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The Tentacle


December 22, 2008

Shopping and related thoughts…

Steven R. Berryman

What are you doing reading this column when you could be out Christmas shopping?

 

Yes, if you are taking a break while at work, you could also be shopping the Internet, which may account for as much as 18% of all holiday shopping this year.

 

C’mon, the economy needs you.

 

Me? All I want is “my two front teeth” – even though my dentist wants a few thousand bucks each to fix them. They don’t cover that in those Rankin-Bass television specials, do they? Burl Ives riding the Norelco shaver – and so on.

 

If anyone asks, I want “peace on earth” – as long as you are not affiliated with any terrorist organizations using charity as a ruse. I also am for “goodwill towards man” – as long as you have the legal status to be in our country, of course!

 

Okay, I’ll take a break from the reality of 2008 for a bit…

 

Twenty-five years ago the hot T-shirt said: “He Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins.” My friends bought me two of them for some reason.

 

The materialistic society was alive and well then, and some used it as a marker for achievement, purchasing self-awards. Some played the materialism game just because they could, and that commerce facilitated the economy and lead us into the direction of where we find ourselves today.

 

Today we are reevaluating the selfless act of giving through the dual prisms of having no resources, and diminishing prospects for repaying credit cards. Some will still risk much by overspending, as it had always worked out somehow in the past.

 

We have been hooked by the fact of an ever-expecting economy for as long as many of us have lived. Our Gross National Product always went up. Inflation somehow always translated into raises in salary. COLA was not a soda pop. (That’s Cost of Living Adjustments, people.)

 

The federal government had automatic increases. The American auto industry provided pensions as an incentive. Labor unions had their day.

 

This ever-expansion world worked for us as providers, as the expectations of our children around the holiday was also a dynamic continuum of entitlement!

 

It’s our fault. We hooked our kids on the same expectations that our parents bequeathed to us. An American tradition!

 

My parents were all over Christmas, even though they were secular in belief system. Somehow their spirituality made it through the transition.

 

Mom worked so hard making the perfect Christmas experience; many times she actually got sick from worrying about getting it all done perfectly. Dad did a magnificent job of facilitating and funding. We also played a lot of chess that time of year.

 

Greedy me, I always communicated, almost by stock number, the exact items on my wish list. This actually made it easier on everyone, although thinking back it was oh-so presumptuous of me.

 

The parents also won out in the transaction for most of December, as they now had something to hold over the children’s heads, in the case of bad behaviors!

 

Never got the Daisy “It’ll-shoot-your-eye-out” Rough Rider BB-gun, although I lobbied hard. Later in life I got even with a lifelong affiliation as an NRA member!

 

But…my substitution was the multi-destructive plastic fantasy weapon, the “Johnny 7 – OMA.” The letters stood for One Man Army, so you can infer the rest. It was great for playing bang-bang-you’re-dead. The pistol grip became a detachable automatic pistol, and – of course – it featured a built-in grenade launcher.

 

The above was made Politically Correct by the Vietnam War-era mentality, I speculate.

 

Today’s children are more sophisticated, but perhaps no less war-like; video game gifts of today contain graphics and interactivity that fully convey the horrors of war…almost.

 

The problem is that you can always get another crack at the prize and reset, even after getting blown-away. That part’s not too realistic and did not convey the real horrors…

 

As memory serves, I am reminded that the best toys were board games that we could play together. This was the real “interactivity” that electronics can only simulate.

 

Monopoly and Battleship, The Game of Life and Sorry, funny how these pairs go together! Twister was also a big hit.

 

Chocolate was also a cost-effective way to convey the season. Dad’s international clients would often provide exotic chocolate boxes, and Mom always got a big box of mint-melt-aways.

 

The former had child produced inspection holes below, and the latter got half eaten by our dog, Lerwich – pronounced “Larick,” our Shetland sheepdog – one time. He was very quiet and sneaky.

This, and the fireplace and stockings, and the tree. Candy Canes!

 

Well…It’s funny that once the bar is set high, you continue to go after it time and time again. Sometimes even in the face of common sense.

 

My Card to you wishes you happy times with friends and family, and lots of chocolate and board games.

 

Have a Holly-Jolly Christmas, everyone.

 

Oh, and Happy Hanukkah, too!

 

srbmgr@comcast.net

 



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