A Different Kind of Christmas Story

Image source: Jamie Kaler
Image source: Jamie Kaler

It starts the day after Halloween. In every store, it’s out with the candy and in with the decorative front lawn snowman. The panic starts slow at first. So much to prepare. Travel plans? Finances? Where will we even put all the new toys we’re going to receive from “Santa”? I honestly don’t know. Our entire house is overrun with everything from blocks to books to bears to binkys. And that’s just the “B”s. You know what, let’s just get through Thanksgiving and then we’ll worry about Christmas.

You know the story … You’re a regular Joe, living in Wisconsin. You’re in your early forties and raising your three kids under the age of 7 with your beautiful wife in your beautiful home. The commercials have told you what the holidays are supposed to be like. The smell of warm cider. The snow covered cabin. The look of wonder your child displays when they hear those footsteps on the roof.

But it’s getting tougher and tougher to live up to that image.

And wow, November went by in a flash. All of a sudden, work gets busy, the kids are having trouble at school, a blizzard shuts down your town for four days. Wait, my bonus wasn’t quite what I expected. The recession is still going on? I thought that was done? The car needs a new axle? What’s wrong with the old one? You drove over a piece of ice? What???

In the blink of an eye, it’s the second week of December. Which credit card still has room on it? Nope, that one’s full. That one, too. Ah, Discover. Who takes Discover again? Or better yet, I can buy it on layaway. No money down for six months. If I don’t buy that new video game, I’m a bad parent, right? Sure, you’re going to have to work overtime to afford all these presents which will keep you away from your kids for more time, but it’s all worth it when your kid wears that new backpack that will make all the other kids envious.

And then your wife reminds you that you still need to go get a tree. It’s a family tradition. I know you worked all day. Fine, we’ll go after work. You pile everyone in the car and go to do your annual tradition of cutting down your own tree. Who started this tradition again? Fine. Whatever. Let’s just get this over with …

“Why don’t we work a little less, spend more time as a family, and not get caught up in the commercialism of the holidays? Is it even possible? I believe it is.”
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You pick one out, start cutting, and then the chest pains begin. Actually, this feels pretty bad. This is not a cramp. Your wife sees the urgency of your distress and you both decide to go straight to the hospital.

You might be thinking, “Wait a minute. This is not the Christmas story I thought I was reading. Did you bury the lead? That’s not cool. From the opening of your story, I thought this was another rant about how Christmas is too commercial and we should get back to the simple joy of the holidays…”

But unfortunately, that’s how life works. Sometimes there are no indicators of the plot points to come. It’s not a perfect three-act structure. It’s fragile. We get thrown for a loop. It’s only when we read these stories of other people’s misfortune that we try to remind ourselves what’s really important in life. Well, with all the turmoil in this world of ours, maybe it’s time to stop talking about it and start living it.

That “Regular Joe” living in Wisconsin is an old friend of mine. His name is Adrian and last year in his early forties, with three young children and a beautiful wife, Kathy, while chopping down a Christmas tree, he suffered a heart attack. He did not survive.

“This is the worst holiday story ever. I can’t believe you suckered me into reading this. I don’t want to start crying right now.”

Neither did I. I hadn’t seen him or his wife in years, but as a father of two young children, his story really hit home. It was definitely a reminder for me as to what is really important in life. Every time I think about it, my heart pours out for that family. I catch myself getting caught up worrying about putting together the perfect holiday season, while Kathy is probably worried about how she’ll even get through it.

Image source: Jamie Kaler
Image source: Jamie Kaler

Why do we sweat the little stuff? Why don’t we work a little less, spend more time as a family, and not get caught up in the commercialism of the holidays? Is it even possible?

I believe it is.

Let’s stop living by the mantra, “he who dies with the most toys wins”, and start living by our new mantra, “he who dies having worked the least and spent the most quality time with his family wins”.

Let’s start a new tradition. Let’s not care. Let’s not go into debt trying to make this the best Christmas ever. Let’s remember what the holidays are really about: The love of family.

Happy holidays to all and especially to my old friend Kathy. Sending you and the kids all the love in the world.

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