The Great White T Debate

December 22, 2010

For 12 years now I’ve written a poem for this space each Christmas. I’m not sure why. Real poets likely cringe when they read it, but my kids seem to like it and, let’s face it, when you have teenage girls, anything that doesn’t invite pure derision is worth repeating.

So here is this year’s entry. I call it “The Great White T Debate: Christmas 2010.”


It was weeks before Christmas when the question first came, that query that all fathers dread.

If came from the youngest Mills girl, MC2, who apparently got in her head,

that her father, despite years of proof to contrary, was housing some secret desire,

for a great Christmas gift, something massive and hairy

and in past years he’d just been a liar.


“There is something you want, I just know,” said the girl

“And you’d better not try to revert

to the claim of past years that the gifts held most dear

would be packages of white T-shirts.”


It is true, as she said, that in past years I’d claimed that the one thing I truly desired

was a packet of shirts, basic white, cotton-blend,

No designer label required

And while I can see from the gift-giver’s view

that a T-shirt is hardly exciting.

But a man in mid-years finds a T-shirt from Sears

(white, cotton-blend) downright inviting.


Predictably, Mills Child 2 did not budge on insisting there must be another

perfect gift I could use, a repast from my blues

and at this point she’s joined by her mother


“Well, what about shoes,” said the mom, chiming in

“The ones you have now are atrocious.

They are scuffed, torn and battered, a simple disgrace

And the smell from them, simply ferocious.”


“If it’s shirts that you’ve needed,” my eldest girl pleaded

“at least let us move beyond white.

Maybe something in blue, or a nice pinkish hue,

something sassy and vibrant and bright.”

The debate carried on until just after dawn as the ladies tossed out fresh ideas

of what dads really need, but are too dim to plead

for, unless women make it their biz


They suggested colognes and kerchiefs and CDs and movies and jackets and socks.

Whym they even suggested that the thing I’d love most is a fine, German-made cuckoo clock

Having heard quite enough, dad finally stepped up

to shut down all debate on the matter

He raised up his hand set to pronounce his stand

(which of course did not stop the girls’ patter)


Eventually, someone suggested old dad might have something to add to the mix.

‘cause come Christmas day, he’s the one who will pay

 “so let’s hear him out now, just for kicks.”

So dad spoke his mind (It was not the first time.)

And the ladies stayed quiet at last.


“What I want,” father said, “is exactly as read

on my Christmas list Christmases past.

I do not want kerchiefs, CDs or cologne

And I really don’t want something pink

And a cuckoo clock flown to me clear from Berlin?

That’s an idea that really does stink.”


“What I truly do want, if I may be so blunt

is a Porsche 940, in red.

Or a new Toro mower, complete with a blower and a canopy over my head.

How about a bass boat or a bison fur coat?

Or a chair with a slot for my drink?

Make it leather and huge, have it rowed in from Bruges, have them throw in the whole kitchen sink.”


At that there was silence (a rare time indeed)

As the ladies considered dad’s words

“Of course,” he went on, “I desire those things, but to ask for them would be absurd.

For you see, I have learned there’s a difference in life between wanting and needing a thing

I can want all I want for a fancy new car or a mower or bass boat or bling

But all that I need is right here in this room, standing silent for once in my life

For this Christmas, as always, I know I will be with my beautiful daughters and wife.”


Well, Dad knows when he’s won, so he walked from the room

To give his words some time to sink.

And sure enough, Christmas Day, there were shirts on display

Basic Hanes, cotton blend,

but in pink.