Merry Christmas, wherever you are

Frank CagleFeature, Frank Talk

There was a time, I suppose, when members of extended families lived near each other and gathering for Christmas was relatively easy. But now families seem to be more separated by distance. AAA says one-third of the American people will be on the road during the Christmas holidays.

But I do remember the 1950s when uncles, aunts and cousins came in from Cleveland. Or Detroit. Or Chicago. Places where Southerners went to find work. In our family they all moved “home” by the 1960s when the Southern economy got a little better.

My family is doing Christmas in shifts this year. A dinner Christmas Day and another, possibly Friday. It is a common conundrum: Just where will your family celebrate Christmas? With the husband’s family? The wife’s family? Or just stay home? Where did we go last year? Don’t we take turns? But we went to your parents’ for Thanksgiving. Granny’s getting up there; this may be her last Christmas (somebody said for a decade.)

Last year I had all the family at my house for Christmas, not something that happens very often. But I was recovering from cancer surgery after all. At least this year I’ll be able to taste and enjoy the Christmas feast.

In our young married years with small children, there was often a tug of war and someone usually got their feelings hurt. My wife and I vowed that we would not fall into that trap. We are happy to have anybody that can make it any time, and we often declare a holiday on a day that’s convenient. Like Friday of this week it will be Christmas for the grandkids, who spent the first part of the week visiting Nana and Papa in Connecticut.

We’ll have the Memphis contingent on Christmas Day; we don’t see them often enough. I tell myself that Memphis is in Tennessee, but that drive down I-40 feels more like cross country. My New Year’s resolution is to make that trip more often next year, since my health has returned to semi-normal now.

The California branch made it here in October for a wedding and a nice visit, so that will have to do this year.

Anyway, the point of my travelogue is that Christmas travel is often more stress inducing than Christmas shopping. Often one doesn’t have the energy to properly celebrate New Year’s Eve. But of course the only way I can celebrate New Year’s Eve is to set the alarm and get up at 11:55. I usually get up about then anyway, to let the dog out. Or let the dog in.

When I am tempted to get upset if things aren’t perfect for the holidays, I think about families who have a son or daughter in Afghanistan or some other God-forsaken place instead of being at the table chowing down on some turkey and dressing. I remember an especially hot and miserable Christmas I spent in Vietnam thinking about the big extended family reunion I was missing.

But there are children away at school or on a job or just not able to afford plane tickets. I have empathy for those with a far-flung family. And for anyone spending the time in a hospital, whether in a bed or a waiting-room chair. And for anyone suffering through air travel during the holidays. So spend some time on the phone. Text some photos. You might try and Skype, whatever that is. But Christmas is a time for family, and we do what we can to stay in touch and celebrate together. Even if it’s sharing YouTube videos or Facebook posts of Granddaddy passed out in his recliner after eating entirely too much food.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Every Vote Counts: President Trump will soon be very glad Tennessee sent Republican Marsha Blackburn to the Senate. Trump will have an attorney general and a Secretary of Defense nominee that will require confirmation, and it’s sure to get ugly. That’s assuming that the government re-opens. The Republicans have 53 seats, so they could even lose a couple and still confirm Trump’s nominees. Remember the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh?

Set in Stone: Nancy Pelosi had to win over the far left and the new members to get enough votes for House Speaker. Likely she made some promises not to cooperate with Trump. Especially on issues like the border wall. And Trump said he would be happy to own the shutdown if he didn’t get his way. So Trump is boxed in and Chuck Schumer can sit back and wait on him to cave. Trump shows no sign of budging on the issue. Unless someone blinks, the government shutdown could last a lot longer than people think.

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