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What I Learned on Christmas Vacation

by Danny Thomas January 28, 2013

By Danny Thomas

I usually write a piece at Christmastime…
it usually touches on the cognitive dissonance I carry
being an agnostic
who believes in magic
and Christmas.
Usually there’s a bit of anti-consumerism…
and anti-materialism.
Usually I get nostalgic
and pine for my youth…
all the while noting that
even as a kid Christmas brought up a lot of uncertainty for me
about religion, and Jesus, and miracles, and magic, and spiritualism
as well as some of those cynical anti-consumerism questions.

Well I didn’t write one this year.

I was in a slump.

I’m over it, and I am trying to write a little every day, with the hopes that I can prevent another slump…

But I have a cool Christmas story to share… It’s about an amazing gift I received this Christmas that no one meant to give me, that is not a material thing at all, but is more valuable than any thing I received…

We were 500 miles south of our home on Christmas,
Visiting Jen’s family. Most of them live within a few blocks of each other, or on the family homestead… this alone blows my mind… as my nuclear family was at least a thousand miles away from any relatives… but that’s a story for another blog…

On Christmas day we loaded up the girls and the snow gear and the presents to drive the 45 miles south to visit the family that is not right in town… as we got to the end of Grandma’s block we realized that the hot burning oil smell we smelled was coming from our car, because clouds of smoke were pouring out from under the hood.

So we turned around.

As we pulled back into Grandma’s driveway Jen started dialing her brother and my manhood shriveled… metaphorically.

Jennifer’s family is full of dudes who can fix cars, and motorcycles, and lawnmowers… guys who build stuff, who hunt and fish… guys who know which teams won Superbowls and World Series’ in certain years… (I didn’t even remember what the World Series was called… had to look that up, and I consider myself a baseball fan…)

I have some personal issues around these things. Most of the time I feel secure in my manhood, and my issues are less, I think, about that, about macho-ness or manliness, than usefulness… The fact that I have extremely limited knowledge about cars, and hate getting oil on my hands, and am not very good at building stuff… just makes me feel inadequate…

My dad could do it, I spent a lot of time helping him with projects like that, and a lot of time freezing my ass off in the carport next to the bus handing him wrenches while he swore in 7 languages at Volkswagen engineers… I feel like, after that, and to carry the torch, I should be able to, at least, find an oil leak, or build a square table…

I’m sure ego comes into play and I’m sure testosterone is a factor here, I wont deny that… but for me it’s less about proving I am a good man and more about proving I am a useful human… when my car breaks I feel helpless and that is not a good feeling, and, yes, it is emasculating…

So the car sat, and we borrowed the Uncletruck, with the deer rack in the back, and the buck call on the dash… and he generously crawled under our car, looked at the engine, swore a bit and gave us some ideas… in the hour we spent sorting things out and driving south, I did some research on-line to get some ideas about what might have happened… the car had just been in the shop for an oil change, I was suspicious… again, that’s a story for another blog…

So, we got to Grandpa and the other Grandma’s house, and my ability to contribute to the car conversation was some very geeky sounding information that “I looked up on the internet…” NERDBALL! (As is turns out the sleuthing I did paid off and my diagnosis was correct.. NERDPOINTS!)

As we were hanging out, Christmasing in their abode, it came to light that Grandma & Grandpa were having some troubles with their Wi-Fi… how it was hooked up, how to log in… a few oddball things…Well, I realized that troubleshooting that issue is something I can do… bear in mind, I didn’t, the issue is less about me proving my manhood or worthiness, than it is about me knowing my worth. In fact, Jen took on the Wi-Fi situation and had it squared away in short order… well, in long order, and after a couple beers…

Then, a little later Old Weird Uncle mentioned that he had been working on applying for new jobs… and that the application process and building a resume was annoying… He has been a machinist for nearly 30 years, his qualifications are tremendous and specific, his aptitudes have very little to do with writing or computers. Here is another thing I can do. Again, I stood down, keeping a low profile in a Nerf war or Barbie makeover situation with the kids, on the periphery… While Jen took on the resume… but again I was shown, thanks, in part, to the magic of Christmas, another measure of my worth… another skill I bring to the table…

I was so comforted by both of these incidences; here are skills that I can offer, that while maybe not as tough as car knowledge or carpentry, are skills nonetheless.

Beyond that I came away with this; I tend to think of usefulness in these terms: “What good will I be after the apocalypse… when we are struggling to survive, what will I be able to offer to the tribe?” But the thing is, what I was shown, this Christmas gift to me, was to see that these are things I bring to the table right now. And trying to anticipate how you will be useful after the day of reckoning is a little asinine anyway, because… who knows? How can we anticipate what that will look like, if it will come, and if we will survive? And while I believe it’s important to be prepared for emergencies, living life anticipating the end of the world just isn’t a great way to live… by any measure.

So thank you Christmas, for once again bringing a little magic into my life and showing me that, not only do I have things to offer, skills that are worthy, but that the important thing to focus on is how I can use them today rather than how they will be useful to me in a Hunger Games scenario…

The post What I Learned on Christmas Vacation appeared first on The Next Family.

Danny Thomas
Danny Thomas


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