We hosted our Brookings granddaughter for the holiday weekend -- driving through a localized little snowstorm between Highmore and Wessington to pick her up -- and one of the things we did for fun was watch a movie called "The Green Hornet." I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't quite the Britt Reid and Kato who showed up in the movie. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the film. It's always fun to have the granddaughter around sharing some low-key time in the family room.
My dad used to say that any job worth doing is worth doing well. I suppose every kid's dad -- or mom -- said that at one time or another. I agree with the sentiment in part, but what about this other one my dad used to toss off: Moderation in all things. Didn't he really mean "moderation in most things?" I mean, the very concept of moderation becomes a mockery if it is demanded in all things. How immoderate is that? That being the case, it doesn't seem moderate to demand that ANY job worth doing be done well.
Years and years ago -- so many that we can't tell when it happened -- we invested in a set of 20 luminaries for the curved railing of our front porch. I know traditional luminaries are supposed to be candles in bags weighted down with sand or something. That would have been wonderfully quaint and pure Martha Stewart decorative. Lighted candles in paper bags is a pretty impractical notion, though, don't you think, when we're talking about placing them atop a porch railing of a house located in a part of the country where the wind sometimes tears through the pillars at 40 mph or 50 mph.
Every year for Christmas, each member of our family receives a calendar for the new year. The themes for all of the calendars were set years and years ago, so one son gets Grateful Dead months, another gets Phish, our daughter usually gets ballet, Nancy gets bears and I get The Beatles. I was in the process of replacing last year's Beatles calendar with the 2012 model, when I took a close look at the January photo. The Lads from Liverpool were early in their career, and the place they played looked pretty tacky.
When I was in high school, the Christmas break was one, long period away from the basketball season. It's no longer that way. My junior year, we played a couple of games during the Thanksgiving break, traveling to Deadwood for two nights at the Franklin Hotel and games against Deadwood the first night and Lead the second. Christmas break, though -- the two years I played varsity ball, anyway -- we rested and hung out with the family. Some of us skated on the frozen river.
Forrest Gump's momma might have been wrong. She's the one who said -- or at least her little boy, the character played by Tom Hanks in the movie, says she said -- "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." A box of chocolates, at least those I saw this Christmas season, contains a nicely spaced chart that tells you exactly what you're going to get. Now, it's true that sometimes what the chart says you're going to get from one square or another in the box of candy isn't something you are going to like.
As both the old year and the long war in Iraq come to an end, I find myself thinking of several South Dakota soldiers whose lives touched me even though I never knew them before being given the assignment as a newspaper reporter to learn more about then as casualties of the distant fighting. News reporters are asked to cover a wide range of different events and activities, some joyful, some tragic. If they work for any length of time in a small state like South Dakota during a period of war, it is inevitable that at some point they will be assigned to cover the funeral of a soldier.
Whether you're a kid for real or just an old man trying to think like a child and act like a child and eat like a child, this is a trying time in the Christmas season. The holy holiday is almost here but not quite yet.
I haven't been a college student since LBJ was president, but the approach of Christmas still makes me think back to a time when the holiday season meant final exams for fall semester were near. These days, fall semester ends before Christmas. When I started college, fall semester ended in late January. Christmas break was an unused opportunity to do some booking in advance of finals week.
When I go Christmas shopping for all my friends (who am I kidding? I only have two friends), I nearly always leave the house thinking it would be appropriate to spend the entire weekend looking at dozens and dozens of possible gifts, because my friends are worth that much time and thought. That's what I think.