Home for the holidays, as if we ever left

An odd four-generation picture from the Brown family archives. Your author is the boy in the front row.

An odd four-generation picture from the Brown family archives. Your author is the boy in the front row.

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

It’s fitting to talk about family reunions this time of year. Everyone’s coming home. First comes Thanksgiving. Then Hanukkah. Christmas. New Years. Car doors slam. Snow crunches on familiar sidewalks. Huggers hug, smokers smoke, the rest waive awkwardly before reaching for snacks.

These early winter holidays center around families coming together to celebrate what matters most. Of course, no one in the family can agree on what that is.

Some say food, some say the kids. Have you seen the news? Can you believe it? One uncle speaks of Bernie Sanders while another recites Donald Trump. The world is going to hell, but check out my new car! Quiet elders know that matters like these come and go.

Familial priorities range from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the procurement of a 24 pack of Michelob Golden Light before the liquor store closes in town. Do we really need the leaf on the dining room table? Do we realize how difficult it is to put in? Fine, then you do it. Relatives all over the land argue these points with minds unchanged by the squabbling.

Every member of a family is like one end of a magnet. Some of us are drawn toward home while others are repelled, though there is no denying the power of home. Like Polaris on the open seas. There’s not much we can do except eat mashed potatoes and be ourselves.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because of its simplicity and the way that garish Halloween and opulent Christmas prevent it from being exploited by marketing professionals. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for what we have and then eating most of it. For some, Thanksgiving guarantees a long weekend, for others it guarantees good reheats the lunchbox at work. Thank you, grandma. Thank you, grandpa. Thank you, gravy in a Gladware container.

Holidays are the truth. If you’ve gained 20 pounds, spent time in a treatment center, broken up with your boyfriend or if your cute kid grew up to be weird, it’s all gonna come out in November or December. In fact, there’s a good chance all of that is going to *happen* in November or December.

Why wouldn’t it? The holidays are a time for joy and peace, which we observe by huffing pure stress from a coffee can bong. We pack our schedules with shopping, parties and decorating, screaming at store clerks and threatening divorce over the the use of a crystal salad bowl to eat leftover green bean casserole with a ladle because no one has done the dishes since Tuesday.

And yet, we do it again. Time and again. Everyone I know who likes the holidays seems to have one thing in common. They’ve got something to do and something to give. Never mind the rest. Never mind the noise, the hurt or the loss. Do something. Give something. Slide down an icy hill with kid. Give that kid a present. Surprise someone. Bake cookies. Eat them. Then bake some more cookies and give those ones away.

And if you are alone. If you are utterly alone, with no one to talk to and nowhere to go. If the night is dark and the air too cold to breath, put on a coat. Put on a scarf and go find one more person just like you. You don’t know it, but they’re out there. Give them your time. Give them a song, a joke, or a meal. 

Quickly, home becomes where you are and where you will always be. You will always have a family and everything you want will be something you already have.

Happy Holidays! Welcome home.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


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