Jack McCall column


A few years back, bestselling author John Grisham published a book titled “Skipping Christmas”. It is a delightful story about a family, the Kranks, who decide to skip Christmas all together — no Christmas tree, no holiday parties, no presents.

Ultimately, things do not work out the way the Kranks had it planned. The story does, however, have a surprisingly happy ending.

It seems this year we are faced with a Christmas challenge of a different kind. Let’s call it Keeping Christmas.

It is no secret that Christmas has been under attack by certain factions for a number of years now. Political correctness dictates that the word “holiday” is more appropriate than using the word “Christmas.” Hence, we have holiday trees and holiday celebrations, etc.

Without question, the coronavirus, along with how it is being handled, had a profound impact on the Thanksgiving holiday this year. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems unimaginable in a free society that a governor can mandate that families can meet only in groups of 6 or fewer for a holiday celebration. I suppose that is why California is called the land of “fruits and nuts.”

The CDC has now advised that families stay home this Christmas and not travel for holiday celebrations. In the words of Charlie Brown, “Good grief!”

Add to the COVID-19 woes a presidential election that is still up in the air, and one is inclined to ask, “What’s next?” Regardless of who is declared president in January the days ahead will be filled with instability and uncertainty.

In view of all that is going on in our world it is incredibly easy to lose sight of that which is most important. That is why I have decided to do whatever it takes to “keep Christmas” this year.

I started early. Our Christmas tree went up two weeks before Thanksgiving Day. On that day I also brought out the Christmas CDs.

I’ve also spent some time looking back.

I have a cancelled check issued to me by my maternal grandfather, Will Herod Brim, in 1955. I was all of 4 years old at the time. The check was written in the amount of $2 “For” Christmas and signed in sprawling cursive, W. H Brim.

Two dollars, you say? Well, let’s think about that. In 1955, $2 (which equals to 40 nickels) would purchase 40, 10-ounce soft drinks. That’s right – 40. At age 4, I was standing on the very threshold of becoming a serious consumer of Nehi Orange and Nehi Grape. Today a Nehi Grape (if you can find one) costs no less than a dollar (I have paid up to $1.59). In today’s dollars that $2 check would translate into $40-$60 today — not a bad gift from grandpa.

I think I’ll have a Nehi Grape (or two) this holiday season.

In the 12 years I knew my grandfather Brim, I don’t recall a single Christmas tree in the house in Brim Hollow, but we had one every year in the house where I grew up. And it was cedar. Ah, the feel of the warmth from a wood fire and the smell of cedar when you entered the house on a cold, winter’s day. Intoxicating!

I harvested a cedar tree a couple of weeks back. It stands in the corner of my office. My office is beginning to smell like cedar.

More gifts are a part of my Christmas celebration this year — not expensive ones. I’ll be the giver. Those gifts will be a reason for me to be in touch with people I care about. I won’t stay long when I deliver them, and I will maintain social distance. It will be a “heart to heart” exchange.

I’m paying more attention to our Christmas tree this year. Late at night when the house is quiet, I sit in a straight-back, cane-bottom chair — a relic from the Brim Hollow — and study the glow of the lights, and I allow my mind to take me back across 2,000 years. And I clearly see a star and shepherds and a stable and a newborn savior.

It’s all in keeping Christmas.

Jack McCall is a motivational humorist, southern storyteller and author.  A native Middle Tennessean, he is recognized on the national stage as a “Certified Speaking Professional. “He can be reached at jack@jackmccall.com Copyright 2020 by Jack McCall.

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