Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A Christmas Story

Happy Holidays everyone...just got back from the Verret/Zettler reunion and got a bunch of old memories dredged up. Marilyn and I are currently in New Orleans recovering from all the "family fun time", and Christmas in New Orleans always makes me think of my late grandmother.

So here is one of my favorite Christmas memories...enjoy...
Like most kids, Christmas was always my favorite time of the year. My enjoyment of the holiday, however, had very little to do with our Lord and Savior’s birthday.

Now don’t get me wrong. I was a Catholic school-girl after all, and had always looked forward to acting in the Christmas Eve nativity play. But after I had finally worked my way up to the role of Mary, there was really nowhere else to go. It doesn’t get much better than being the mother of God, especially at a church named Our Lady of Fatima, and I quickly lost interest.

So, while I was not a complete heathen, I will admit that the main reason I liked Christmas was for the presents. In particular, the presents I got from my grandma.

I don’t really know why I enjoyed her presents so much. I think it was perhaps because she never gave me “practical” things like clothes or school supplies. While today I really appreciate “grown-up” practical things, such as mops and brooms (because then I don’t have to buy them), back then I was more interested in toys and playthings.

Grandma’s presents seemed to revolve around whatever toy she could find at the drugstore a few days before Christmas, and they got more and more interesting each year, as her Alzheimer’s began to set in.

One year, around the age of seven, I received a “Mr. Professor” doll. Purchased from the local K&B, Mr. Professor was supposed to be a sort of learning toy for young children. You could tie his shoes, button his jacket, and the crowning glory—if you squeezed his hand, he would talk. Not about any philosophical or ideological topic, but simple “learning” sentences such as, “Two plus two equals four,” and self-affirming mantras such as, “Do you love me? I love you.”

Now even though I had been able to tie my shoes and dress myself for years, I was pretty excited about this doll. Mainly because of his talking abilities. You could say I was somewhat of a lonely child, and was looking forward to this new companion.

After ripping open the box and inserting the batteries, I grabbed Mr. Professor’s hand, gave it a not-so-gentle squeeze, and held my breath in anticipation.


I tried again, a little gentler this time. Still nothing.

Finally, my grandma, in her famously intimidating voice, told me to pass the doll to her. Having all the confidence in the world in her abilities to scare him into talking, I handed her Mr. Professor. Unfortunately, her skills fell short as well. It appeared Mr. Professor was not up for a chat.

If I was disappointed, my grandma was pissed. She stormed around the room with him hanging by one electronically deficient hand, and let loose a stream of words meant for K&B and the Mr. Professor manufacturing company. At this point my mother covered my ears and cried, “Aaaaaaaalfeeeeee!”

The next day, first thing in the morning, we drove up the street to the corner K&B. Those poor saps had no idea what was about to hit them. The wrath of grandmamma had been released.

She marched up to the counter, still clenching poor Mr. Professor in a death grip.

“May I help you?” asked the sales clerk pleasantly, not knowing what was about to hit her.

“Yes, you can help me,” grandma sarcastically spat out. “You can tell me why this doll doesn’t work.”

Thus began a 15-minute examination of the doll, which included replacing the batteries, twisting his arm (sadists), and finally deciding that Mr. Professor simply did not plan on divulging any information.

Finally, the sales clerk pulled another Professor down from the shelf and inserted the batteries in his back. She began to squeeze his hand and talk, asking him, “Do you love me?”

I thought I heard a faint robotic voice repeat her question, but seeing the menacing look on the grownups faces, I kept my mouth shut.

It wasn’t until Grandma released another rain of verbal fury on the K&B sales clerk that everyone learned the truth. Mr. Professor could in fact talk, but it seemed he preferred to respond to profanity. For suddenly, upon squeezing his hand, we heard a robotic, yet familiar voice spurt out, “This Goddamn thing ain’t worth a nickel.”


At 12:29 PM, Blogger yayaempress said...

“This Goddamn thing ain’t worth a nickel.”



Post a Comment

<< Home