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Chris Erskine: Old PJs and Homemade Soup

They say you can tell a lot about people by the way they handle three things: a rainy day, a sick loved one and tangled Christmas lights.
Well, I’m 2-for-3.
True confession: I prefer “merry Christmas” to “happy holidays,” though I don’t want to be a jerk about it. The culture wars began the moment the “scolds” told us we should be more inclusive about our celebrations.
So, in the schools, “Christmas break” became “holiday break.” City staffers tore down the nativity scenes in the park, chased off the poor confused sheep.
I understand – church and state and all.
But in doing all that, the “scolds” diminished our own traditional celebration. So “merry Christmas.” And “Merry Everything Else.” I may be a fool, but at least I’m not a “scold.”
These days, I find a little gin helps a lot.
Indeed, if you kick the corpses of Christmas past – Milton, Dickens, Irving Berlin, Charles Schulz – you get a little of what you need this time of year.
Honestly, there is a chord change in the chorus of “Grown-up Christmas List,” perhaps Streisand’s very best sonnet, that gets me every time: E to C-sharp major.
Thank you, David Foster. Best gift ever.
And when a broken George Bailey stands on that bridge …
“Figures I’d get a guardian angel like you.”
Thank you, Jimmy Stewart.
My late wife used to say that to me all the time. Figures I’d get a guardian angel like you – soft-hearted, no trust fund, can’t make the bed.
Meanwhile, I’m disappointed that “The Peanuts” special is available mostly on streaming these days. As a kid, it gave me an almost prayerful comfort. As an adult, even more prayerful comfort.
Since 1965, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has given us peace and perspective that I can’t find in the diamond aisle at Macy’s. I think it’s just an extraordinary piece of literature … of Americana … of Christmas.
The theme: Life’s a mess. Make it beautiful.
Lately, I run across opinions of every kind. Some I laugh at. Some I love. But I listen. Every time, I do my best to listen. Because if you don’t, you’re already a little dead.
Had dinner recently with a wonderful group of strangers who, thankfully, opposed oppression and inequality, while advocating for the assassination of a political opponent.
Yipes. Democracy has made us murderous?
Look, what do I know? I’m just a non-doctrinaire utopian who likes old pajamas and homemade soup. I pre-date Frappuccino’s, color TV and Dolly Parton.
By the way, knee-jerk columnists also scoffed at the tributes for Sandra Day O’Connor without acknowledging what an amazing pragmatist she was, moderating the Supreme Court in the thoughtful ways democracy requires.
Favorite Sandra Day O’Connor story:
When her husband moved into an Alzheimer’s care center, Sandra visited him every day. Not remembering he was married, O’Connor’s husband fell in love with another resident there. O’Connor would show up each day to find them holding hands.
Incredibly, O’Connor was just happy to see him happy. God was in her heart.
Another true confession: My senior year in college, I met the woman of my dreams. On our first sleepover, she assured me that she only stayed the night with guys she truly loved.
I thought: How remarkable. How special.
Later, I discovered that she truly loved, like, 250 guys.
What a heart!
As I said, I may be a fool. But at least I’m not a “scold.”
On Next Door, someone recently posted: “Merry Christmas to all of my neighbors. A problem has developed in our neighborhood and I don’t mean to be a ….”
Well, merry Christmas to you too, lady.
At Christmas, we celebrate our quirks … our frailties … the misfits … the kings. We celebrate extraordinary stories, our extra-special songs …
We honor the extra lengths people go to do the right thing.
We celebrate health and hard work and charity.
And children … always children, but grandpas like me too.
FYI, best liberal ever? Jesus. Best boomer? Santa.
At Christmas, we open our hearts, and become more human.
We rejoice that we live in a land where everybody gets to do their own thing, and that if you don’t like it, so what?
That’s the true spirit of Christmas.
Don’t agree with me? OK then. Shake my hand. I’ll buy you a glass of nog. Or a load of groceries if you need it.
I just want to see you happy. Really, I do. If nothing else, Christmas should make us all behave a little better.
Make it beautiful.

Please tune into our second “Gin-gle Bell Ball, Saturday, Dec. 23 on Zoom. It’ll take place from 5-6 p.m. We’ll trade toasts, recipes and favorite holiday stories. To participate, just email Cheers!

First published December 14-16 in Outlook Newspapers.


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