Remember the Otters

When I was 10, my paternal grandparents subscribed to HBO. “Clash of the Titans,” followed by “The Beastmaster,”followed by another showing of “The Beastmaster” made for quite a day … day after day.

But HBO didn’t cater only to the sword and sorcery crowd. The fledgling cable TV network showed it had a heart by airing “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” each holiday season.

The Gift of the Maji-inspired program tells the tale of a poor widow otter and her plucky son Emmet. They scrape out a living in Frogtown Hollow on Ma’s income from doing laundry and Emmet’s odd jobs.

A local talent contest on Christmas Eve offers a $50 first prize. Ma desperately wants to buy Emmet the guitar of his dreams, coincidentally priced at $50. And Emmet longs to purchase his mother a piano.

In order to obtain a proper dress in which to compete in the talent contest, Ma Otter hocks Emmet’s tools to buy fabric. To join a band also hoping to win the contest, Emmet pokes a hole in Ma’s washtub to make a washtub bass.

Neither Ma nor the jug band take home the money, as they’re both upstaged at the talent contest by the heavy metal stylings of The Nightmare, a band made up of hooligans from River Bottom.

But as Ma, Emmet and his band mates dejectedly walk home on the frozen river, they begin to sing together. The owner of a local restaurant hears them and invites them to perform (for compensation!) that night. The gig presumably turns into a regular one, and Ma and Emmet’s fortunes rebound.

I bought the show on DVD about eight years ago and have been watching it every December since (along with “Love Actually” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” — man, I’m hokey). Last year, I watched “Emmet Otter” with our 8-week old son, Alex, and this year’s viewing is scheduled for tomorrow.

The painfully obvious segue to law school?

Take a moment over the next few weeks, regardless of your religious beliefs or affiliations, to be thankful for the bonds you share with friends and family. Things don’t always go smoothly in law school or in the practice of law, but the kindness and generosity shared among fellow students, valued co-workers, friends and family buoys the spirit and promotes a resilient attitude.

Finally, a brief plug for the good work done by members of our community to ensure that local families have a brighter holiday season. Several nonprofit agencies in Lawrence are working to help roughly 400 families. For more information on how to donate, see this article. Donors are asked to provide a new clothing outfit for each member of the family, gift items for the adopted household and a gift card for a holiday meal.

Happy Holidays!

Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services