Tag Archives: christmas


Christmas morning and the house is quiet. The silver utensils and china from last night’s dinner are stacked beside the sink, as are the wine glasses and pots and pans. Our youngest son was quiet kind and cleaned the hand washed items so my wife and I could collapse after days of preparation and cooking. It’s a big effort, but worth every ounce of work.

I can’t think of many things more satisfying that having your family gathered around a big table for a celebratory meal. Sharing food in a communal setting is unique to our species. Sometimes our dogs and cats may leap upon the table to eat, but they’re not interested in sharing. Once the side of beef is in the pup’s mouth, woe be the man that tries to take it.

We bless the food, give thanks and recall those that are no longer with us. My blessings these days are largely secular. I leave out any references to specific gods or goddesses and direct my prayer to a general recognition of the divine, something that’s difficult for me to define, but that does seem to be there. I feel it at the shoreline and in the mountains. Like a Taoist, I see it in the uninterrupted flow of rivers. The interconnectedness of all things. In the miracle of life and the phenomenal complexity of the universe.

I don’t sense it on interstates.

As we sat close together, we shared stories from Christmases past. Humorous stories where no one was spared the opportunity to laugh at themselves. We passed food to one another and justly complimented the cooks.

Humans also use meals to impress. My wife and I had a whirlwind romance, but one of the first things I did was take her to dinner. The first meal was a favorite burger joint, but once I knew she was “the one,” I closed the deal with a fancy dinner at a Memphis restaurant known as the Four Flames. Despite some roughness around the edges, I wanted her to know I did have some level of refinement. I had promise.

Christmas Eve dinner was a celebration of love. We love being together and are now blessed with grandchildren around the table. Little Beatrice preferred the fancy water glasses with gold trim over plastic models, and who could be surprised. She’s my grandchild after all. My grandmother instilled in me the belief that the silver, crystal and Haviland china were necessary parts of the big meal ritual. It’s a way of telling your guests they’re a big deal at the big meal, so I like to bring out the ancient passed down pieces to show the importance of the event.

They’re remnants of my great-grandfather’s time. He was a prominent cotton broker that rose from humble beginnings in the 19th century South to a brief period of prominence in the early 20th century. It nearly all fell apart when the Bolsheviks seized his cotton in port and during the Depression, but he was always wise with money and fared better than most.

I’ve kept those pieces, as well as his mahogany Boston cane furniture, as a connection to my family’s past. I love old things, and fully recognize they came from a period when craftsmanship mattered. We properly built things to last.

Now another year is nearly over and what have I done? I give thanks to John Lennon’s lyric for always making me reflect on my personal balance sheet of good deeds vs. bad during the year. I conclude I didn’t do nearly enough, although I did take major steps toward living more simply. I was generous but will endeavor to give more and much more precisely in 2023.

And then, before you know it, we’ll hopefully be preparing for another year end celebration. Once again, I’ll decorate our little cottage for the grandchildren and look forward to welcoming everyone for the next feast.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” —Mother Teresa


The house is quiet now. Opened gift boxes and shreds of wrapping paper are stacked in the corner. Coffee cups, champagne glasses and candy wrappers lie around the room, remnants of our Christmas morning celebration.

Three gourmet cooks prepared the food. A French breakfast casserole, lovely biscuits and scrumptious muffins. It silenced the big talkers at the table, each more focused on the food than of the topics of the day. Small talk. Big bites. Love all around.
My grandson’s charm warmed the house and stole the show. This Christmas was mostly about him, a cherub of a child with sparkling eyes, a sweet smile and a very active mind. The world is Archer’s oyster.

“Why then the world’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open.”-Shakespeare

Gus, our loving pit bull mix, sits by the door hoping for a handout. Sensing his growing anxiety, I cut a generous piece of last night’s grilled prime tenderloin and quickly toss it toward his powerful jaws, being careful to snap my fingers back quickly lest they become part of the treat. Satisfied, he retreats to his house to savor his good fortune and proudly show his obedience. He knows the game.

It’s my nature to grow despondent when I should be happy. This is certainly one of the reasons why I was drawn to poetry, especially tragic poets like Sylvia Plath and the English Romantics. Then came Nick Drake, Townes Van Zandt and Radiohead. My personally selected smorgasbord of misery. Combine that with the fiery Scottish temperament I got from my mother’s side, and well, it’s a bloody mess.

Instead of basking in the glow of all the goodness and joy, I’m consumed by the fact that it’s over. In the blink of an eye, another Christmas has come and gone. Outside, it’s gloomy and raining. Looking out the window, the naked oak limbs look like spider webs against the grey sky, and my thoughts begin to reflect the landscape. I dwell on lost loved ones and of Christmases past. I drift back to when the children were little and see them opening their gifts. The tender moments Allison and I shared together over the years. Then I shift to the future and worry. I realize that one day I may not be able to host big holiday parties, and that the last Christmas is getting nearer. I wonder if my own children will one day reflect the same way I do, and if they’ll miss their parents. Will others cherish the moments they spent with me the way I cherish moments with them?

Hey, at least we threw good parties.

God, why do I do this to myself? Snap out of it. Go for a run. Read a good book. Go to church. I opt for alcohol and Netflix. Vikings should do it. Nothing like blood and mayhem to make your spirit cheery and bright. I’ll drink from my favorite Christmas gift, a Viking drinking horn.

Mr. Kittles makes his way over. Sitting at my feet, he’s also pondering. “Should I get in his lap or scream my head off until he lets me out?” Kittles is a flame point Siamese cat and is quite full of himself. It’s never occurred to him that he’s not the most important living thing on earth. He’s loud, loves to vomit and destroys things when his separation anxiety reaches its zenith. But I love him, and I’m pretty sure he loves me. Climbing up to my lap, his affection comes at just the right moment.

Surveying the room and all the Christmas decorations, I suddenly have a moment of stark clarity. There’s a lot of stuff to box up. The tree is huge and as it’s being removed, it will shed enough pine needles to make a soft bed for a grizzly bear. As usual, I’ve over spent, but so what. Money is a renewable resource. The chance to make someone happy with a nice gift may never come again.

The season will officially end when I take the tree to the back yard, chop it up and store it for the spring equinox. When spring comes, I’ll burn the tree and give thanks for another cycle completed. Birth, fire, rebirth. I’ll welcome more laughs, stories, joys and tears and hope for another joyous Yuletide season.

Shine on.