At ten years old I was in a serious Lawrence of Arabia phase. For Christmas I drew out what I wanted in crayon and left the illustrations around the house: me, in long flowing robes with heroic belts, a turban, and long, curved scimitar. It's not like I was hinting around about it, either. In bright vermillion (I had the Crayola 54-pack, thank you very much), with an arrow pointing to the outfit, I wrote, "This is what I want for Christmas. Thank you." I churned these sledgehammer hints out at a rate of about 20 an hour for a month of weekends, working away on the floor of my bedroom.
My dad gave me a fair bit of hope when he picked up a few of the drawings scattered across my stained carpet and said, "I think I know what somebody's getting for Christmas."
On the morning of Christmas, I woke from my three-hour nap at the usual Christmas wake-up time, 4:00 a.m., and bolted to the front room. Beneath the tree, I dug through the improbably patterned, garishly colored paper packages and ribbon-wrapped boxes, but couldn't find my gift.
"Well, how do you like it?" my dad asked from the hallway.
"Like what? I don't see it here at all," I answered.
"Sure, it's right here." He strode into the living room and ran a palm softly across the top of a hardwood desk that I hadn't noticed. "You know, because you draw so much, and you're always on the floor."
Never does childhood shriek with such living pain as when it receives the wrong Christmas gift. And never is a Christmas gift so painful as when it is a desk .
"You've got to be joking."
"Look, it's not even finished. You can pick whatever stain color you like, and we can stain it in the garage," he said, patting it lovingly.
Bear in mind, I was ten years old, not a middle-aged florist with a champagne-colored Karmann Ghia, a teacup poodle named Spencer, and a collection of pony figurines. I was ten.
Until this point, I had not thought to get my father anything for Christmas. But looking at him smile proudly at the oak desk and seeing him happily dreaming of us staining it together, I knew exactly what I'd get him as a gift, and I gave it to him by saying, "It's great, Dad. Really, thank you. Can we work on it tomorrow?"
Thursday, December 6
The Price is Right
CBS 10:00 a.m.
Aw, what a cute story. But, let's not let that sentimental BS happen again, okay? Strict adherence to this Christmas list is required. Beatings will occur upon deviation. Understood? Yes, let's get started.
The Crocodile Hunter
Animal Planet 6:00 p.m.
Christmas-list item, the first: eye sockets on fleshy turrets that rotate and manage themselves independently from each other, like a chameleon. Included with this item, I want my brain to interpret the incoming signals from the bizarrely angled eyeballs without making me throw up every few minutes. You know, in case I go on a date.
Friday, December 7
How It's Made
Discovery 6:30 p.m.
Nöel article deux: invention of the ice-cream chimichanga and a lifetime supply of them. Get cracking, you food people. I want to see elbows and cinnamon shakers, deep-fat fryers, and a sense of determination. Move move move! It better be chocolate-y and hold within it the power to seriously maim anyone with a heart condition. You have three weeks.
Saturday, December 8
CW 10:00 a.m.
Gifts for me to keep me happy and to make sure I don't come to your house to drag your pillows through my butt crack # 3: a mummified duck with an eye patch! Because pirates are now passé. I still want a bird for my shoulder, but parrots are right out; mummies and ducks are going to be huge next year, I just know it. An eye-patched duck mummy! Excelsior!
CNN Headline News 8:00 p.m.
This next one is a performance piece, so hold on to your wigs: I want the skeleton of Amerigo Vespucci mounted to the sparkly banana seat of a unicycle, a length of fiberglass pole tied to his ribcage for balance, and the whole spectacle to be shoved out across a high wire. So the history books will read "Amerigo 'The Flying Italian' Vespucci," instead of "Amerigo Vespucci, the cartographer." I mean he's got that cool name, and it's kind of going to waste.
Sunday, December 9
Family 6:00 p.m.
Presents v 4.3(e): the ability to create a pearl by secreting, hardening, and polishing a fluid around a grit of sand that has irritated my right ear canal. I'm already partially deaf in it, and the added wax will make a fine yellowish gem, which I will give out next year for Christmas. What's your address?
Monday, December 10
The Big Bang Theory
CBS 8:30 p.m.
Since I believe most conflicts can be resolved through violence, I want, for my fifth or sixth gift (whichever it is now), a robot to punch out the next barista who says, "Why do you want ice in your coffee?" The robot will reply in that menacing monotone voice of all violent robots, "Because he wants to drink it now and it's 180,000 degrees, you twit!" and then his giant boxing-gloved hand will smash the overly pierced dink in the beak and it will robot-shout, "I SAID NOW!" Man, that's so beautiful. That's what Christmas is really about.
Tuesday, December 11
Disney 7:00 p.m.
Gift XIX: this next gift is really from me to you. It's the wish that musical performers would not put their lips directly on a microphone when they sing. Get your lips off that thing, it grosses us all out -- damn lips on a metal mesh microphone. And you don't even know who used that last or if it rolled around on the floor before you started singing. Gyeah! Gyeah!