What Falls on the Child in the House Stays in the House

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comBy now, you’ve probably seen the video of the 2-year-old being rescued by his twin brother after a dresser fell on him.

In case you haven’t, let me recap it for you:

The video looks to be shot from some kind of a video camera or what people call a “nanny cam.” This is a device that lets parents watch little Johnny on a little screen instead of watching him in real life.

Anyway, the two kids were climbing in and out of the dresser’s drawers when it tipped over and trapped one of them underneath. In a few seconds, the other boy pushed the dresser off of his brother, and another internet phenomenon was born.

For the record, count me in the growing number of people who suspect the video may have been staged. I’m no Columbo, but the drawers were empty and the video camera was aimed at the dresser.

Of course, the parents did what everyone does these days. They posted the video on Facebook.

“We were hesitant to post this video initially,” Ricky Shoff, the father was quoted in a CNN story, “but a lot of parents have probably made the same mistake that we made: (They) don’t have their furniture secure or bolted to a wall.”

He went on to say, “Our house is very childproof. We are really cautious about all this stuff, so it never really crossed our minds that something like this could happen.”

I know exactly what’s crossing these parents’ minds.

Let’s see what we have here.

Two toddlers apparently narrowly escape serious injury.

The parents watch the video.

They post it on Facebook.

Then they hit the talk show circuit.

NBC said the video highlighted “furniture danger.”

I guess gravity could not be reached for comment.

Assuming these kids’ guardian angels don’t hit the road for an easier gig, they will grow up, watch the video and wonder why the parents ever made it public in the first place.

This has Menendez brothers written all over it.

Of course, accidents do happen — even to the best of us.

When Grant was 15 months or so, I had brought him home from daycare after work. Kim hadn’t gotten home yet.

I was in the kitchen when I heard a crash from the living room.

Under the felled Christmas tree, I could see a little hand and foot flailing about as a cascade of ornaments danced around on the floor.

It looked like the Hallmark store ate my child in the living room then threw up.

After setting the tree back up and getting most of the sap out of Grant’s hair, we began the process of trying to cover up the unfortunate incident before mom got home.

We had our story straight: I wasn’t talking, and he didn’t know how to.

Of course, it was a hatchet job. Kim didn’t have her shoes off before she noticed how the ornaments were crammed haphazardly on the tree. Or, maybe she noticed the sap in the hair first, I don’t remember.

The bottom line is, we kept it to ourselves.

What falls on the child in the house stays in the house.

Facebook didn’t exist, and even if it had, I wouldn’t have posted the video showing me as the bungling idiot who let a tree fall on my child.

George Stephanopoulos didn’t call. Katie Couric didn’t call. Anderson Cooper didn’t call.

I didn’t blame gravity. 

I didn’t blame the tree or the tree stand. I didn’t blame Kim for being at work. I didn’t blame the daycare for letting me bring him home in the first place. I didn’t blame the Germans for inventing the Christmas tree 500 years ago.

I took the blame, learned something in the process and kept my mouth shut about it.

Sometimes, gravity happens. And there’s no need to tell the world for 20 years or so.

I Must Confess, I Had a Glimmer of Hope

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.com(Wednesday 8 a.m.)

Almost a year ago, I wrote about how I expected to win the historic $300 million Powerball drawing.

I said that as soon as I finished writing the column I was going to go buy my winning ticket.

Of course, I didn’t buy one. I knew I wasn’t going to when I said I was. I take a little poetic license every now and then to make the story more interesting.

You wouldn’t read it if I didn’t.

Come on, if The Partridge Family had owned a Roto-Rooter franchise in Peoria would anyone have watched? Of course not.

But today is different. I really do have two Powerball tickets for tonight’s drawing. In a peculiarly uncharacteristic move, my mother-in-law gave them to me on Christmas.

I’m not sure which is more unusual: the fact that she bought lottery tickets in the first place or the fact that she gave them to me on Christmas day, which was on a Sunday no less. It may be time to have her seen about, but I cannot worry myself with that today.

All I am concerned with today is passing the time until 10:59 p.m., because that’s when the good folks at Powerball draw the numbers. I fully expect to win.

There is only one problem.

The jackpot is only $60 million.

When I saw that number on a lottery billboard yesterday, I was genuinely a little disappointed.

Sixty million paltry dollars.

Before taxes!

I wanted to win $300 million, remember? That’s what the jackpot was a year ago.

This is a mere 20 percent of that.

I wonder if the big check they will present me at the press conference will be 80 percent smaller than the check they gave those nimrods last January who won $300 million?

Even if I do win it, there is no guarantee it will be all mine. I may have to share it with someone else whose mother-in-law also bought them tickets for Christmas.

I’m an only child to begin with, so sharing is not an activity I partake in with much gusto, but the thought of having to split a measly jackpot like $60 million two ways is unthinkable.

I’m not even sure third cousins would come out of the woodwork for a share of $30 million.

Plus, I believe I told my mother-in-law I would give her back her $2 if I won. I was joking, but if she holds my feet to the fire about it, there go two more bucks up in smoke.

I suppose I could survive on my take, but don’t get me wrong, I would much prefer the cushion — and the multiple Ferraris — that $300 million would provide.

(Wednesday, 10:59 p.m.)

Well, guess whose 2001 Dodge truck is still in the driveway where his Ferrari belongs?

When I said I fully expected to win, I guess I was exaggerating again. But, I must admit I did have some glimmer of hope that those bouncy-bouncy little ping pong balls would have my numbers on them.

The next time someone calls me a cynic, I am going to whip out this story.

To make myself feel better, I did some research and learned the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338.

The odds of someone being struck by lightning twice in their lifetime are 1 in 9 million, which is 32 times more likely than winning Powerball.

Nobody won the jackpot last night, by the way. I didn’t hear about anyone getting struck by lightning either, so I guess it’s a wash.

I’m usually pretty realistic when it comes to things like this. So don’t look for me in line to buy a lottery ticket. 

If someone gives me one, I will happily take it. 

But if I win, you’ll never see me out in the middle of a field dancing around on the hood of my Ferrari if a dark cloud is approaching.

Hey, 2016, Don’t Let The Door Hit You…

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comAlmost a year ago, I watched the ball drop in Times Square signaling the hope and promise of 2016.

Just like every year, television cameras captured shivering revelers kissing each other, popping champagne and dancing in the streets of Manhattan.

I’ll bet it didn’t take them long to feel pretty dumb.

I’ve never been one to think that a new year would change much of anything. I’ve always considered it just another day — but one with lots of football.

But this New Year’s eve, ladies and gentlemen, don’t try to reach me, because I will be somewhere shouting the countdown and leading the conga line.

This 366-day train wreck we called 2016 is nearly over, and I for one cannot wait.

We cannot put this year in rice. It’s beyond repair.

You don’t believe me?

Consider this:

  • Let’s get the main one out of the way right off the bat. The election cycle which featured the two most unpopular candidates in American history brought out the worst in all of us, caused an increase in hate crimes against minorities and showed the world our bare backside in our worst moment. Plus, it was infinitely too long. Hopefully, Americans will not allow this travesty ever to happen again.
  • Zika. Apparently, we needed another reason to dislike mosquitoes.
  • Contaminated drinking water in several US cities including Flint, Mich., and Corpus Christi, Texas, looked more like scenes from an undeveloped country.
  • The mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando took 49 innocent lives. We cannot fix the gun problem in America until we agree on whether or not we have a gun problem in the first place. Between 2000 and 2014, there were 160 worldwide mass shootings. Of that number, 130 occurred in the US. Maybe someone will come up with a solution in 2017.
  • Prince dying was especially sad for me. He was always one of my favorite artists and he was definitely the most underrated guitarist in rock history. Twenty-sixteen was a terrible year for celebrity deaths. A few that were notable for me: Glen Frey, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, and most recently, George Michael.
  • the battle of Aleppo. We — as well as most of the world — have ignored the Syrian civil war for 5 years, but the pictures and reports of genocide in Aleppo this year are horrifying. Too bad Syria doesn’t produce enough crude oil to get us involved.  
  • Good old 2016 also gave us fake news websites — or at least brought them to the forefront of the national conversation. I am not going to publicize any by name, but the same one that was responsible for the story claiming the democratic party ran a child sex operation out of a pizza restaurant also claims the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax. I’m not sure what infuriates me more: people who write this garbage or the people who read, share and/or believe it. 
  • Of course, Tennessee had way more than its fair share of natural disasters. A year-long drought of seemingly Biblical proportion paved the way for the deadly wildfires, which finally were put out by the same storm system that brought tornadoes.
  • Lots of people got in a snit about the whole gender-neutral bathroom controversy. Twenty-sixteen truly was the year of the controversy. As long as so many people’s lives revolve around social media, that trend, sadly, isn’t going to change regardless of what the calendar says.

I wanted to be fair, so I researched to find some good things that happened this year. 

I learned that the wild tiger population went up. And, the giant Panda is no longer endangered. That’s good, I suppose, unless all those extra tigers decide Panda burgers sound yummy.

It was a good year for Cubs fans. 

Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl.

Then he retired. Thanks again, 2016.

I guess the best news is that you and I survived it. Let’s be thankful for that. 

But, let’s also hold open the door so 2016 can exit quickly, and we can start doing the conga.

Like Magic, Holiday Spirit Arrives Each Year

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI am going to attempt to take a few days off after Christmas.

My goal is to unplug as much as someone can in the 21st century. Since my self-awareness is better than my willpower, however, I know I’ll struggle to step away from my electronic devices.

But at the very least, I plan to absolve myself of as many of my normal responsibilities as possible for a couple of weeks.

To do that, I have to work ahead. Among other things, that means writing this column ahead of time.

I started writing this installment for Christmas during the first week of December.

That turned out to be a big mistake.

I usually write something sappy at Christmas, but I wasn’t in a sappy mood, so I decided I would take the humor route and write a satirical letter to Santa.

I had the formula all figured out.

I began by thanking that jolly old elf for how good he had been to me over the years. 

Then I chided him for the go-cart I still haven’t received. Although he has brought some pretty neat stuff down my chimney for as long as I can remember, he never won the big one, so to speak. 

Then I started making a list of famous people and the gifts I think they deserve. Naturally, I had Donald and Hillary in there. I also included Nick Saban, the New England Patriots and the Kardashians.

After I had suggested that Santa give lumps of coal eight or nine times in a row, I realized it wasn’t funny. I continued to struggle with it a couple more days, thinking I could somehow salvage it. Nothing is more deflating to me than to spend time working on something, then realize it cannot be saved.

The more I toyed with it, the more sarcastic and cynical it sounded.

It had a whole lot more Ebenezer Scrooge than it had Jimmy Stewart. It wasn’t very Christmasy.

I deleted it.

Of course, I know what my problem was. I never should’ve tried writing anything to do with Christmas before I was in the Christmas spirit.

I once toured RCA Studio B in Nashville, where Elvis recorded a Christmas album. Because he was recording in July, he had the people in charge turn down the air conditioning as low as it would go and put up Christmas decorations.

Maybe it worked for The King, but I have never been able to manufacture the Christmas spirit. But year after year, it always manages to happen.

This year, it hit me at church.

The brass and glass Christmas candlesticks at the ends of the pews were lit, and the sanctuary was decorated. We sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

It’s hard to sing, “glory to the new born king” four times in a row and not feel something.

It’s also hard to sing those hymns and not think about the past.

For how many children’s church Christmas programs did I dress up in a bathrobe with someone’s cane and join my fellow children in telling the Christmas story?

We always ended with “Joy to the World.” And everyone was transformed.

I have always thought it is miraculous how the spirit of the season magically overtakes nearly all of us this time of year. It truly is a special phenomenon that defies explanation.

It transcends religion. Nearly everyone catches the spirit in their own way.

It exudes hope, love and peace. It benefits us all.

It gives us a gentleness. Hopefully it gives us an opportunity to love one another.

I wish you all a joyous holiday season.

And Santa, if you’re reading this, you can officially forget the go-cart thing.

Instead, just bring us all the peace you can fit on your sleigh.

You Are Now Entering the Dad Joke Zone

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comThis aging thing is for the birds. 

Gravity is the enemy. Time is the enemy. Clothes shrink uncontrollably.

It isn’t easy, but I’ve come to grips with most of it. And I have complained here about my ever-expanding forehead and various other unpleasant physical changes.

The other night, though I got blindsided. 

I’ve never thought of myself as an overly talented person, but I have always had a knack for making people laugh.

Since I was pre-school age, I have known I possessed this ability.

In fact, at a high school reunion just a few years ago, one of my friends told me my sense of humor is what he always remembers about me.

I am afraid, however, that my humor is nearing its expiration date.

A few nights ago, I was talking with a few people at a social gathering. During the course of the conversation, I made a comment I thought was pretty funny, but no one laughed.

Then, I joked about how no one laughed at my original joke.

A young lady in the group (who wasn’t all that young) said, “It was funny, but it was a dad joke.”

Huh?

I wasn’t 100 percent sure exactly what she meant, but I had a pretty good idea. Certainly, I knew it wasn’t meant as a compliment.

So I looked up the definition of a dad joke.

Wikipedia says, “The dad joke is a pejorative term used to describe a corny, unfunny, or predictable joke, typically a pun. Generally inoffensive, dad jokes are traditionally told by fathers among family, either with sincere humorous intent, or to intentionally provoke a negative reaction to its ‘dagginess.’”

Then I looked up dagginess. It means not trendy, out of fashion, uncool. Obviously, I was too uncool to know what dagginess meant.

Well, isn’t this just great news.

If I had known my sense of humor was going to go out of style nearly as quickly as my Member’s Only jacket, I would’ve kept up those piano lessons in the third grade.

To add insult to injury, over the weekend, my 22-year-old son said people my age who like contemporary pop music are thought of among his generation as “creepy.”

That was right after I corrected him for saying Taylor Swift had a song called “Bad Love.”

The song is titled “Bad Blood.”

Everybody knows that, right?

I don’t think liking some contemporary music makes me creepy. It’s not like I’m getting ear gauges and hanging out at a hookah lounge.

I like Taylor Swift. Of course, I cannot relate to her lyrics the way most of her fans do, but t I still appreciate the way she can write fun, hooky pop songs.

That’s pretty much all pop music is supposed to be, anyway.

What happened to “age is just a number?” In this case, it seems more like “age is just a number, and the bigger your number the more repulsive you become.”

I thought I was witty and in-touch with society. Turns out now I’m unfunny — and creepy to boot.

I’m probably on some dad joke database somewhere that precludes me from living within 300 feet where cool people congregate. I should check to see if I’ve been banned from going to the mall on weekend nights.

I should get a flower that squirts water or an exploding cigar.

On the other hand, I’ve been known to over react from time to time. Maybe that’s what I’m doing now. Maybe I’m putting too much stock in other peoples’ opinions.

I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I’m going to stay the course. I’m going to keep saying the things I think are funny and hope it makes people laugh. If the millennials don’t get it, that’s not my problem.

It’s like Taylor says, “haters gonna hate.”

A Loaf of White Bread, Because it’s My Birthday

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comMy birthday is right around the corner, and I know exactly what I want.

A loaf of white bread.

I know, I know. You were probably expecting me to say world peace, reduced greenhouse gas emissions or a Tennessee Vol defense that allows fewer than 700 yards per game.

That’s the stuff dreams are made of all right, but I am making it easy on my loved ones this year.

Of course, I need a pair of a shoes, but what fun is that? It’s my birthday. I should get something I want — not something I need.

And all I want is a loaf of white bread. Here’s why.

The other night, I saw a bottle of Karo Light Corn Syrup at one of my favorite restaurants, which triggered a childhood memory.

When I was growing up, we had dessert after every meal. Usually it was cake or pie. Sometimes it might be pudding or ice cream. On those rare occasions when we didn’t have a dessert sitting around, we improvised.

My favorite improvisation was what we called Karo and bread.

Daddy would give everyone a piece of white bread, butter it, cut it into nine pieces like a tic-tac-toe board and pour Karo syrup on it.

It was sweet, creamy and sticky. It was delicious. It was delightful.

I would eat the four corner pieces first to get them out of the way because they had the most crust. Then I would eat the four remaining outside pieces, saving the center piece for last. It was the one with the most butter, the most syrup and no crust.

Nowadays in our house, we eat whole wheat bread, just like all other good health-conscious folks. Karo and bread doesn’t translate to whole wheat bread.

It’s my birthday. I get to make one exception.

Besides, one loaf of white bread won’t kill me. I probably won’t even eat all of it.

I fully believe my request will trigger your generosity, which certainly is already buckling under the weight of all this Christmas spirit.

So, in order to keep bread truck after bread truck from lining up down my street, and thereby making my neighbors mad at me, I have made a list of alternative birthday gifts I will also happily accept.

  • a gallon of whole milk. I dearly love milk, and I drink skim like it’s going out of style. But let’s face it, when I slather up that white bread with butter and Karo syrup, I’m going to need whole milk to wash it down. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to go all the way.
  • plugs that work either way you put them in the receptacle. I’m convinced I get it wrong about 99 out of a hundred times.
  • the fortitude to delete the old emails in my inbox which have no chance of never being relevant again.
  • someone to help me eat the super economy-size cereal I bought last week. I’m the only one in the house who eats cereal, which means I should’ve passed by it at Sam’s Club the other night. But I was hungry, and I just couldn’t. So I now have a double-wide box with two huge bags filled with cereal. I’ve been eating on it daily and have barely made a dent in it. 
  • a helium-filled hula hoop. I tried hula hooping the other day — 40 years too late, apparently.

I make this silly list to illustrate the point that like most of you, I don’t really need any more material things. In fact, I would love to downsize.

Just give me a celebratory meal, and I’ll be happy.

And for dessert, you already know what I fully intend to have.

Only You Know How to Define a Tragedy

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.com(Note: This column was written before tornadoes struck Southeast Tennessee earlier this week, which is why they are not referenced.)

What is a tragedy?

I have asked myself that question many times since January 28, 1986. That was the day space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into flight, killing all seven crew members on board.

I’ve referenced this story before, because it marked a turning point in my development as an adult. It forced me to think about things outside my own little world.

I was sitting in a journalism class at The University of Tennessee when the news of the Challenger explosion came over the Associated Press news wire.

As the professor discussed this story and how it should be handled, my mind wandered ahead to my next class which involved me going to the WUTK radio studios and creating a newscast for a broadcast class I was taking.

Every Tuesday and Thursday I would create my newscast script by arranging the stories in order of importance, cutting the fluff and pasting the facts.

Most days it was rote, but that day would be different. That day, I would be breaking the news of the Challenger disaster to everyone listening to the station. I’m not sure how many listeners there were, but even if there was only one, he or she would get my best effort.

I snapped back into the moment and asked the professor something like, “Can this be called a tragedy?”

He looked back at me over his glasses and said, “What are you going to call it when 100 people die?”

So I didn’t call it a tragedy on the radio that day; but I sensed in my gut it was one.

I’ve used that same “tragedy filter” the journalism professor gave me that day many times over the years as I have examined seemingly-tragic news stories. And as I grow older — and see more of it — I realize that tragedy isn’t something someone tells you it is.

Tragedy is not something that can be quantified.

Tragedy is a feeling in your gut.

We’ve had more than our fair share of tragic events in my bone-dry neck of the woods lately.

As you already know, six children from Woodmore Elementary School in Chattanooga lost their lives last week when their bus left the road, flipped on its side and hit a tree. The video footage of devastated parents and loved ones, educators, and members of the Woodmore community is heartbreaking.

Around the same time in my town, two children drowned in a swimming pool and left our community in shock.

Personally, I cannot stop envisioning the empty seats at those Thanksgiving tables. In all actuality, though, they probably weren’t celebrating Thanksgiving in those homes.

Those are tragedies.

As I write this, numerous buildings and countless acres around Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park continue to burn as wildfires rage out of control. People are missing and feared dead.

One of the pictures in the Knoxville newspaper showed an armageddon-like nighttime Gatlinburg street scene with smoke and ash contrasting with the big light-up plastic snowflake decorations attached to light poles.

We won’t know how big of a tragedy it is until the smoke clears.

But it is one.

Lately, the bad news continues to come seemingly out of nowhere — here at home, nationally, and of course, abroad.

All those situations are someone’s tragedy. Some of them should be all of ours.

I didn’t realize it then, but I now understand the professor wasn’t trying to be insensitive to the Challenger situation. He was trying to get us to put perspective on a news story. Taking it further, he was trying to teach us to deliver the facts and not label stories as tragedies or triumphs.

Maybe that’s a good lesson in journalism fundamentals, but out here in the real world, tragedies are easy to spot.

You feel them in your gut; and, lately we’ve felt plenty.

Don’t Worry, It Gets Mushy at the End

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comIsn’t it just dandy how everybody is suddenly in a Thanksgiving mood?

We’re all slapping each other on the back and hugging, and doing all the other things people do this time of a year. We’re watching the parade and football games. We’re clogging up good ol’ Facebook with well wishes and family photos.

We’re happier than a bird with a french fry.

Did I miss something?

For the past year we’ve been at each other’s throats on a continually-escalating basis. We’ve hidden behind our iWhatevers and said things we wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face. We’ve belittled each other. We’ve shared fake news stories as the truth when we knew better. 

We have ruined friendships and harmed our business relationships. We’ve put hateful signs on our cars and trucks for the sole purpose of irritating the person who got stuck behind us in traffic.

We’ve gloated, retaliated, threatened and fumed.

And now, poof. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! Love ya! When do we eat?

I find it unbelievable. But, I have three possible reasons why it is happening.

The first one is a long shot, but maybe this simply is a modern-day Thanksgiving miracle. Maybe this Thanksgiving is exactly like that fabled first Thanksgiving when governor William Bradford and the rest of the Plymouth colony crew invited the Wampanoag tribe to share the bounty of their better-than-usual harvest.

From what I understand, they ate a multitude of fruits and vegetables, duck, geese and deer. Some accounts say it went on for 3 days. I guess that was before black Friday came and messed up the 4-day weekend.

Second, maybe we’re just sick and tired of bickering with each other. Maybe we’re like two characters in a western who get into a saloon brawl that goes on for 15 minutes and ends with one of them hitting the other on top of the head with a bottle as they sit semi-conscious side by side, slumped against a wall.

Or third, maybe we have come to realize that this slop jar full of current events isn’t the only important thing in our lives. Maybe it only took a whiff of turkey and dressing to help us remember we have family we love. We have good friends (although probably not as many as we had 6 months ago). We have jobs to do and hobbies we enjoy. 

Most of us probably have a pretty good life — and certainly all of us have better things to do than mindlessly hanging out on social media just waiting to pounce on whomever dares to knock us off our soapboxes.

Life goes on after an election and its aftermath. It goes on after a ballplayer protests the National Anthem. It goes on in the age of gender-neutral bathrooms.

Life goes on. I truly believe we forgot that for a while.

I suppose if we are, in fact, using Thanksgiving as inspiration to try and make peace, the reason is probably a combination of these three ideas.

Who knows, maybe we’ve hit rock bottom and we are going to be reborn as that “kinder, gentler nation” the first President Bush mentioned.

Yeah, right — kinder and gentler until someone grabs the last black Friday $29 television out from under us at Wal-Mart.

I’m not going to leave you on that note, however.

Instead, I want to thank each of you for putting up with my collection of ramblings each week. I am constantly humbled when you come up to me or email me to tell me you enjoy reading it. I also appreciate it when you tell me you didn’t enjoy something, but not nearly as much. Mostly, I’m just glad you read it.

I also want to thank the editors at the newspapers who run my column. You folks do an important and difficult job, and it’s only going to get more difficult. Keep fighting the good fight.

Happy Thanksgiving. When do we eat?

What Lurks in the Package on the Porch?

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI don’t like surprises.

I trace it back to an incident during our class Christmas party in elementary school when I was 9 or 10.

For weeks, we looked forward to the gift exchange with great excitement. Then on the day of the party, we eyed those 30 or so wrapped presents sitting under the tree while we inhaled our cupcakes and punch. The anticipation was palpable.

As the teacher started handing out the gifts, everyone tore into theirs immediately.

When she brought me mine, I ripped off the paper with great fervor and prepared myself to be indebted forever to the mother of whichever boy in the class had drawn my name.

That package would be a great toy. That package would renew my faith in mankind. That package would give me something to do during the nightly Watergate coverage on the news.

That package turned out to be a Slinky.

Cue the Grinch.

A Slinky. The worst toy in the history of the world. 

Why couldn’t it have just been a lump of coal, for heaven’s sake? At least with a lump of coal I could light it on fire and watch it burn.

While all the other boys marveled at their model airplane kit or Matchbox fire engine, and the girls played with their new doll or Chinese checkers set, I sat there shoveling my Slinky from hand to hand.

Let me tell you, that “slinkety sound” gets drowned out pretty quickly in a classroom full of kids with a sugar buzz who are shooting up the place with their brand new cap pistols.

That surprise was a bust. And, I think it did irreparable damage.

One evening last week, I heard a commotion in front of the house. 

When I looked out the window, I saw a FedEx truck parked out in the road. I assumed he was bringing something to a neighbor. We hadn’t ordered anything.

I kept looking at the truck until the driver emerged with the package. From a size standpoint it was all he could carry — probably 3 feet square and 8 inches deep.

Wow, I thought. Somebody is going to have to make room for whatever that is.

Then I realized he was coming straight toward me.

What? This can’t be. Did I already mention we didn’t order anything? 

He crossed the sidewalk and shoved it on the porch.

I quickly stepped away from the window out of sight.

“Kim, have you ordered anything?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“FedEx just left a package on the porch. A big one.”

The truck rumbled off.

I crept back to the little windows next to the door and peeped through the drape with one eye, in case it was a trojan horse full of little Jehovah’s Witnesses who were about to pop out and ambush me.

I backed up into the foyer and wracked my brain, wondering what it could be.

“I’ll bet he left it here by mistake.”

I snuck up to the window it again. This time I saw my name on the label. By then, my heart was thumping fast, and I couldn’t figure out whether I should just go on out and get it or go google “package-a-phobia” and look for a support group in my area.

I couldn’t see any air holes, which ruled out the Jehovah’s Witness trojan horse theory and also make it unlikely that someone had enrolled me in the Woodland Creature of the Month Club.

I brought it in the house.

It turned out to be our pictures from our church directory photo shoot.

Actually, I was thrilled to see them, and I hope I learned something in the process.

The next time I receive a package, I’m going to try and remember this nice surprise instead of the Slinky incident.

A Poem About Birds, of all Things

Ibarry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comn light of the merciful end to this election, I had intended on not filing a column this week.

Since my deadline is noon on Tuesday, I couldn’t rehash the outcome — which I didn’t want to do anyway, because you cannot honestly want to read another opinion about it, can you?

Besides, what could I say that you haven’t already thought yourself? 

I’ve already written my “don’t go and whack the other guy in the head” column. If you missed it, the moral of the story was simple: when it’s over, we must move on as hard as that’s going to be. We don’t have a choice.

This election cycle did have one bright spot for me. It made me think about my mother quite a bit. She was always consumed by current events — especially politics. I don’t know if she loved it or hated it, but she was passionate about it. Of course, I know how she would’ve felt about this one.

She would watch all the television news digest shows, with a partiality to the ones where the people sat around the big desk and discussed everything that happened inside the Beltway.

Then she would call me up and rant when someone made some statement she found egregious, which was quite often. I found it best to listen and let her get it out of her system.

She was a patriot — a card-carrying daughter of the American Revolution, a child of the depression and a teenager who watched the boys in her class leave to fight World War II.

Mama was invested. She took it seriously.

And, it was something of hers that Kim discovered last week when we were going through some of her things that made me rethink skipping the column this week.

Yes, we are still going through her belongings, even though she died more than 3 years ago. She had a lot of stuff. 

What Kim found was a first draft of a poem about birds scribbled on a scratch pad and stuffed in a little catch-all box that used to sit in her kitchen.

A poem about birds, of all things.

Mama loved to write. She wrote her life story, complete with her upbringing, and her views on religion and of course, politics. She even compiled her mother’s stories, and we published them in a little book many years ago.

She also loved to write poetry, regardless of the subject matter. From a tribute to her ancestors to “Ode to a Birdcage,” no subject was spared. She even wrote a poem for a preacher she dearly loved when he moved away.

After we read the rough draft, Kim discovered the finished product was written in her poem book and titled “Summer Residents.”

I like this draft better than what ended up in the book, and I want to share it.

I wonder how many generations of robins have hopped across my lawn?

They were here when Barry rode his tricycle up and down the walk, and when we sat on the porch and watched the summer sunsets.

Perhaps they were here when cotton grew where Ft. Hampton Street now is, or where wild cherries and sweet gums showed their blazing colors in the October sun.

I wonder how many more springs they will grace my yard. I wonder. (Helen M. Currin, 1990)

I know it’s just a little poem about birds (and me), but for some reason it and the other poems in her book were a refreshing change of pace for a few minutes.

That’s what art does, I suppose. It helps us escape.

I didn’t find it a moment too soon.

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