Our Own Devices

During a time when she would have otherwise been deep into turkey, seven-layer salad and pumpkin pie-settling mode, my wife was urged off the Thanksgiving evening couch by a pair of nieces at her Mom’s home in rural Crawford County, Kansas.

Destination Walmart.

Walmart's never been our go-to shopping mecca. We're more the Target type (tar-


.) But when you take your Aunt-hood seriously, intergenerational family provocation can be a pretty powerful weapon.

They invited me to come along. Immediately visions of rubbing shoulders and muffin tops with the Thanksgiving night Walmart crowd danced in my head. I graciously offered to stay home with my mother-in-law, the dogs and the Baltimore Ravens.

Couple of hours later, she returns bearing treasures, including a CD compilation of Christmas music from Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special. Southern rockers known more for “drinking, fighting and chasing chicks” (according to an online history) than for celebrating the birth of the savior of all mankind.

Hold on loosely, 'cos here comes Santa Claus.

Which begs the question:

At what point did .38 Special sit around the living room, between pulls on the bottle of Jack and declare, “Boys, we should quit fighting and chasing chicks, get back in the studio and lay down some tracks to ‘Here Comes Santa Claus.’”

About 2002, apparently. That’s the “compilation” date on the CD. Because at some point, the arena crowds dwindle and rock stars find themselves at a pivotal crossroads. The choices are few:

a. Reinvent themselves (read: Eagles.)

b. Keep doing the same thing in smaller venues (a facelifted Joan Jett plays West Wendover, Nevada in January. She


loves rock 'n roll, bless her black heart.)

c. Just quietly fade away and let us remember you in your glory.

That last one is hard for rock stars. Specifically


they’re rock stars. O come let us adore you.

Seems like they all crank out a Christmas album at some point. Clearly, there’s a market for it and they no doubt see a ‘no heavy lifting’ paycheck (uh... the songs are already written..?)

Left to her own devices, would Jackie leave the comforts of the Thanksgiving evening hearth and home to fight the Walmart crowds and score a Lynyrd Skynyrd/.38 Special Christmas CD?


But it was never about Skynyrd or Walmart or .38 Special. It was always about her nieces’ own devices. It was about spending quality time with those who love us unconditionally.

Who pick us up when we’re feeling blue (now how about you?)

When we met, I think it’s safe to say Jackie and I were polar opposites, Christmas sentiment-speaking. I bordered on humbug, while she was rockin’ this really appealing combo of the Mother of Christ and Santa Claus.


et mater

sancti Nicolai




Fifteen years later I have moved off humbug, in my wife’s general direction. Progress, not perfection. We were married Dec. 23, 1998. Yeah, that’s right, two days before the Big Day (Mary and Joseph’s caps.) It was a Wednesday night. I shoulda caught on then.

You can’t love someone like this without some of it rubbing off. As proximity to the precipice of middle age draws nearer, off her generosity has rubbed and on-catching, I seem to be.    

Hold on loosely (and don’t let go.)