Monday, December 24, 2018

A Christmas Metra Miracle

     Christmas stories tend to involve a selfish man, whether Ebeneezer Scrooge or the Grinch. I suppose the man doesn't have to be selfish—George Bailey comes to mind. He just needs to be a man, with all the implications of dimness that being a man implies.
     For today's purpose, that man will be me. Though Christmas season approaches, our hero goes on with his usual routines, working and grumbling. In my case, I'm particularly armored against the holiday, because I'm Jewish. No tree. No presents. No nothing.
     I take that back. Every year there is the Chicago Sun-Times Letters to Santa Program. The paper invites readers to take a photocopy of a handwritten letter from an elementary school pupil, then go out and buy gifts for that student. Every year the paper asks its top columnists to write a column urging people to go out of their way, dig deep, buy presents for needy Chicago schoolchildren, every year I do, with what I hope is a certain amusing-though-very-real reluctance.
     My colleagues weighed in. Mary Mitchell wanted to help them all. "Each one tugs at my heart." Mark Brown shone, tracking down an adult who had received these presents, wrote about what it meant to him. “I was that kid,” Adrian Gonzalez told him, of being a needy child 22 years ago.
     A high bar. But this year I was all set. I would expense the presents—turn in the receipts, include my boss's aghast response. A bit of holiday fun, then of course end up paying for it myself. 
     But the paper didn't ask. That surprised me. I was disappointed and liberated. Freed from the obligation: no pawing through the pile of letters looking for something suitably heart-tugging. No schlep to Target with the wife, no squinting at childish scrawl, trying to figure out what was being requested. No being confronted with some heretofore unimagined realm of toys, "A Mister Poo-Poo-Dee-Doo Dispenser?"

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  1. Great story. And I didn't even catch the foreshadowing of "I'm a big boy." Reminds me of the vanilla extract tell in Drunkard, which by the way is not as bad as Bay Rum aftershave.


  2. I'm too lazy to go out and shop for specific toys, but I did participate in my office's Toys for Tots drive this year. Just picked out some stuff online that looked good and had it sent to the VP who was organizing it.

    1. I'm worse: bought a handful of Amazon gift certificates. Wonder if Russki bots are promoting on line everything, so that once our whole lives are on line, we'll be ripe for picking; won't even know that Putin has replaced Bezos as the impresario of our puppet show.


  3. Great story. Might make an okay TV-movie. Ever written a screenplay, Mr. S? Maybe you can hire somebody for's not the same as newspapering or writing books.

    I don't shop online. My wife does, but I do it the old way at Christmastime, starting around the 17th, after a lot of procrastination. Four or five days in a row of running around town like a headless chicken. I call it the "Shopping Frenzy." Never had any kids...hence no toys have never been on any of my lists.I may be one of the few Boomers who never set foot in a "Toys R Us"--ever.

    That name originated from a slogan first used by a regional business that advertised on WGN in the Sixties, perhaps even later than that. Their unforgettable TV spots would scream out: "Children's Bargaintown USA! Where toys are us! Bargaintown! Bargaintown! Bargaintown! “ They had a huge store on West 95th, if I remember correctly. The outfit that absorbed them eventually adopted Bargaintown's slogan as their new name.


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