I was driving along and listening to Christmas carols on the radio, and I started thinking back to those wonderful days when I was a kid and we used to draw names for the annual class Christmas party.
What a blast that was. What fun to share Christmas gifts with your classmates.
A bunch of cheap, ungrateful toads, all of them.
In the third grade Alvin Bates got my name. Alvin Bates was the kind of kid who would bring a candy bar for afternoon recess and then lick it all over before taking a bite so nobody would ask him to share it.
In the third grade Alvin Bates gave me one of those stupid wooden paddles with the balls and the rubber strings attached. You hit the stupid ball with the stupid paddle and the stupid ball, attached to the rubber string, comes back and you hit it again.
Terrific. Fun for any awkward child under six. For fifty-nine cents, which is exactly what Alvin Bates shelled out for the paddle and the ball, he could have brought me something useful and educational, like a copy of Stag magazine they kept on the back shelf at the drugstore.
Stag was nothing compared to the magazines they have today, but in 1954, seeing a picture of a lady in a girdle could make your month.
Later I reaped revenge. I drew Alvin’s name in the fourth grade, and I gave him a subscription to Boy’s Life. Anybody caught reading Boy’s Life was obviously a complete a) mama’s boy, b) nerd, c) sissy, d) wimp, e) fruit, f) several other things I can’t mention here.
"Hey, Four-Eyes," we used to taunt Alvin on the playground, "what’s the centerfold this month in Boy’s Life? Picture of a pup tent?"
Alvin spent most of his fourth-grade year crying.
In the fifth grade, Frankie Garfield, the school bully, drew my name.
Having your name drawn by Frankie Garfield was both good and bad. The bad part was Frankie’s usual gift wouldn’t exactly fit under the class tree.
The good part was Frankie’s gift was a promise he wouldn’t beat you up for at least a week.
"I let you live, Duck-Face," Frankie would say.
The worst thing that ever happened to me, though, was in the sixth grade when Cordie Mae Poovey, the ugliest and meanest girl in my school, drew my name.
Cordie Mae was from a poor family, and she never had much money to spend on a gift. A pair of socks, I figured. Or a box of peanut brittle.
Worse. I opened my gift from Cordie Mae, and all I found was an envelope with a note inside that read, "Merry Christmas. I give you the gift of love. One (1) kiss and (1) hug. Meet me after school. Cordie Mae."
I’d kiss a pig first. And Cordie Mae was as strong as she smelled. She could break a couple of ribs.
After school I ran as fast as I could, but she finally chased me down, hammerlocked me, and then planted one right on my mouth. Smmmmmmmack!
"How’d you like that, big boy," asked Cordie Mae.
"Ever smooched with a moose?" I answered.
"Ever been run over by a herd of reindeer?" replied Cordie Mae, who had no sense of humor whatsoever.
The swelling in my nose went down in a couple of days, but it was a week before my eyes opened again.
Lewis Grizzard was a syndicated columnist, who took pride in his Southern roots and often wrote about them. This column is part of a collection of his work.