It was her Red Ryder moment.
By now, most everyone on the planet has seen “A Christmas Story” roughly 43,000 times. But for the .0001 percent of the population who have not, the movie centers around a young fella named Ralphie, whose sole Christmas wish is a Red Ryder BB gun. When Christmas morning comes, the BB gun isn't under the tree, much to his disappointment. Then, as Christmas day is winding down, Ralphie's dad points out one last present, stuffed behind the curtains. That present? You guessed it – a puppy.
No, kidding, of course. It was the BB gun. Our daughter was not seeking a BB gun. Rather, it was a smart phone. An honest-to-goodness finger-swiping, Internet-having, text-messaging smart phone.
Oh, the problems of a 12-year-old in 2012.
She had been asking for a phone for a while. She had a school trip earlier in the year, and we went ahead and got her a pre-paid flip phone for that journey. Apparently, getting a seventh grader a prepaid flip phone is the equivalent of sending her to school with a giant headgear and Coke-bottle glasses. We assured her she would survive.
But we told her she could, just maybe, earn a smart phone for Christmas. She had several months to build up to it. We used this to your advantage. Any time there was a hint of sass or reluctance to do a chore, her mother or I would just say, “Phone!” Boom – instant compliance.
So leading up to Christmas, Allie was doing her best to stay on the pro-phone track. Room? Cleaned. Dishwasher? Emptied. Little brother? Unpunched.
Come Christmas morning, the kids awoke ready to see what the morning had in store for them. They entered the den and saw their Christmas presents and were charmingly ecstatic about the morning. But there was no phone. And Allie said nothing.
Mid-morning, my in-laws came over, and we opened a few more gifts. Still no phone. And she showed no disappointment. I was proud of her for that – she was appreciative of what she had, not bummed about what she didn't.
Later that day, we went to my parents' house for Christmas dinner. I learned after the fact that she did, in fact, pull my sister aside and confide, “I didn't get a phone.” But, as her aunt said, it was more of a matter-of-fact statement.
We all were settling down for our big family Christmas meal. There were about 20 of us there. My dad was getting to do the traditional family blessing when the rolls began to ring.
Sitting in front of my wife was a basket of rolls, and they started chiming away. My daughter looked over at the sound as everyone stared on. She reached over and picked up the basket of rolls.
“This is buzzing,” she said to her mother.
“Answer the roll,” her aunt said.
She lifted up the napkin underneath the rolls and saw, snuggled safely there, her phone.
She reached in, grabbed the phone and held it up, as the entire table – everyone in on it – applauded. She had earned it, and we were happy to get it to her in a fun way.
I was happy to see her not only get the phone but to show some maturity in how she handled herself Christmas morning when, it appeared, her No. 1 Christmas wish wasn't going to come true. She does have a lot of rules with the phone, the first being that Mom and Dad have 100 percent unfettered access to any and all phone activities. The second is that the image that displays when I call has to be me showing off a Superman shirt, lest any boy who is near her not know that her father is, in fact, from Krypton.
At the end of the day, I'm just happy we were able to create a cool Christmas memory that a little girl can have forever. And I feel confident she will follow the rules set forth on the phone. For one thing, we've already told her the punishment is she misuses her new phone: She has to go back to that flip phone.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama.