The good side to being away from home

So I’m waiting for my nurse girlfriend to get off her shift and finding a home in the fridge for the banana cream pie from San Fernando Valley’s famed Four and Twenty diner and I’m thinking of all the loved ones who serve us on these days.

We don’t have to look to far away lands to militarize the concept of service.  It could be that son of yours who works the drive thru at McDonald’s.  Or your daughter who works the swing shift at the paint factory. Some things are twenty-four hour industries.  Hotels.  I remember doing Christmas shifts opening doors at hotels.  My brother John has sucked up many a double at the blast furnace in East Chicago.  And my honey on the fourth floor intensive care unit.   She would hate me for bringing her into this, but I’ll cope with that wrath on my own.  Like many so-called heroes, they hate being called such.  Singled out as that.  What they do is a job. It has to be kept on that level otherwise it becomes something it’s not.  And life has a way of smacking any delusions of grandeur when you’re job is to tend to the most critical among us.

So here’s to the fire fighters tonight.  Hope they get to watch Christmas Vacation on repeat like the rest of us instead of be out in the cold putting out fires caused by faulty wiring and an old plastic Christmas tree.

Holiday pay makes up for part of it because certain things in our world don’t stop for family gatherings.  Like our need for late night taquitos or an infant’s failing heart. And each require one of us to delay our celebration.

I was on speaker with my family at home back in Northwest Indiana getting passed along in the usual holiday fashion.   It was an echo chamber made worse by being on my speaker in the car.  I fought off unnamed guilt for not being able to clone myself as the marine layer slipped behind the pass at Mulholland and the sky was quick to sign off in thin layers of tangerine.

I heard about mom’s ham and the beef from Portillo’s and I got just enough a taste of home to make me hungry for more.  When you live away from your kin, or your roots- these days take on new meaning.   I miss out on things like who got who what for Christmas sometimes but when I do get to go home, the days are marked with occasion and event.  And quality time.    My brother Dan was quick to remind me something the Drill Instructors were apt to joke about as punishment during basic training for him way back:  “Joe, we gonna cancel Christmas. Just like that.  That’s what we are going to do.”

So yeah, no one’s gonna cancel Christmas.  Jesus will get born again in the usual way next year.  The lawn ornaments and nativity scenes will light up the American night once again.   But it’s nice to think of everyone working on these days.  And the ones we don’t have with us.  But I also like to think of the ones who don’t know they’re not alone.  Who maybe just lost a job or a wife or a dog.  These days can be hard on those.  I’ll try to keep that in mind as I wait for my honey to get home and shuffle like a zombie to bed, mumbling gratitude through sleep starved eyes.

Tonight I feel apart of it all I guess.  And wanted to take a moment to share it with ya.  But if you don’t mind, I’ll keep it brief tonight as I got a few presents to wrap.  I managed to pay it forward with my Chicago contingent by sending off certificates that authenticated that I offset my carbon footprint by donating to wind turbines in Kenya or something  instead of guessing what socks or sweater or book to give.  Made me feel like I could wash my hands of the whole end of the world carbon crisis affair. At least for 2018-2019 is concerned.  A drop in the bucket no less, but my drop.  That’s cool, yeah, but.. I do love to spoil my gal, so I put my powers of deductive reasoning to good use and now I am about to seal my educated guesses in wrapping paper and scotch tape.  Gift giving is an art in and of itself.  And one I have yet to master.  Good thing they won’t cancel Christmas so I can practice again next year.

Goodwill and peace beyond all understanding to each and every one of you on this big blue ball in the sky tonight.  May we each find that star of Bethlehem up there in the twenty-first century night.    I’ll keep the light on for my sweetheart and maybe the Johnny Mathis playing. Cause that’s what she likes.


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