One Bad Apple

When my kids were little, Hanukah was big. So big, that among my four kids, not one of them wished they celebrated Christmas. It was BIG Hanukah. We celebrated all eight nights, each of the four children receiving a gift, sometimes multiple gifts. We had theme nights; homemade gift nights, even mom’s night, when each of the kids gave presents to me.

I would shop all year long making sure I have just the right presents for just the right kid. Back then, a big bird stuffed animal might be the highlight of the holiday. My kids would tear the wrapping paper open with relish, as it revealed Spiderman tooth brushes, Dora the Explorer towels, or a Barney See and Say.

Even as the kids grew older, their hobbies and interests remained in scale with my budget. As Barney gave way to Transformers and coloring books gave way to origami kits, Hanukah remained big on the kid’s calendar. No matter the time of year, if any of the kids wanted something, they would say “Mom can I get it for Hanukkah?”

That’s how things were, until my kids discovered Apple. Gone were the days of the Acme MP3 player. The kids had discovered Apple and nothing less wouldn’t do.

“What about a Nintendo game” I asked as the holiday was approaching.

“Nobody plays with that game anymore mom,” said my 11-year-old in disgust.

I looked away ashamed “What about the Sony PSP? Didn’t you say you wanted one of those last month?

“Mom everyone has an iTouch.”

In that moment I felt the earth shifting beneath my feet. For the first time in my adult life I had entered the generation gap, that space between what’s in what’s out, what’s hip and what’s not, what’s today and what’s so yesterday. I prided myself on having my fingers on the pulse of pop culture. No matter what I offered up, it was only iTouch that could meet the electronic needs of the teenagers in my house.

I felt crushed. All of my plans, the pile of gifts I had amassed throughout the year, meant nothing compared to that glistening handheld electronic device.

After my son asked, so follow my daughter. It not just a want, but a need to have an iTouch, need so great, that not even the promise of getting one in the future could quell the unbridled lust to have one now.

I considered their requests. I considered my budget. As their request became more like a demand, I felt less and less inclined to cave in to the pressure. Furthermore, although their brother had not asked for one, I didn’t want to give two of them this very expensive gift while leaving out their brother. None of that mattered in the end though, because at over $200 apiece, the gift became prohibitive.

As the holidays approached, it became evident that no gift I could give would be adequate. The participants in this year’s Hanukkah would surely be disappointed to receive anything that did not don the Apple logo.

Being the savvy preteens that they were, my son and daughter doubled down and made sure their request was heard not just by me but by my ex as well.

About a week before Hanukkah, two of my kids came bounding into the house with their shiny new iTouches. No, they had not forgotten their brother, a plastic bag hung by the door was a used Sony PSP just for him.

My ex, who didn’t have enough money to put gas in her car, managed to procure two new iTouches under questionable circumstances.

As the holidays came and went, my son that got the Sony PSP became increasingly disturbed. His new Guinness book of world records and the gift card for Dunkin’ Donuts did not abate the feelings that he had somehow been cheated.

Soon after, his teacher at school contacted me because my son was protesting the expression of any holiday cheer at school. The singing of Christmas carols, and lunchroom talk about the pending arrival of Santa were met by protests of intolerance. His mood was deteriorating rapidly and the only thing that would heal his broken spirit would have to come directly from the Apple Store.

I made a decision to right the wrongs of my ex and dipped into my savings and bought my son an Apple iTouch. He was near tears as he saw the icon glistening under the wrapping paper and hugged and kissed me numerous times while he proceeded to download free apps.

As it was Christmas Eve, his happiness over his iTouch added to a feeling of merriment and goodwill. The following morning everyone was in a good mood and periodically throughout the day my son came to me and would tell me about the latest free app that he had downloaded. I half listened as we prepared for family dinner and at a one point even said to him “enough with the free apps leave me alone.”

After dinner my daughter approached me and tried to tell me that her brother was downloading apps that weren’t free.

“What I know from apps? Leave me alone and stay out of your brother’s business.” I said to her as we ate desert.

Later as we relaxed around the fireplace my daughter approached me again and said my son was purchasing hundreds of dollars’ worth of apps.

“He said they’re free,” I snapped at her.

“Well they’re not,” she said.

Upon further investigation I discovered that indeed he had purchased numerous apps, so many apps in fact that my stepdaughter had to write them all down. In total, he had purchased just under $450 worth of apps, among these were ring tones for a phone he does not possess, numerous videos of DVDs we already owned, an application to turn your iTouch into a piano and the entire collection of every Simpsons episode ever made.

The death knell of the holidays had rung. I took to my bed as everybody cleaned up the dinner dishes.

Every so often there would be a knock at my bedroom door. I would answer for them to come in and as if they were offering condolences, they would gently open the door and stand in the doorway and ask if I was okay, then they would offer some words of encouragement.

“Are you ok?” asked my wife.

“Can I get you anything?” asked my daughter.

Then suddenly, as if the tides that finally changed, someone came in and said my stepdaughter had contacted Apple and was told that if I sent them a list of the charges made on my account they would credit me for everything I had charged.

The next day I sat at my computer and ran off a list of the apps that were purchased. I put them in an envelope enclosed with a small note stating that my 11-year-old son had purchased these apps without my knowledge and I was told that I could get credit. There was something sheepish to the tone of my note. Perhaps it was my own guilt for allowing my son to use my iTunes account and Apple ID. Nonetheless it was $450 that I didn’t have to spare

My son’s attitude was less sheepish. First he claimed not to know what he had done. Later he said he had lost control and it wasn’t his fault. Finally he out right blamed me and made no excuse for himself. He then called my ex and had himself picked up. For his part it was a good plan because there was no living with me until that $450 was put back in my bank account.

Ultimately it was the good folks at J.P. Morgan Chase that refund my money. The people at Apple had less compassion for my plight and offered me a credit for the Simpsons videos and a couple of songs.

My son lost use of his iTouch for several months and within a week upon getting it back he brought it with him somewhere and it was stolen. It was March by then and my Hanukkah suffering had no end in sight, so I bought him a used iTouch from eBay and told him it was his lucky day, not to asked for anything else and to put the whole ugly mess behind us. But within a week the iTouch stop working. I returned it and purchased another used one which lasted about eight months at which time he discovered how to hack into the little gadget and promptly broke it.

He was never quite right after that. He lost his faith in himself and discovered that broken things cannot always be replaced.

Nearly a year later, his uncle gave him an iTouch for a gift. My son was ecstatic. He had nearly a death grip on that little hand held device. He used it to take photos, set up a twitter feed, watch videos and listen to music. He fell asleep at night with the device still in his hands. That’s why it came as such a shock to me when out of the blue he claimed to have lost his iTouch.

“Where did you have it? When did you use it last? Why can’t you remember?” I shot out at him.

“I was jumped,” he said.

“Jumped?” I repeated in disbelief.

“Yeah,” he said with a little more confidence.

[this story ends here]

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