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  • Saturday, December 11, 2004


    With two Ugandans, you get a Ginzu knife, so act now.
    Our operators are standing by.

    Well now we know why America's Worst Mother™ took last week off. For those who have observed the hilarious hijinks of Meghan, Mr. Meghan, as well as the little Gurdlings (Crustacea, Hazel Tov, Lienterry, and Bong) we have always marveled at their ability to live in a house that is continually falling down around their noggins. Doors that stick, doorbells that don't work, faulty wiring, overflowing toilets (also known as the "lavatory" if one wants to appear tres chic, plumbing-wise), and now power outages and dying computers.

    First there is panic, and a whacking noise as someone bangs the keys and they availeth not. Then comes disbelief and repeated cries of, "this is ridiculous," and "I don't believe it," and "oh, man, what am I going to do?" A short period of grieving follows, as you reflect on all the unanswered e-mails and unfinished proposals for articles and bestselling trilogies that died with the hard drive, and then — O bliss! — comes acceptance and liberation. The reproachful e-mails have vanished into the ether; long passages of hard-won, too-clever prose have vaporized, and you are free! You can be born again in Version 10.3.6!

    Meanwhile, it is the fourth week in November and however much the Macintosh people would like to set up a new computer for you, Mrs. Gurdon, it's a busy time of year and, well, would late next week be all right?

    It is. As a result, Thanksgiving weekend is wonderfully quiet. The streets are deserted, and when we come in from bracing outdoor walks, not once do we find a phone message that needs returning. With no e-mails, there's no temptation to crouch before the glowing screen, surfing aimlessly. In fact, the hum of technology is so markedly absent that for a few days we return to a kind of pre-industrial agrarian existence, inasmuch as such a thing is possible in an urban townhouse. Out come the board games.

    Yes, nothing quite brings the family together like huddling around the table in the soot-blackened kitchen playing Risk (where the object is to invade countries, kill their leaders, and convert their gamepieces to Christianity) by kerosene light. But lest we think that the Gurdon's have gone completely native we learn that prior to the shutdown of all of the twentieth century's amenities, Meghan and the kids apparently were watching the Home Shopping Channel and impulsively bought themselves their own African (from Sally Struthers we imagine).

    "I am thankful for blueberries," Phoebe remarks as she digs her fork into a slice of pumpkin pie.

    "I am thankful for my family," says Violet loyally, and everyone loudly seconds her.

    "I'm thankful about Lawrence," Molly puts in. Lawrence is a seven-year-old whose education we recently began sponsoring.

    "Me too," Paris says. "But where is he going to sleep?"

    "He's not going to sleep here," Molly laughs. "He lives in Uganda, silly."

    Yes, Lawrence, whom Meghan will later rename Bok Choi, is in the midst of getting a good Christian education in Uganda courtesy of the Gurdons, where he will learn that, if he does get to come to America, he will live a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care as long as the woodpile is kept stocked, he fixes the computer, and he doesn't look Crustacea in the eye.

    But wait! Did the Gurdon's do their due diligence regarding Lawrence with the same care a certain President did when he picked a certain bullet-headed former cop to make sure that no foreigners get into our country unless they have really really good nanny skills?

    Paris takes a swipe at her, and then turns to me, worried. "I was going to ask you something about him."

    The phone rings, and my husband goes out of the room to get it.

    "Please may I have more pie?"

    "First finish the — "

    "Oh, yes!" Paris remembers. "Is Lawrence a Democrat?"

    "Paris, how can it — " I begin, dismayed, thinking that now it really has gone too far, this partisanship that surrounds us, that an eight-year-old boy would want to know the politics of a boy living in Kampala. How can it matter, why would he ask such a thing? Then it occurs to me that I don't actually know.

    "Why do you ask?"

    "Because if he is," Paris says cheerfully, pulling out of his pocket an Altoids box decorated with a kicking donkey which someone gave my husband at the Democratic convention, "he might like this as a present!"

    "You," I say with relief, grabbing my son and giving him a squeeze, "are a fantastic boy."

    Because nothing says "I care about you, my little African friend", like a used mint tin. Maybe Lawrence can use it as luggage when he comes to America. Providing Michelle Malkin lets him in....

    Next week: Lawrence is traded for Esperanza in Columbia and a preschooler to be named later.


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