Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
NEGOTIATIONS COME DOWN TO THE WIRE
Mid-December. Time is running out. Without a breakthrough in the stalled negotiations, Christmas morning will be somber indeed.
Each side in the “gift bargaining talks” has called in top lawyers and public relations experts from across the nation. My wife and I have hired former secretary of state James Baker, while our two daughters have put another former secretary of state, Warren Christopher, on their payroll. President Clinton has offered the use of Camp David if it will help the negotiations.
It didn’t have to come to this. Way back in October my wife and I made a good-faith attempt to open up civil discussions. “What do you guys want for Christmas this year?” we asked our kids at dinner.
They replied, “A horse!” “A Porsche!” “A swimming pool!” “Real Estate!”
It was obvious they intended to play hard-ball this year. We said, “No, really. What would you like?”
To our horror, they immediately resorted to classic victimization rhetoric: “It doesn’t matter! You never get us what we want anyway!” With that, they both jumped up from the table and ran to their bedrooms in tears.
“Oh my,” my wife exclaimed, on the verge of tears herself. “It’s not even Halloween yet. They didn’t start crying last year until well into December.”
Responding as sympathetically as possible, I said, “Can I have their pork chops?”
Each year the Christmas gift negotiations get tougher and tougher. I truly long for the good ol’ days when the kids still believed in Santa Claus. On Christmas morning, if one of our little toddlers said, “Gee, Santy Claus didn’t bwing me a Malibu Barbie,” I could explain, “Well, Santa must have run out before he got to our house—you know how those inventory management computers are always screwing up—but at least he brought you some nice new socks!”
At this, our little girl would look at me with a frown and say, “I don’t like socks.” Her sad countenance would last mere moments, however, as my wife would encourage her to resume playing with the brightly colored wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, and empty boxes. Back then it was so easy to please the kids.
But the minute they discovered that Christmas gifts really come from their parents, everything changed. My sweet little girls suddenly began to act like Beverly Hills divorce lawyers—including sunglasses, gold pinky rings, and Gucci loafers.
My wife and I have only two rules about Christmas gifts: they should be appropriate and affordable. We don’t think this is being unreasonable. We refuse to buy our kids junk that will corrupt their morals—such as the latest Eminem CD or, even worse, any book chronicling the Clinton White House. And, of course, affordability speaks for itself: we’d rather not take out a second mortgage or borrow money from Tony Two Toes down at the union hall just to buy a bunch of expensive Christmas gifts.
Our kids, naturally, see things differently. Their legal team spends most of the negotiating sessions arguing that the word “appropriate” is far too vague and subjective, and should be stricken from any agreement. They also spend a great deal of time arguing that since the VISA and MasterCard companies offer me a combined credit limit of $10,000, the word “affordable” must be defined as “maxing out those card buying Christmas presents.”
It’s no fun quarreling hour after hour with a roomful of lawyers. To make matters worse, my kids recently hired Jesse Jackson’s rent-a-mob to protest outside our home chanting, “No presents, no peace!”
Tensions are high throughout the neighborhood, too. My next-door neighbor, Phil, stopped me yesterday and said, “Hey Dunn, resolve this thing, will ya? I hate having that NBC satellite truck parked on my lawn. And I really hate Tom Brokaw knocking on my door every day to use the bathroom.”
During today’s morning session, I thought my kids would back down when I dropped a bombshell: I informed them my legal team was filing the necessary paperwork to put them up for adoption. “It can be finalized by December 23rd,” I said smugly. “Let’s see what kind of presents you get in a state-run foster home.”
But my kids didn’t flinch. The youngest one smiled and said, “Doesn’t matter. Three decades from now, we still make the nursing home decisions.”
I stood up, bowed from the waist, and surrendered my wallet, like Lee handing his sword to Grant.
The girls quickly extracted the credit cards and yelled, “Road trip!”
I made one request as they were leaving. “Before you max out the cards,” I said, “could you please buy me some socks?”
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