If Americans had any sense, we’d celebrate Christmas very differently. In much of the country, it’s borderline crazy to jump into the family chariot during the worst weather week of the year to travel hundreds of miles for the dubious pleasure of arguing with Angry Uncle Charlie about the 2020 presidential election.
Angry Uncle Charlie’s one of the reasons you moved 500 miles away to begin with. But, hey, it’s Christmas!
Meanwhile, countless thousands swarm to airports to stand for hours with a disgruntled mob watching the CANCELED signs blink, sleeping on the floor and awakening periodically to see that, yes, we still have no flights scheduled. TV correspondents prowl the aisles interviewing travelers benumbed by fatigue but determined to press on.
Meanwhile, their luckless colleagues on the meteorological beat stand outside in the wind and driving snow to document that, yes, the blizzard continues, and Merry Christmas to all! Then it’s back to you in the studio, where the head meteorologist wears a Santa hat and the Action News Team documents the seasonal death toll.
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I heard an interview on NPR the other day with a Michigan official who said state police were warning citizens that it was not only too hazardous to venture from home, but anybody who did was on their own. Should they become stranded, rescuing them could be a physical impossibility for at least 24 hours due to howling winds, temperatures well below zero and whiteout conditions. A person could easily get lost in his own neighborhood, the official said. Visibility was maybe two feet.
That segment was immediately followed by an interview with a chipper Michigander who said, yeah, the weather was bad, but they’d probably leave that afternoon. It’s only a couple of hours’ drive, she said. In normal weather, that is. Maybe they’d wait until morning, but she didn’t think so.
Ho, ho, ho.
My wife and I have passed the “over the river and through the woods” stage of life. And damned glad about it, thank you. If I had a favorite Christmas song, it would be Perry Como’s old standby, “Home for the Holidays.” Visitors are welcome.
Our neighbor Laura came over to remind me to feed our mutual cat Albert (long story). She was bound and determined to head into the teeth of the worst northeastern blizzard in 50 years to visit her brother in New England, although reports of jammed airports and canceled flights had her fretting.
She kept talking about the awful weather, and I kept saying, “Laura, don’t go. Wait until Easter.”
Easter comes in spring, you see, signifying rebirth and renewal. A far more sensible time for cross-country journeys. But Laura had that Christmas thing going on, and you can’t reason people out of it. It seizes control of people’s minds and emotions this time of year, and the entire Christmas Industrial Complex exists to reinforce it.
Sells a lot of useless toaster ovens, you see.
The whole thing is not only irrational, it’s deeply anti-rational. Indeed, a certain kind of reader is already angry about my lack of Christmas spirit.
Yeah, well, my feet are warm, and I’m not marooned in a snowdrift.
Hopefully, Laura made it to New England all right, and they got the power back on at her brother’s place in time for the holiday. But we’d all be better off if we made Easter, Memorial Day or July 4th the cross-country travel and family-visiting American holiday.
For his part, Albert the cat seems fine. I haven’t actually seen him, but his supper dish gets emptied, and he knows every cold weather hidey-hole for blocks around. A former barn cat, he’s always been resourceful. The only way you could get Albert to go traveling in a snowstorm would be to lock him in a cage, and after you let him out, you might never see him again.
Here at home, we celebrated Christmas Eve with a potentially catastrophic plumbing leak. Under our house, it’s snug and warm, but the water heater in the attic froze up and a pipe burst. Had I not been here when the torrent began, the ceiling would have crashed. Thanks to our relationship with an established plumbing company, they sent around a highly competent young man who set things right before the worst could happen.
I regaled him with tales of my beloved Uncle Tommy Connors, a plumber who babysat me in working-class New Jersey taverns. He’d play shuffleboard while I sat at the bar watching ballgames on a little black-and-white TV.
And then at 4 a.m. on Dec. 26, our four dogs celebrated by eating three boxes of chocolate-covered cherries.
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Well, I don’t need to tell everything. After all, it’s the holiday season.
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