Sad, and a little embarrassed to admit, it has been a while since my last blog. Holidays somehow manage to consume your time or maybe it’s just too much turkey and treats making me lazy and sleepy. I’ve also noticed that my blogs ( maybe most everyone’s blog) tend to be fueled by anger, indignation or incredulity. To be frank, this holiday season, I’ve come up empty in all those categories.
As the years slip by, it becomes harder and harder to get all the children together. This Christmas and New Year’s was a happy exception. Our oldest and his wife have now moved back to Charleston from Austin, Texas. Our middle son and his girlfriend were able to come for a long visit from Seattle, Washington and our daughter came home from medical school at Emory in Atlanta. Even my little brother, and his son, came by and cooked a wonderful standing rib roast for Christmas day.
To see all the family together creates a time warp of memories where 30 years of Christmas holidays intertwine together and then play out in a continuous loop of random, delightful vignettes. Better still, the children are all doing things they’re excited about and happy to be doing. As in every family, that has not always been the case. Each of the children show the spark that comes from looking forward to the possibilities and adventures of the upcoming year and years. Maybe it is only a spark that a parent can see, but like the green flash of the setting Pacific sun it is beautiful and memorable.
And the laughter. The laughter of your family is the real soundtrack of the Christmas holidays- with the possible exception of Springsteen’s Santa Claus is Coming to Town. All of my children are great story tellers. I hope that came from me, but I’m thankful for whatever the source. It is particularly fun to hear all of their alternative takes on what had seemed like a fairly straightforward shared experiences. Laughter provides the tinder for the fire that burns in the soul and warms the house.
Last night we celebrated New Year’s Eve with a fabulous family-style Italian dinner at Trattoria Luca. In future years, it will be remembered as one of the greatest New Year’s Eve family dinners ever. Maybe it was, maybe it was just the most recent or maybe it was the three bottles of Italian red. I hope we didn’t disturb the other patrons. The laughing was boisterous. The toasts were exuberant. It was a good thing they put us in the corner near the kitchen.
I love my wife. I love my family. I’m certain that watching your children grow up, be successful and be happy is the only laudable aspect of getting older. The magic of Christmas and New Year’s is that it is the best time each year to take the time to embrace your family. My heart breaks for everyone who doesn’t have that opportunity at this time of year. I pray that every family is allowed to enjoy what we felt last night at least once every year. For I’m sure, that if they can experience that closeness and warmth at least once, they’ll never be satisfied and want to experience it again and again.
So, to my family, I love you all. I thank you all for the wonderful holidays we just shared. I smile as I look forward to next year. How can it possibly be any better? But it will be. The real Christmas miracle is that it always is. I wish everyone the joy I feel right now and the hope that takes me into the New Year.
Each year brings new challenges, but I have special concern for 2017. I feel the pendulum swinging away from human rights, justice, education and dignity to capitalism, might makes right and the military-industrial complex. Maybe, that’s a good thing. Many think that it is. But, I know that at the end of the day, we all have to come home again. Home is where the family is. Home is where the memories are. Home is what fills your heart. We must make sure that everyone has the opportunity to take that long walk home.
As always, I turn to Bruce Springsteen to help me express the emotion behind my blog’s message. Other than Santa Claus is Coming to Town (recorded on a Sesame Street album only and played on the Saturday Night Live Christmas show) Bruce doesn’t have a lot of songs about Christmas. One exception is a beautiful song called The Wish that Bruce recorded on his “Tracks” album. The Wish is a touching story of how Bruce’s mother Adele Springsteen saved money that the family didn’t have to buy Bruce his first guitar. The best moment on the record comes at the end when he switches from past to present tense: “Well, tonight I’m taking requests here in the kitchen,” but he’s not going to play any sad ones. That is how we felt last night at Trattoria Luca.
Since the holidays include both Christmas (or whatever other family festivus you celebrate) and New Year’s Eve, I have decided to attach a second appropriate Springsteen song. Long Walk Home from the “Magic” album is possibly one of Bruce’s best and most important of the new millennium. Long Walk Home is about the framework of a country ceasing to support the people who built it. He puts his fingers into the cracks of the foundation and expresses his belief that it is unacceptable. The song is strongest in its imagery which is almost cinematic. The music and the lyrics work together to paint the images. The guitar work is incendiary, driving up the tempo and urgency. The most breathtaking moment is the hand off of Bruce’s guitar to Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons sax solo both at the bridge and at the end.In the final stanza, Springsteen expresses the belief that it is family and friends that will sustain us and with that foundation we’ll remember that there are things that we as Americans will just not do.
As I said above, I think 2017 might be a long walk home, but it’s a walk that it’s important for us all to take. And we will.
All my best for 2017 and beyond. Family is faith.