Monday, July 03, 2006


When I was growing up my daddy was pretty visible in the community. His job required that he do a lot of PR work - spots on the local morning show, public service announcements, speeches at the Rotary Club, etc. So for him being in front of a camera or in front of a group was pretty much par for the course. And because being in the public eye of a small Southern town was all Daddy knew, he didn't put much thought into "image." He just wore what he wore - and if there happened to be a spot on his shirt when he taped a segment for TV, then there was just a spot on his shirt. He could've cared less.

One day Mama and I were watching the news, and Daddy, wearing his Favorite Ugly Sweater, was being interviewed about something like tomato plants or Japanese beetles or soil erosion. Riveting stuff. And as we were watching, we noticed that the fox which sat over the breastpocket and signified that This Sweater Is A Fine Utilitarian Garment From JCPenney was askew. Sort of like the fox decided to make a run for it, and, as he attempted his escape, accidentally caught his back left leg in one of the loose threads.

Anyway, like any Southern woman worth her salt would do, Mama immediately decided that she had to rectify the situation. When Daddy got home and changed clothes, Mama picked up the sweater (sidenote: my daddy has never carried anything to the laundry room IN HIS LIFE - I'm not even sure he knows where it is) and brought it to my room. Mama carefully removed the injured fox, only to find a hole behind it. The fox, sadly, could not be salvaged - we had to put him down.

Which left us with an unattractive, hole-y sweater (I'm SO wanting to insert a bad pun right here with the whole hole-y word it's tempting). And you're thinking, Why not throw it away? Well, I will tell you: because my mama is a child of the Depression, that's why, and she doesn't throw away ANYTHING. In fact, when I was unpacking boxes at Mama and Daddy's new house last summer, I discovered that she had moved a pint of expired buttermilk from the old house to the new one. I found it on ice. In a cooler. I guess so that it didn't get MORE ruined? But I digress.

So Mama and I decided that there was a very simple solution to the wounded fox / hole problem (hurts. not. to. make. pun.), one that would significantly up Daddy's fashion IQ AND save the sweater. We would simply cover the hole by performing an emblem transplant: carefully removing an alligator from one of my brother's tattered Izod shirts and then transferring it to Daddy's sweater. And that is just what we did. Oh, we were so proud of ourselves. Daddy was none the wiser, but much more stylish. Or so we thought.

Two weeks later. Daddy was on TV again, explaining the proper way to root a cutting from a hydrangea or fertilize an azalea or whatever. Wearing The Sweater, of course. Mama and I were relieved since Daddy's sweater was now sporting an alligator and not the much-maligned fox. It had all been so simple. Crafty, in fact. Until the camera zoomed in for a close-up of whatever Daddy was holding. And we saw it. And we froze.

Because the alligator, you see, was upside down. Like some sort of County Extension Service gangsta sign, warning all the 4-H agents that the county agents, THEY DON'T PLAY.

All I could do was sort of gesture toward the TV screen and say, "Mama. Mama? MAMA!"

When she realized that the alligator was about 180 degrees off its target, she just shook her head and said, "Well, that figures."

And just in case you're wondering? Daddy still has that sweater. Upside down alligator and all. I think it suits him that way.


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