Back to Christmas

back to christmasYou hear a lot of people complain about the commercialization of Christmas.  You see a lot of signs and memes reminding us that Christ is the “reason for the season.”  You read all kinds of articles about how we need to spend less time on social media and more time in real conversations with real people.  This weekend I read a pretty special little book by Dennis Canfield that makes those points, and a few more (maybe even more important), in the most delightful way.  It’s called Back to Christmas, and although it is considered a children’s book, everyone will enjoy this fun yet meaningful tale.

The story starts with Marmel who takes his job as head labeling elf (you know, “naughty” or “nice”) so seriously that he begins to believe the whole point of Christmas is to separate people into groups.  When the naughty list dwindles down to only one family, Marmel worries that he will soon be out of a job, so he embarks on a mission to make sure they stay on the naughty list… permanently!

Of course, Santa wants everyone on the nice list, so he recruits his brother, Reverse Santa to help.  That’s right, Reverse Santa.  He wears green, lives at the South Pole, and instead of giving gifts, he takes things away!

In the middle of it all is the Krumwerth family, headed straight for the permanent naughty list.  Only one of them, daughter Amanda, knows the danger, and now she must try to undo years of naughty behavior and steer everyone toward the nice list.

In addition to all that, Canfield enlists the help of flying penguins (ridiculous yes, but no more so than flying reindeer), a heavy metal rocker named Repo, more elves, and a little bit of magic to advance the story to its moving conclusion.  This is a perfect holiday story to enjoy on your own or to share with a child or anyone else.  Who knows?  You may help someone find their way Back to Christmas.

If you read this book and would like to share your thoughts, please do so here in the comments.  AND if you you’d like to share your own ideas for getting back to Christmas, please share those as well.

This Table

tgiving tableThis table. I could call it my table. It is, after all, in my house in my dining room. Calling it my table wouldn’t seem accurate though. It feels more like our table, a title earned after decades of meritorious service. It has hosted celebrations of all sorts: holidays, birthdays, general weekend gatherings, and at least one wedding. The base is worn bare from feet propped against it during countless conversations most often punctuated by coffee and cigarettes.

This table. It was the headquarters of my grandfather, the family patriarch. He sat at this table most of the time, rarely sitting in a comfy chair in the living room as one might expect a grandfather to do. From his throne-like spot he presided over dinners, barked orders for tasks he wanted done, created (and frequently revised) his pallbearer list, and doled out money for birthdays and school clothes. He left this table each day before dawn for work and returned to it each evening for dinner, 365 days a year, until he finally retired. When I think of my grandfather, he is sitting at this table.

This table. It was the site of countless delicious meals lovingly prepared by my grandmother. When I think of the meals eaten here, they blur into one gigantic memory. My favorite meals were fried chicken with rice and gravy, pancakes with syrup and bacon, and seafood fresh from the bay often caught with our own hands. There was always a cacophony of spirited conversation among the tribe: aunts and uncles, friends who might as well have been family, in-laws, outlaws, and my favorites, the cousins. When it was time to sit down, we each wanted to sit next to our grandmother. Wanting to avoid the hurt feelings sure to come, she always said, “I’ll sit across from you so I can see your pretty faces.” It always worked, but she rarely sat down, at least not until everyone else was almost finished. Her place was taking care of people at the table rather than sitting down herself.

This table. It was once adorned in green shamrocks for a St. Patrick’s Day wedding celebration when my grandfather remarried after my grandmother’s death. That joyous occasion brought new aunts, new uncles, new cousins, and of course, a new grandmother. It was a happy time, but I wasn’t sure how to fit someone new into my idea of “grandmother.” I shouldn’t have worried. Once, in the throes of teenage angst, I ran away from home. Sort of. I wasn’t planning on staying gone, and I wasn’t even trying to hide. I just wanted to be someplace else for a little while. It took my mother and my boyfriend about five minutes to figure out where I was, and then they started calling me (remember, no cell phones). I sat at this table with my grandfather in his usual spot, phone ringing, wishing there was just one person who could “get” me. My grandfather thought I was being ridiculous and told me to go home. But New Grandmother… she got it! She yelled at my grandfather, well, at least as close as she ever came to yelling, and told him to let me be. Few people talked back to my grandfather, but she did, at least that day. Which was really all I needed. That and for that incessant ringing to stop. So, I got back in my car and went home assured that at least one person other than myself had at some point been a teenage girl trying to figure it all out.

This table. It has been passed down twice since then, and each passing brings new family, new friends, new conversations, new memories. Like all of us, it shows a little wear and tear: coffee stains, cigarette burns, a scratch or two or more. And as is true for all of us, these nicks and dings just add to its character. It is as much a part of this family as any human person, and in a few days, we will gather again to celebrate. We will celebrate our blessings.  We will celebrate each other.   At this table.