Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
December 24, 2001
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times
, Greensboro, NC.
On the Friday before Christmas I visited my daughter's second-grade class at Irving Park
Elementary. The students made up this story about how things can go wrong at Christmas.
Jasmine's Missing Christmas Present
Jasmine was eight years old the Christmas when she got nothing.
She and her eight brothers and sisters were all at Grandma's house along with so many
cousins there must have been thirty kids and a dozen grownups. "Good thing this is a big old
house," said Grandma, "cause there's sure a lot of you."
Good thing this house has a big old chimney, thought Jasmine, so Santa can get down
here with all the loot for thirty kids. Not that all of them deserved presents, but one thing for
sure: Jasmine knew she had been good, so she was a lock on that Playstation 2 she'd asked for.
But on Christmas morning, when all the presents were open, there wasn't a thing for
Her brothers and sisters and the cousins had got such a haul. One of the cousins had a
gas-powered remote-control car. Another had a Game Boy Advance. One of her sisters had a
stereo. Her biggest brother, Todd, had an X-Box. Jasmine had zip.
"I don't know what happened," said her mother.
"Maybe Santa got mugged," said one of her brothers.
"You poor baby," said Grandma.
"Maybe somebody's credit cards got maxed out just one gift shy," said a helpful uncle.
"Maybe somebody has so many children they lost count," said a funny aunt.
"Maybe somebody wants all the air let out of their tires," said Daddy.
"Jasmine, sweety," said Mama, "what do you want me to do, take away one of the other
kids' gifts and give it to you instead?"
"Yes," said Jasmine.
That was not the answer Mama expected, but she knew that any parent who asks a kid a
question deserves whatever answer they get. "Well, who should lose their gift?" she asked.
"Todd," said Jasmine. "I know that X-Box was really for me."
Mama started in about how she couldn't just take it away, but Todd swallowed hard and
said, "She can have it, I don't mind."
Jasmine said, "Thank you, Todd!" and sat right down in front of the TV. She picked up
the controller. It must have weighed more than the baby. And when she tried to aim the
weapons in "Halo," they never shot where she thought she was aiming. She died about ten times,
right off. She just couldn't get the hang of it.
"Help me!" she said to Todd.
"Here, I'll show you," said Todd. He sat down and started blasting things left and right.
He never seemed to miss. "See?" he said. "It's easy."
Fifteen minutes later he was still playing, and Jasmine knew that the X-Box was really for
him after all. She stomped off to her room, got out her four best dolls, which she had brought
along in her suitcase so they could have Christmas tea with Grandma's beautiful old tea set.
"I think Santa's getting old and just forgot," said the prettiest doll, Princess Cecily.
"I think X-Box games are too hard for little children," said Queebage, the baby doll.
"I think Jasmine must have been really really bad for Santa to give her nothing at all for
Christmas," said Razzmatazz, the cheerleader Barbie.
"I was not," said Jasmine. "I was very good."
"I think you must have done all kinds of mean things in secret," said Razzmatazz. "I
think you must be a really nasty girl or Santa wouldn't stiff you like that."
"Is that what you think?" said Jasmine angrily. "Well, this is my tea party and you can
just sit outside in the cold in your cute little cheerleader skirt!" Jasmine stomped to the window
and a moment later, Razzmatazz was beating on the glass with her tiny little hands, shouting
"I'm sorry I'm sorry let me back in I'm freezing!" but Jasmine was not feeling merciful.
Right at that moment, though, Grandma appeared in the doorway. "I heard what that doll
was saying and I have to tell you, Jasmine, if you're the kind of girl who puts a doll outside on a
cold day like this, maybe she was right!"
"Sorry, Grandma," said Jasmine, and she let Razzmatazz back inside. But Razz wasn't
speaking to her now and Jasmine didn't want any more tea parties with friends who thought it
was all her fault.
Besides, there was a mystery to be solved. No way Santa didn't plan to bring her a
Playstation 2. So it must have got dropped somewhere. Like behind the couch.
No, not behind the couch, or under it, or behind anything else in the living room, or under
anything else. No, the only place that Playstation 2 could be was stuck in the chimney.
Trouble was, Grandma's first words to children entering her house were always the same.
"Don't you even think of opening that fireplace curtain and getting soot on yourself and tracking
it all over this house! Don't you even get close enough for your shadow to get in the ashes!"
How could Jasmine look for her missing gift if she couldn't go near the fireplace? She
was tempted. And that temptation pulled her closer and closer to the fireplace.
Meanwhile, here's what really happened on Christmas Eve. Santa had to bring so many
presents down that chimney that just as Jasmine figured, the Playstation 2 fell out, slid past him,
and landed smack! down on the fireplace grate. But then Santa, in trying to grab for it, lost his
hold and fell down hard, stomping the Playstation box and busting it to smithereens.
Well, he put in a call on his cellphone for the repair elves -- because elves are the only
people who actually know how to repair electronic equipment -- and they were supposed to get
there well before morning, only they hopped on a trainee reindeer and it was too inexperienced to
know you always check the address.
So the reindeer took them to Jasmine's house instead of Grandma's, and by the time they
finally got to the right place it was morning. They only had time to haul the PS2 up the chimney
to make repairs in the dark.
There stood Jasmine, thinking about sin, when the fireplace curtain flew open and plop,
down came a box containing a Playstation 2. It didn't touch the ashes, however.
Fwoop. Out it came, skimming over the floor, but it didn't touch the carpet either. When
it stopped, all of a sudden two elves scooted out from under it and the box plopped onto the floor.
The elves looked up at Jasmine and said, "Sh!" Then they scampered back to the
fireplace and flew up the chimney.
Jasmine had just noticed the tiny sooty footprints the elves had made on Grandma's
carpet when she heard Grandma's voice. "Child, what do you think you're doing with that
fireplace curtain opened?"
"It wasn't me, Grandma, it was elves!" cried Jasmine.
"No wonder you didn't get a present this year if you lie like that," said Grandma. "Look
at those little spots of black on the carpet. If you tell me elves --"
"But I did get a present," said Jasmine. "Look, a Playstation 2, just like I asked for."
Grandma looked. "Oh my," she said. "That proves you're a good girl after all. So I
guess those little black marks on my carpet must have made themselves."
So Jasmine had a merry Christmas after all, and because she was a good girl she even let
Razzmatazz watch while she absolutely rocked with Sonic the Hedgehog.
One quick review. "Fellowship of the Ring" isn't just a good adaptation of the first
volume of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." It's an excellent film, moving and thrilling, scary and
magical and full of nobility and comedy and tragedy and brilliant acting and gorgeous settings.
The trickery that gives us half-size hobbits is so effective you have to force yourself to remember
that Elijah Wood and Sean Astin are actually full-size adults. But you won't be thinking about
that, because the filmmakers concentrated on what really matters: They put storytelling first.