Mary and I have this running joke: whenever one of us wins something, especially if it’s useless, the other will say, “it’s a major award!” That refers, of course, to the movie A Christmas Story, which runs on one of Ted Turner’s stations (TBS, TNT, TCM, etc.) continuously all day on Christmas. At one point, Ralphie’s father, whom he calls “The Old Man,” wins one of the contests he’s always entering, and his prize, or “major award,” is a lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg, complete with fishnet stocking and high heeled shoe. He wants to show it off to the neighborhood, while his wife wants to hide it in the attic. In this scene, he’s standing outside in the freezing cold, directing his wife how to position it.
I have never won a lady’s leg lamp, and most of the things I’ve won have been small potatoes: A trophy for being a member of the winning intramural basketball team at St. Ignatius Grammar School, a couple of $20 prizes for matching three numbers in the Illinois Lottery when it first began, a night of roller skating courtesy of the Greenville Braves (I didn’t collect; with me, it would have turned into a night of falling on my ass), and several things in a raffle for a cat rescue organization that have been lost over the years.
One time, Mary and I were visiting my mom and her husband at their summer home in Delavan, Wisconsin, and one of the neighbors came by with one of those ten-by-ten grids where you buy a square and enter your name, then you win money based on the last digit of the scores of a football game. It was $1 a square, and I bought five. Mary was a little peeved by it. “That’s right, five dollars down the drain!” I decided to put her name in the squares. She ended up winning about $40 off that, which I pocketed.
Then there was the Mu Alpha Theta math contest.
Six of us took algebra in eighth grade. One Friday afternoon, our teacher told us to come in early on Monday to participate in a math contest. As I remember, I got there just in time to do the test, handed it in, and forgot about it.
Several weeks passed, and one afternoon, Sister Rosemary, our homeroom teacher, announces that our team placed first in the competition, and of all the kids that took the test (I think there were fifty schools altogether, so it was out of about 300 kids), I had come in second. I got lots of applause from my classmates, and I was suitably embarrassed out of my mind.
I went home and told Mom, and she congratulated me and said “what do you get?” No one had told me about any prizes, so I shrugged. “Just the glory of winning, I guess.” And, once again, I forgot about it.
Until three weeks later, when we were summoned to the office to receive the plaque from Mu Theta Alpha for our victory, and I received a huge trophy for my second place. Really, the thing was up to my waist. I don’t know about everyone else, but when I have to walk home with something like that, I feel like a real idiot.
Anyway, I got home and showed it to Mom, who immediately put it on the mantel in the living room. A couple of years later, we moved, and Mom had shelves built where we could put all our trophies, because we no longer had a mantel to put them on. I usually sat with my back to it.
Oh, and I met the guy who came in first place. He was the kid who sat in front of me in freshman year of high school. He told me his trophy was almost as tall as he was, and yes, he felt like an idiot taking it home, too.
As you’ve probably guessed, this was an entry for Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop. She has all the rules here.