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The Ghost of Christmas Future

Observing long-standing tradition is a good thing. It provides comfort, a feeling of stability in a rapidly changing world. However, tradition followed with unyielding rigidity can blind us to new opportunities and pleasures. In short, it can become synonymous with being in a rut.

I learned this one year as the looming Christmas holiday season unfolded. Everything was on track, holiday gatherings were scheduled and I could hear, way off in the distance, sleigh bells ringing. The mandatory annual attendance with friends and fellow travelers at Tuba Christmas in Solomon’s was scheduled. Finding my first Salvation Army bell-ringer of the season warmed my heart. It was all falling into place.

Then I stepped on the banana peel. Figuratively, not literally. Seven days before Christmas, at four o’clock in the morning, I was hauled off to the ER by the Rescue Squad. It took almost forty hours to get shy of the hospital and with not much more than a list of symptoms rather than a diagnosis. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Regardless, I was free and back into the spirit of the season.

Tradition ruled and the holidays passed normally, with one minor exception. The ER visit did cause what I thought would be a one-time change in our Christmas routine. Neither my wife nor I had found time to purchase gifts for each other. Empty nesters for several years, we had relaxed together on Christmas Day proper and exchanged gifts. What were we going to do?

Reading the local paper, I saw that movie theaters are open Christmas Day. I assumed the theater would be full of screaming demon spawn fueled by a massive sugar high, deposited there by hapless parents that couldn’t take it anymore. Not my idea of a good time. But worth checking out, "just this one time.”

Boy, was I wrong! A modest number of patrons, many of them seasoned citizens and a fair number of mobility-limited people. The film we chose, Parental Guidance, had been panned by the critics - all of whom did not, in my opinion, have a clue. Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as grandparents struggling to establish a relationship with grandchildren? Who hasn’t been there? Hilarious.

To cap off the day, on the way home we saw that the local Chinese eatery was open. A good flick and a Chinese buffet? Now that seemed a different way to spend the holiday proper. I grew up listening to Jean Shepherd and was now living my own version of his A Christmas Story.

This experience led me to a new resolution for the New Year. I resolve to be less hide-bound and more open to other possibilities. I resolve to, as I continue to observe the old traditions, strive to develop new ones for succeeding generations.

Are you ready for a change? Maybe I'll see you next year at Tuba Christmas. Or we’ll get a group together to laugh our way through a holiday flick and share a huge, over-priced bucket of popcorn.

The opportunities are there if we just open up to them.