by David Sisler

Year after year, Christmas morning after Christmas morning, Hank Ketchum's famous cartoon character, Dennis the Menace, sits in the middle of enough toys to start a boutique and plaintively asks, "Is that all?" My Mom swears I did that Christmas morning, 1954.

Well, this year I did not get everything I wanted, so I have made a list of the missed goodies, hoped-fors that did not arrive. Please take note. Feel free to clip this column and remember where you put it when it comes Christmas shopping time next year.

Regular readers of this space know that I am a Trekker (enjoying The Original Series and tolerating the other incarnations), but I do enjoy that other small science fiction series brought to us by George Lucas. To be honest, I did not see this gift suggestion in time to get it out to family or friends, but here it is now, and you have no excuse. Next year I'd like a 6-foot-7-inch tall, 110-pound bas-relief of Han Solo just like the one that hung on Jabba the Hutt's wall. Cast in fiberglass but painted to look like "carbonite," this depiction of the front of Harrison Ford is only $1,500.

A company called Tech Update has a "new computerized micro-technology regular, a TV advertiser's nightmare!" And I want it! What this gadget does, for $49.95, plus shipping and handling (or $39.95 each if you buy two or more) is turn down your TV set when the commercials come on, keeping those annoying announcements at less than an ear-splitting decibel level. Now if it could only eliminate the beer commercial of the "angels" wrecking a delivery truck to get some more cold brew.

Has anyone else wondered, why does a professional sports team need an official beer? Why not an official cigarette? Or an official heroine hypodermic needle? Or an official carcinogen? Or an official semi-automatic attack rifle? All effective killing devices.

But I digress.

Back to television related gifts. Here is a Christmas present the management of local and cable television stations can give me, and there will be no capital outlay involved. Remove those annoying little stickers. You know what I mean: the ones emblazoned with your station's name, logo, and channel number which you plaster overtop everything but the commercials. My TV and VCR both have channel indicators. I know what station I am watching. I do not need to write it down. I do not want to write it down. And I wish you'd stop doing it for me.

And while we are talking about next year's Christmas presents which will require no additional expenditure, did you know that Americans spent almost $20 billion mortgaging this year's Christmas with credit cards?

The postman has a stack of bills just waiting. You promised yourself last year you would not do it again this year, but you lied to yourself. Again. You blew the budget. You mortgaged tomorrow for the promise of today.

Satirist Tom Lehrer hit the nail squarely on the head for too many of us when sang about Christmas presents: "It doesn't matter how sincere, nor how heart-felt the spirit. Sentiment will not endear it. What's important is the price!"

Too many people think that unless they have spent an enormous amount of money they have not celebrated Christmas. It's too late now, but before you start next year's buying binge check out all of the things you bought in 1997 that are either broken or discarded and forgotten. Congratulations! You kept up with the Joneses. You are in line right behind them at the credit counselor or the bankruptcy court.

Don't call me Scrooge. I enjoy giving and receiving presents, but I made a commitment to the welfare of my family several years ago if it isn't purchased with cash, it isn't purchased. Period.

Few who work in retail would bewail the commercialization of Christmas, so let me confess. Not because I am a salesman, but because I am a believer in Jesus Christ, I am glad Christmas is commercialized. Anything that is successful will find someone on Madison Avenue trying to cash in on it. I would hate to think that something as wonderful as the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior of the humanity, would be ignored by the world. I would be worried if "they" did not try to make a buck on Christmas.

You do understand that my "wish list" was issued with tongue firmly in cheek. But do save this piece and pull it out next year when you get ready to go shopping. Remember one simple fact (about Christmas in particular and about humanity in general): Toys Are Not Us. Make plans and keep them so that next Christmas, the Guest of Honor will be the Guest of Honor. It is His birthday we celebrate.


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 12/27/97

Copyright 1997 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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