virtual children by Scott Warnock

So this is Christmas?: Ideological smoke

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Christmas 2014, forever to be remembered by me as the year of complete dissolution of internal ideological opposition. A bunch of presents were purchased and exchanged in my house that I did not approve. Yet, it will be the year not that I gave in, but the year I realized I had been giving in for a long time.

When I first contemplated having kids, which was not long after the time I declared I would never have kids, I envisioned myself as being one of those parents when it came to TV. No TV in the house. A little odd maybe, but those TV-less kids always seem so delightfully bright and quirky. Granola. We would live bare bones, maybe move to a cabin.

Here we are. No TV? We may have no cable, but Santa arrived this year with a big ol’ TV. Now I have two big ol’ TVs. In rooms right next to each other. In my house, not cabin.

Of course, why did I need big ol’ TV #2? Let me tell you a one-sentence story to which you, shrewd reader you are, will be able to predict the ending. Once upon I time, I thought my kids would never have video games. Well, Santa, next to the TV was a juicy Xbox One. This goes with or probably supplants that other xBox (uh, I don’t know, 1/2?) and a Wii. If I read my own articles – and why would I? – I would know that video games might even be good for my boys, but I’m still aggravated at my weakness.

My daughter — who, bless her heart, if there is an opposite to the “nice” list is definitely on that other list — got yet another cell phone this year too. A good one. She spent Christmas morning not in a state of wonderment but in an addict-like frenzy on the phone and computer with Apple to get the thing working. Which she did. The next day she declared Christmas 2015 a bust and demanded that some humanoid take her shopping.

So she got an iPhone, but her dad, me, has long declared that Apple is a cult that creates the most overhyped products since the Dallas Cowboys. As I type this, I can hear my iPhone 6 jingling away over there. It might sense the acrimony with some app thing. People are showing me how to operate it.

I guess I am happy about the minus $600 present I got my wife. She hounded me to replace our new ventless fireplace with a new $700 one, even though the one we have wasn’t officially deemed worthless. Two days before Christmas, I got a tech service guy to charge me $90 to validate the old one and reposition the logs. After 14 years with a cold fireplace, she was happy to have it going. This was tempered by the annoyance of the 14 years.

I sat before my new fireplace. The boxes of the digital tools shared the pleasant glow. Staring into the natural gas blaze, did I glimpse a frenzied wisp of fume, but then see it disappear, hear a disembodied screech? Could that have been my ideologies, flammable and acrid, fizzling away? Was it an illusion? I sought confirmation of my vision. The tree towered beside me, but my housemates were all scattered about, looking at their own phantoms on screens. A different kind of ephemerality. Jingle all the way.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.

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7 Responses to “So this is Christmas?: Ideological smoke”

  1. jingle all the way to you SW!
    i broke a firm ideal that i had set since back when i fantasized about a family of my own. “we will always celebrate christmas in a big old fashioned way” this year was the deal breaker: a 9 day trip to San Juan and the Caribbean in celebration of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. we departed ON christmas morning. the thrill is gone. its the first christmas that i had no pretending to do with 2 @the age of 13 now. no special wrapping paper, no audible bells in the distance, it just wasnt christmas.
    i envy your low-cost solution to spousal gift giving and want you to know that a little piece of my ideology was left behind in Old San Juan. we had the time of our lives on a crazy expensive blowout family vacation, but another part of me wanted to be home staring at the ornaments on a tree. no worries, it will take another 50 years for us to afford a fete like that again!

  2. If you never scribble another line in your life, you can feel satisfied that you hit the pinnacle of accuracy, irony, and pithiness in this one sentence:

    “So she got an iPhone, but her dad, me, has long declared that Apple is a cult that creates the most overhyped products since the Dallas Cowboys.”

    You should frame this construct as a legendary synopsis of an eternal truth. Congratulations!

  3. haha.

  4. I was first introduced to the concept that Christmas was an overhyped commercialized marketing event when I was in 8th grade, and wrote a report that basically, I now know, plagiarized the article I was supposedly reviewing (or summarizing–I guess for Xmas, that would be winterizing). Then Tom Lehrer, late in the fabled ’60s, singing, “God rest ye merry merchantmen, collect your Yuletide pay,” and the church I was raised in (Unitarian Universalist) giving a have-it-both-ways one thumb up one thumb down assessment of Christmas. Scott, your article shows that with some things, only the names–I mean, brands–change. Merry Xmas!

  5. Scott, remember this, eventually they will leave your nest. They may have families of their own and you will laugh hysterically when they complain about their children. This is every parents payback.

    Meanwhile, be glad you only have one girl. Mike walked out of Michael Kors and Macy’s looking concussed after spending approx. $1000 in purses(one of these was mine though). Jill, bless her heart was ecstatic with a very nice new camera(that will get her out of the house).

    Don’t sweat the material stuff. From what I have read, it sounds like you have very real family vacations still.

  6. We’ve al been there with you. Count your Christmas blessings my friend. My house witnessed the unwrapping of 3 iphone 6’s – and I only have two kids. The nagging question on all of your reader’s minds is “Did his poor wife really put up with that as her Christmas present?” Now that would be a Christmas miracle. I am sure she counts her blessings daily that you are in her life. (Who doesn’t?) But hopefully you stepped it up just a bit more than your article suggests.
    Just in case – Valentine’s Day is the 14th of February.

  7. PS – 2 years until we are ObamaFree!

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