Sunday, December 17, 2006

Does That Stocking Say "Mammy"?

The following piece originally ran as a "Life with the Bootleg Family" segment in my December 17, 2004 column. To say it was one of the more well-received pieces I've ever written would be something of an understatement. Tis the season...

Last Thursday night was not one of The Bootleg's better evenings. And, this time, I don't mean "Bootleg" as a code word from "Cameron Family".

Writer's Block had bludgeoned my brain into bacon fat…and not the warm, drippy kind, but the cold, congealed kind. As Thursday turned to Friday, I was staring at 75% of a column and an increasingly agitated wife who wanted me to come downstairs and view all of the stockings she had hung with great care.

Mrs. Bootleg bought our stockings over the internet from the good people at Pottery Barn. In what should have been a sign of things to come, the first stocking was to say "Jalen's 1st Christmas". Instead, it took three attempts to get them to add the "apostrophes".

The wife ordered ours next and asked that they read "Mommy" and "Daddy". And, yes, I've already asked Mall Santa to bring me back my balls for Christmas.

At a little after midnight, I took the thirteen-step trudge downstairs to bask in the wool-blend brightness of our unstuffed stockings. Mrs. Bootleg, beaming with pride, took several steps back to admire the Kris Kringlesque craftsmanship. For a moment, I was embiggened with pride, as this would be our first holiday together as parents and…

Does that stocking say "MAMMY"?

I took a closer look, since cursive can be confusing (Billy Madison still can't spell "Rizzuto", y'know) and, sure enough, my initial concern had been confirmed. With one wrong letter, The Pottery Barn turned b(l)ack the clock to Hattie McDaniel, Buckwheat and bottles of thick, rich maple syrup.

And, then the laughter started.

I'm not sure if this is one of those nebulous "Black things", but this was quite possibly the funniest thing I've ever seen. I laughed when the wife was typing up an email at 1:00 AM to explain the mistake. I laughed when Pottery Barn acknowledged it was their error, but told us that "A's and O's kind of look alike".

I laughed when my wife was told that they were completely sold out of all makes, models and styles of stockings for the year. I laughed, minutes later, when we agreed to leave it up.

Now, I don't know many mammies with a Master's Degree (although, I'm told Mrs. Cicely Buttersworth is half way to a PhD). But for this, our first Christmas as a family, we'll feast our eyes on this racially insensitive item of festiveness, secure in the knowledge…that we shall overcome.