Backstory: A Father's Day gift I will pay for

For me, it will be waffles in bed, doting attention from my wife and two sons, and a flat-screen TV I never wanted.

For the past year, I have been under heavy pressure from my wife, Judy, and sons, Danny, 15, and Noah, 11, to buy a large, flat-screen high-definition television. This is America, after all, and while a decent meal is a luxury in most of the world, a high definition television is a dire necessity here.

I resisted. First, our 20-year-old, 19-inch Sony still worked as well as it did the day we bought it during the Reagan administration. Second, the screen, be it television, computer, or GameBoy, was already proving wildly attractive to the kids, and we were struggling daily to limit "screen time," as we call it here in the burbs. Why make the experience even better?

But Judy had a secret plan: buy Dad a large, flat-screen TV for Father's Day, the very set he'd been resisting vigorously for a year. Unfortunately for her, she shared this plan with Noah. Letting a child under the age of 12 in on a secret is like, and I'm just throwing this out off the top of my head, the vice president of the United States suggesting, albeit indirectly and with coded hand signals, that his top aide drop the name of an undercover CIA agent to Time magazine. In short, word is bound to leak out.

Now, aside from the plan being doomed from the moment it was shared with Noah, you have to admire the cynical beauty of it. Dad wakes up on Father's Day and is plied with a waffle-and-bacon breakfast in bed before being allowed downstairs, where the cable guy is furiously working to connect the thing. Dad waddles in and ... voila! "Happy Father's Day!" shout two delighted children and one slightly embarrassed wife. And to make the plot even more delicious, when the MasterCard bill comes, Dad will write the check. It's like something out of a John Le Carré novel.

Now, as I said, the plot was foiled because an 11-year-old in possession of a secret is dying, just dying, to tell someone else, preferably the one person he shouldn't. Nevertheless, this morning, after breakfast in bed, I will waddle downstairs and turn on our new 40-inch, flat-screen, high-definition TV. You see, when I realized that Judy was so desperate to fill this technological void in our lives, I took pity on her and bought the thing myself. With that behind us, what I'm really hoping for this morning is that new Mix Master I've always wanted.

Peter Zheutlin is a freelance writer in Boston.

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