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Education Matters: Recalling Christmas gifts past

December 24, 2010

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

One of the more unusual Christmas gifts I've ever received came from a student several years back. It was a 2-foot high Bing Crosby in a Santa suit with a pipe in one hand and a microphone clutched in the other. Touching a button at his feet gets Bing's knees bending, hips swiveling, head moving side to side and an oversized jaw dropping in unison to a familiar voice singing familiar songs.

All of this is highly entertaining for the first 10 performances. At approximately 100 renditions of "White Christmas," there comes over me a seasonal urge to strangle Bing or, better yet, offer up another Yule log for the fire. But that will never happen given the exalted status of "family tradition" the little fellow has attained.

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After Christmas, when spirits wane and batteries fade, he is carefully packed away in his own little padded box and stored in the garage for 11 months, after which time his return engagements are guaranteed in Christmas perpetuity — or as long as his voice and working parts hold out.

This Christmas Bing has gone through two sets of batteries, with his newest admirers being my two 1-year-old grandchildren, each delighted in their ability to animate him, pushing his button over and over and over again. Both the boy, Kai, and the girl, Siena, are just beginning to stand on their own and when they do, they are eye level with their mechanical friend.

Seeing the two of them dipping their knees while the crooner sings "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is very likely the cutest thing I have ever seen, and it's also a beautiful reminder that a sense of music comes upon us all very early in our lives.

When I think back to other memorable Christmas gifts in my life, the first that comes to mind is a wrapped package twice the size of a 7-year-old boy and it sat under the tree for two weeks before Christmas. How well I remember the agony of not knowing, mixed with the ecstasy of anticipation. What I learned when I finally unwrapped the present, which turned out to be five large Tonka trucks, was that nothing of this earth could have possibly matched my soaring expectations.

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