Dec 26

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Dave’s Fireside Chats – Anatomy of a Christmas Picture, or Days of Whines and Poses

     The Chinese are a clever people, bestowing upon the world many useful inventions, including paper, fireworks, moo goo gai pan, and freeze tag.  In the world of arts and literature, the Chinese also gave us Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and his lesser known work, The Book of Cutesy Sayings.  One of Mr. Tzu’s best sayings was the classic, “a picture paints a thousand words”, which basically means that artists like to talk about themselves.  No, I’m sorry that was rude.  But, seriously, it does mean that, in any given oil painting or photograph or crayon drawing, there are, literally, a thousand different words that speak to the viewer about a work’s meaning and background.  The handful of times that I have actually visited an art museum, I have tried in vain to discover the “thousand words” hidden in the works before me.  One time, I even resorted to putting my ear up to a painting like one would a seashell, but the only words I heard was a security guard clearing his throat.

awkward-family-christmas     One of the easiest artistic works to understand comes by the thousands to our mailboxes during the month of December:  the family Christmas card.  Well-dressed, smiling families sending you a thousand words of  warm holiday greetings.  But wait.  What’s that sound?  The roaring of the ocean?  Put your ear to the back of the Christmas card and you can hear the following words:


     The other 943 words are, unfortunately, not for tender ears.  These holiday pleasantries are, of course, uttered by THE CHRISTMAS MOTHER (Chinese symbol: a bullwhip wrapped around a megaphone), a person that, at certain times during the holiday season, bears a strong resemblance to the lovely woman that you married.  Now look closer at all those family Christmas cards, behind the smiles and the sweaters.  You will notice that the Christmas mother is always at the center of the photo, and that she simultaneously has an “encouraging” finger pointed in the back of each member of her family.  Before you say that this is not physically possible, I will remind you that this is the same woman that also has eyes in the back of her head and has the strength of ten men during childbirth.

     The holidays are a very stressful time for the Christmas mother, because there is a lot at stake for her.  By the time Christmas rolls around, she has endured stomach viruses, piano recitals, her husband’s old college buddies, potty accidents (from her children and the college buddies), and carburetor failure, and she desperately wants to end the year on a good note.  Behind the smiles, her family Christmas picture is saying – “I SURVIVED ANOTHER YEAR.  I WON”.  Of course, the main obstacle to accomplishing this is – the family itself.

     The Christmas mother is also engaged in a private war with her best friend, Mary Ann Tignor.  It was Mary Ann Tignor who got pregnant first.  It was Mary Ann Tignor’s husband who got a big fat promotion.  It was Mary Ann Tignor who got that amazing hairstyle that everyone raved about for 2 months.  It was Mary Ann Tignor who started “The War of the Cute Christmas Cards”  And while Christmas mother cannot do anything about a first pregnancy or a promotion or naturally curly hair, she can darn well try to win the annual Christmas card battle.  Like two holiday queens, they stare at each other from across the Christmas chessboard and assemble their pawns…

“The King is only fond of words, and cannot translate them into deeds.” 
― Sun TzuThe Art of War

“Why don’t we just have a simple Christmas card this year, with season’s greetings and a nice Bible verse?”  asks the husband, not knowing of the warfare going on around him.  The Christmas mother laughs evilly and accuses her husband of having a crush on Mary Ann Tignor in college.  She then points to the Christmas card picture date circled in red on the calendar and points to the fresh new Christmas sweaters hanging in the closet.  After all, any simpleton can have a Christmas card with “Season’s Greetings” and a Bible verse.  We need to show her, er, I mean the world, just how wonderful our family really is.

“It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results.”
― Sun TzuThe Art of War

“Darling, I have some problems with your plan.  Number one, your friend, Mary Ann, is not home, and I barely know her husband.  Number two, hunting season hasn’t started yet, and, if I am not mistaken, the Tignors are vegetarians.  It’s going to look real strange when I knock on his door to talk about white tailed deer.”  says the husband, greatly concerned about the look in his wife’s eye.  “You just get me in the door and delay him for about 10 minutes.  I’ll handle the rest.”  replies the Christmas mother.  And so, en route to the “bathroom”, the Christmas mother sneaks into the master bedroom and quickly rummages through the closet.  “There they are!  The Christmas card outfits!  Ho ho, green velour with white lace accents.  How very bold, Mary Ann!  But, I see your velour and raise you……………..red corduroy with snowmen!”

“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“GET ALL OF YOUR CARCASSES IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW!  WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE FOR A PICTURE THAT I TOLD YOU ABOUT 3 MONTHS AGO!  ALL I ASK FROM THIS FAMILY IS JUST ONE THING EVERY YEAR – A SMILE!   IS THAT SO HARD?  TIMMY QUIT STRETCHING YOUR SWEATER AND TELL YOUR FATHER TO QUIT CRYING!  Wait a minute, the mail just came.  Ah, Mary Ann’s Christmas card!  Let’s see how cute…………..what the hey?  They’re all wearing red corduroy with snowmen!  Aaaaarrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!”

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”
Sun-Tzu, A Arte da Guerra

“Honey?  Honey?  Cmon, sweetie you’ve been in the bedroom for 3 days.  Tomorrow is Christmas Eve!  Anyway, I went down to the dollar store and got some Christmas cards, since we haven’t sent any out yet.  Very nice season’s greetings with a manger scene on the front.  I would address them, but I promised Bill Tignor that I would take him on his first hunting trip today.  Oh, and Mary Ann called to invite us to their Christmas Eve party.”

“There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. ”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War


“Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Permanent link to this article: http://conversaving.com/2012/12/26/daves-fireside-chats-anatomy-of-a-christmas-picture-or-days-of-whines-and-poses/

1 comment

  1. Jenni

    I had to laugh despite my best efforts to refrain. You are hilarious Mr. Allen

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