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Handcuffs and a jail cell for Christmas

A 12 year-old lad went to jail Dec. 3. As the patrol car drove away, neighbors probably stood around saying, "His poor mother must be so disappointed. Young people these days. What has the world come to?"

Possibly, his mother sat, drapes drawn, asking herself, "What will the neighbors think? Where did I go wrong? How will I explain this to the relatives?"

Very likely, the child rode in silence, not wishing to incriminate himself further. He knew he shouldn't have done it. His grandmother plainly told him not to do it. But in the dizzy moment of decision, the thin line between right and wrong started to undulate, until he didn't know on which side of it he stood.

The Rock Hill, SC Police Department official incident report reads: On 12/03/2006, officers Reid and Smith responded in reference to a juvenile causing problems at his grandmother's house. When officers arrived on the scene, they spoke with the victim [the suspect's grandmother]. She bought a Game Boy and wrapped it for Christmas and placed it under the Christmas tree. She stated she gave specific instructions for the suspect not to bother it because it was a present for Christmas. She advised that she came home and found the present unwrapped.

The horror of it all. I can picture the kid pacing in front of the tree, in place since Thanksgiving, perhaps longer. From the time retailers began decorating for Christmas, back in October, visions of sugarplums had danced in his head, driving him mad. Mad, I say!

It seemed to him, with Fort Mill's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever on Nov. 11, the Cheraw Christmas parade on Nov, 18, Santa Train Rides on Nov. 25, and ChristmasVille in Rock Hill on Nov. 30, that an exciting whirlwind of holiday festivities swirled around him.

By Dec. 3, the suspense over fulfillment of his Christmas wishes had become unbearable torture.

To distract himself, he turned on the television. But there, too, voices and images taunted him with illusions of yuletide pleasures. His thoughts drifted like snowflakes, back to the presents under the glowing arboreal.

He glanced again at the colorful ribbons and bows. The bright lights made his head swim. His eye twitched. A dab of saliva formed at the corner of his mouth.

Yet, he toy-soldiered-up and went to his room to listen to the radio. November 1st he had set it to the all-Christmas-carols-all-the-time station. Still, this merry gentleman was dismayed. How much longer could he sit on his hands every silent night waiting for Kris Kringle? The old guy was slow as Christmas!

Like a candy cane, the boy snapped.

As Jingle Bells played in frenzied static over the airwaves, he ran and grabbed the gift and ripped open the paper.

Later, grandmother discovered the child amidst the remains of the day, blissful in the aftermath of self-abandonment, reveling in relief from prolonged temptation.

She called the police, who booked her grandson on charges of petty larceny.

I confess I've been there. Not to jail, but crawling underneath the tree, checking every tag, shaking every box. When I was 12, while my parents were out, not only did I rearrange all the pretty packages, placing mine in front, I also sent the tree cascading to the floor with a swwwuuuushhh and a crinkling tinkle of bursting ornaments.

That child and I are kindred spirits, both victims of society, duped by the minions of the sinister Christmas creep. The only difference is that my parents didn't have me incarcerated for trespassing and defacing private property.

Web posted on Thursday, December 14, 2006

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