow accumulated. In truth, the meeting would not so much “decide” as it would ratify a proposal on the table to buy $1 Christmas ornaments for each of the 900-plus students enrolled in grades K-6. Only the lone aforementioned mother stood up with an alternate suggestion: wouldn’t it be nice, she proposed, if we could use this surplus for something educational, such as a computer. This na├»ve proposal met not merely opposition, but open hostility, and the proposer was literally booed back to her seat, while the main proponent of the ornament plan proclaimed her a Scrooge, while saying that for some of the poor rural district’s students, the ornament might be the only present they received that Christmas. It is not known whether any other parents or teachers secretly approved of the dissident proposal, but if they did they kept their heterodoxy to themselves.

For the 23rd consecutive year, the Wright family 2002 Christmas decorations include a flat, perhaps 6-inch tall, gold-colored ornament depicting two pajama’ed young children hanging stockings on a mantle. The annual placement of this ornament has long been accompanied by a chuckle, with mock teary outbursts of, “This might be the only present some poor kids might get this year,” and with laughing speculation that such poor kids might have actually been happier with no presents as all. This ritual was repeated for nearly 20 years, but in the last few years the placing of the ornament has gone by without much comment (though new visitors are still guaranteed to hear the whole tale); still, however, the now 27-year-old recipient of this $1 gift still insists on having the ornament on the tree, and insists on placing it himself. And at some point the recipient came to realize that, were he able to save just one of the family’s traditional decorations, he would have little trouble choosing the long-derided bauble with which he will forever associate his mother’s fruitless defiance—a cheap gold-plated ornament with the prominent inscription: “P.T.A. – 1980.”

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