Catching Up on Christmas Past

Austin American-Statesman, December 26, 2012

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Excitement filled the air as the hogs eagerly waited at the starting line.

There’s nothing like the day after Christmas for reading those family newsletters you didn’t have time to read before today. Reconnecting with those we care about is part of the holiday season. We want to hear how family and friends are doing and to share how we’re doing.

But we’ve all gotten those letters we can’t finish, either because they’re too long or too full of news of young Ella’s nauseating excellence. No. People are far more interested in hearing of one’s failure, misery, suffering and humiliation.

In honor of the 20-year anniversary of the Inglis Annual Report, I thought I’d share select sections from years past.

From 1995:

This year, (my son) Burton (Knight) graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Horticulture. One day, I was warming up something for our lunch and muttered under my breath, “I wonder how microwaves work.”

“Well, you see, specific wavelengths that scientists classify as microwaves are generated, and they scatter randomly,” Burton explained. “If these wavelengths crash into something large enough, they excite the object’s water molecules to spin, producing heat as kinetic energy. If the object in the oven is smaller than the microwaves, it is not affected — like cockroaches, for example.”

“How do you know?” I asked, fearing the answer.

Keep in mind that this is the university that is famous for a certain ROTC sergeant who attracted national attention by biting off the head of a chicken to demonstrate a point in class.

“We tried it in genetics class,” he answered. “The little devils ran around in there as if nothing were happening for as long as we’d ‘wave ‘em.”

From 1997:

One evening while having dinner with Susan and Jim Sigmon, out of nowhere Ian reflected, “I’ve often thought what torture it would be to be forced to empty an oil pan by using solely the dipstick.”

A memorably awkward silence followed during which Burton whispered, “I think we have just been given a rare and stunning panoramic view into the complexity of Ian’s psyche.”

Breaking the silence, Jim said animatedly, “DIPSTICK! Isn’t that a dip-[s___] who turns right in front of you without a turn signal?!”

From 2002:

Ian’s still the incurable romantic. While dining out on our anniversary, he excused himself from the table. When he returned, he presented me affectionately with a long-stemmed white, stunningly exotic flower with spikey petals. Deeply moved, yet mystified how he could have produced this exquisite flower at a restaurant, I asked him where he got it. Never one to embellish the truth, he answered, “I found it on the floor of the men’s room.”

From 2006:

We went to the Texas State Fair this year. My favorite part (besides Fletcher’s corny dogs) are the hog races. Excitement filled the air as the hogs eagerly waited at the starting line: Pjörk, Alfred Hitchhock, Leonardo DiPigrio, Oprah Swinefrey, Kevin Bacon, Snoop HoggyHog, Jean-Claude Van Hamme and Arnold Schnoutenheimer.

With a loud bang, they were off in a dead run. People were cheering wildly when suddenly tragedy struck. Oprah Swinefrey — who, poor thing, was utterly full from lactating, looking like she had just given birth to at least a dozen piglets — slipped on a patch of slick sawdust and crashed down onto her side. Everyone gasped and rose; you could hear a pin drop in the indoor arena.

In an act of untold bravery and determination, Oprah struggled back onto her hooves and took off racing again, crossing the finish line a good 15 seconds after the last hog. The crowd went wild! Kevin Bacon came in first, but Oprah was clearly the winner.

The 1994 report ended with: “As I look at the family portrait, I realize I’m a part of something important, something special, something that I hope one day can be controlled by medication.”

Toni Inglis, MSN, RN, CNS, FAAN, is a lifelong Austin resident and retired editor and neonatal intensive care nurse. She writes a monthly opinion column for the Austin American-Statesman editorial page.