Thoughts: Better than Hallmark


A walk on Christmas morning.

Nothing special about it. I had some time. I knew the house would be full of people later in the day and into the evening, so some quiet would do me good. I didn’t go far. It was cold. I walked down past the quarry, snapping a few pictures here and there of the light snow dusting that had fallen the day before.

Christmas has long been a mixed day of joy and sadness for me. The joy of the day. The joy of gatherings and family and such. Too often combined with loss, or explosions of family dynamics gone wrong. A mixture some years of Hallmark and hell.

Not unlike the first Christmas, a time of joy and wonder that would lead to great and terrible things. Joy and Sadness. Haleluiahs and laments. It’s never so simple. But it is real.

And maybe that is part of it all. The realness. We’ve tried to make a hallmark card of Christmas and other holidays. That stuff sells. It’s what we all would like, if only for a day or two. And now and again, when the stars aligned and the right mix of people show up and no one drinks too much or talks politics, it all comes together. It becomes the standard. I’ve had a couple of those along the way too.

I like the real. I like the real story of Christ’s coming, a story of wonder and fear  and a cold hard birth in a stable, and gifts and fleeing just ahead of an angry king. If it was a story of everything being just perfect, I’d likely have a hard time accepting any of it. But a messy story like this makes more sense than a fairy tale.

So I went for my walk. I draw strength from silence and nature. Gatherings, however much I enjoy them (and I do.) drain me. So a walk through my little village in Vermont was a good way to build up my spirit.

For the past decade or so, I have always had to steel myself a little for Christmas, always wondering what it might bring. As it turned out, this was a different, but very good sort of holiday.  My wife and I, still newly married after almost two years, brought together different parts of our family for the first time. Coulda gone either way.

It went well. Maybe not storybook. (I don’t really do storybook anymore.), but real and pleasant and in the end, joyful. Like that first Christmas. The start of something new, full of hope, even knowing there will be bumps and awkwardnesses ahead.

I grew up with an alcoholic father. He was wonderful in many ways, but his alcoholism colored our family’s life.  It was a life on eggshells, never sure which version of our father we were with. Love and joy were a real possibility. So was eruptive anger. You never knew. The eggshells never quite go away.

So a peaceful, joyful, holiday, a coming together holiday, even one where not everyone could be here, is a joy (Because of work, my daughter could not make it this year.) How was my Chrismas? New. Awkward here and there. Real. Wonderful. A Christmas of change and the beginning of possibilities.

I went for another walk this morning. Another short one. Lately life has been busy and I have not had enough time to think, to feel, to reflect. That will change in a few days as life gets back to it’s routine. But even a taste of empty time is good. It allows me to rejoice in a wonderful, new day of Christmas, something better perhaps than Hallmark ever concocted.

Be well, travel wisely,





  1. I was struck anew that Jesus was and is Emmanuel – God with us! For those who don’t believe that Jesus was indeed God in the flesh.

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