Written by Tom Deighan, LPS Superintendent
Before anyone gets too excited, the giant, red-haired man running around Lawton in green felt and yellow tights is not Elf from the classic Christmas movie. He is just my lifelong friend and childhood hero, Toby Dawn McIntyre engaging in one of his strange Yuletide traditions. Each year, at dusk on the 12th of December, Toby Dawn emerges from his secret lair dressed as a Christmas elf, and he does not break character until midnight on Christmas Eve, exactly twelve days later. Like all traditions, Toby Dawn’s elfish obsession has a history, but lacking time and therapists, suffice it to say that Toby’s fifth-grade play imploded, forever crippling Toby’s impressionable mind with a debilitating case of dodecaphobia (the lesser cousin to triskaidekaphobia).
Toby was twelve years old and played one of the 12 elves in the Irving Elementary adaptation of The Twelve Days of Christmas . . . on the 12th of December, 1982. I was cast as a fat Christmas pudding, so I saw it all, firsthand. Thirty-five years later, certain Christmas carols are still banned in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where the smell of smoke has long since faded, and everyone survived with minimal scars. Each year since, however, Toby Dawn has ushered in Christmas dressed as a giant elf, believing himself a sentry guarding against the evil unleashed that night. “I do it for the children, Tommy Boy.” A little dramatic, perhaps, but as an eyewitness to the chaos of that dark December night, I believe that Toby Dawn’s curly-toed shoes protect us all.
We all have our own peculiar Christmas customs, and as you can imagine, the McIntyre’s have a few bobbles hanging in their tree that would surprise Santa himself. Most curious is their insistence on cooking everything in the microwave during Christmas gatherings, including the signature stuffed turkey. Several complex storylines explain the annual “nuke nummies,” but the bottom line: McIntyres have no patience, a trait Toby affirmed after we picked up his elf outfit from the cleaners and stopped off for an instant lunch at the local gas station. “Where’s that new Eisenhower Middle School . . . and the safe rooms . . . and everything else you promised, Mr. Superintendent?” I tried to explain timelines as he placed the frozen burrito into the communal microwave. “Excuses! My cousins and I won this election for you, and we are holding your feet to the fire, Tommy Boy!”
The election is not yet a month behind us, but the LPS Board of Education already votes this week on the first resolution authorizing the sale of bonds. We have polled the community through email and social media regarding how everyone wishes to keep informed. The principals are meeting this week to begin the processes for technology, equipment, and furniture, and we have a schedule in place which will ensure EMS and safe room construction will start in the spring – as promised.
The ding of the microwave interrupted my thoughts, and Toby Dawn attacked the burrito, howling when the hot cheese stuck to his lips. After Toby ran off cursing, however, I have not been able to shake his warnings. The people of Lawton-Fort Sill supported this district in historic ways, so we must communicate, inform, and deliver at historic levels. Everyone, including Toby and his cousins, rightfully expects LPS to take it up a notch. That giant elf saved my life one cold December eve in 1982; I owe him everything. So if you see a monstrous, impatient, Irish elf loping around Lawton in the next two weeks, forgive his quirkiness during the Twelve Days of Christmas – his struggle is real – but please let him know you appreciate him holding our feet to the microwave. And above all, please do not forget to pray for the safety of our schools this second Sunday of the month.