Originally created 12/16/01

Christmas wish lists are different this year



We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.

- John W. Gardner

Outside, the December weekend is, as they say, "unseasonable."

Inside, it's warmer still, and I am doing what I do with precious moments - sitting at the table reading from a stack of regional newspapers while my family shares the room.

My 7-year-old, who has already sent his Dec. 25 list of expectations to the North Pole, is considering an addendum, or at least some alterations.

These changes seem to be announced after every TV commercial break.

His mother and I are in that polite, adult "lock-down" mode, where a child's comment is not challenged, but it's not acknowledged either, a nolo contendere mood that we've found promotes family harmony.

"It says here," I read to no one in particular, "that two-thirds of adults buy so many gifts for their children that they lose count."

Noticing that I am unchallenged, I continue. "Of those who apparently do count, 3.6 percent buy 16 to 20 presents; 4 percent get 11 to 15 presents; more than 11 percent buy six to 10; and 12 percent buy one to five."

No response is immediate. No segues arise.

Some time passes before my wife asks, "What do you want this year?"

I shake my head slowly, as if reflecting on the latest performance of the Atlanta Falcons. Then I give my shoulders a quick shrug and say, "I don't know." (Pause.) "I don't need anything."

"We've got to get you something," my wife says quietly, shooting a glance over at the 7-year-old, who enjoys the giving part of the holiday almost as much as the receiving.

"What about underwear?" I say practically.

"That's not any fun," she says.

"Socks, too," I add. "Dark ones. I think the elastic is gone from most of mine."

I go back to the papers.

"Any books?" she asks.

"Haven't finished the ones I got last year."

"Tie?" she wonders.

"I'd rather pick out my own."

"New sweater?" she implores.

"As warm as it's been ..."

She gives me that then-you'll-take-what-we-get-you-and-like-it look, gets up from the table and walks toward the den.

My son also gets up from the big chair in front of the TV set, because a commercial has reminded him that he actually has the toy featured and he goes off to find it.

Things grow quiet for a moment, and I look up from my grim review of international headlines and say, "OK, I know what I want this year. What about peace on earth?"

But no one seems to be listening.

When we ask for the important things, they seldom are.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bkirby@augustachronicle.com.