Christmas Then And Now

This cartoon appeared in The Union in December of 2001. We were only a few months removed from the horror of 9/11, and everyone was still trying to cope with the new reality, knowing that life would never be the same. Welcome to the 21st Century.

I was not immune to those feelings, so I spent a lot of time out and about, looking for answers. On the day in question, I attended my friend Dan O’Neill’s father’s wake. Irish Catholics really know how to send a departed spirit on to the great beyond. Singing, dancing, laughing, remembering all that was good about the person. One of their favorite sayings is “may you be in heaven a half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.” And with the Irish, it’s essential to distract St. Peter with a lot of noise so he doesn’t notice all those broken commandments.

Next it was on to a party at contractor Bruce Ivy’s office in Grass Valley. Bruce had taken some of the cartoons I did lampooning the sometimes bizarre and contradictory behavior of our various planning departments, blown them up and pasted them to the walls as decorations. This was during the infamous NH2020 period, but the animosity usually displayed was nowhere to be found. Bruce put on a magnificent feast and people from all walks of life were welcome to partake in the festivities. 

As the sun began to set, I found myself at Seaman’s Lodge, where Ridge musicians Jay Frais and Mary Barry hosted a potluck hoedown. More food, more friends, and like I said in the cartoon, I won a cactus in the raffle. This was especially cool because my spouse (who was working and couldn’t attend any of these events) loves all things cacti and succulent.

As I left the last party, a gentle snow began to fall, covering the twin cities in a silent white blanket. And at that moment, I knew there was still hope for the uncertain future, despite the horrors of September and the wars to come.

In the years that followed, I spent most of my time caring for elderly parents. My father’s decline began in 2002, and he passed away in 2004. My mother’s dementia did her in in 2008. And after living with us for two and a half years, we laid my mother in law to rest this past June. I still talk to them in my dreams.

This Christmas season, we confront yet another horror. Just when the rhetoric and animosity of the election was beginning to recede, a disturbed young man went off the rails and murdered his mother and a school full of innocent children. Why? We may never really know. But the event has rekindled the hatred and contempt between liberal and conservative. Instead of sober reflection, the internet and TV networks are seething with accusations of blame. Reconciliation seems farther away. Winning is what’s important.

It’s one of the reasons I haven’t posted much lately. I’m fed up with politics, with the demise of common sense and any semblance of civility. Another coming year of uncertainty and instability. Hope lives, but with each passing day you wonder if it will wither and die for lack of nourishment.

But I’m not giving up. There is so much to be thankful for. We survived the horror of eleven years ago, and we will survive the horror of last week. It begins with remembering what this season is all about. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the message of love and family, and the things that bind us together. It just takes a little effort.

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5 Responses to Christmas Then And Now

  1. San French says:

    Thanks Bob for a well-worded ‘reason for the season’ post. We’ve so very much to be thankful for. May you and MA have a wonderful and prosperous Christmas and New Year.

    • rl crabb says:

      Thanks, San. I hope to resume my recollections of the Carrie Nation story in the coming months. (San was an original member of the band.) I need some new software to play the music, which is why I haven’t done anything lately. Merry Christmas, Bro.

  2. TD Pittsford says:

    R.L., many of us feel the same way and a few even hold some hope for the future of our country and our lives. It’s tragic that our “leaders” have precipitated such an idealogical schism in our country that it’s doubtful we will ever put aside our differences in the search for peace and harmony. Contention, sometimes violent but always destructive, has replaced honest dialogue and any meaningful exchange of ideas. Discussions are no longer about finding the truth (whatever that is) but about convincing “the other side” that one’s point of view is the absolute gospel and no other opinion is valid. We as a nation have become either vehemently narrow minded and intolerant, or completely blind to that which is happening around us, in politics, society, religion, and sadly, even in our own homes. Even worse, and possibly even more debilitating, is that accountability, or rather the lack of it, doesn’t bother many. Apparently it’s far easier to point the finger of blame than take responsibility for one’s own actions. I think in cruder circles, it’s known as “covering one’s own ass” and to hell with everyone else. It is painfully obvious that this pervasive spirit, manifested in endless, futile arguments will have, and already has had devastating effects not only in our nation but in all the nations of the world. Politicians, unions and religious groups are easy targets but in the end the responsibility to make the changes we sorely need, rests firmly in the hands of each and every one of us. We must accept responsibility ourselves for the state of our nation and our lives because we are the only ones who can make the conscious decision to slough off the overwhelming amount of rhetoric and outright lies we are being fed day in and day out, until we accept an overwhelming dearth of patently false assertions as truth. The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States begins with, “We the People…” That may be our salvation…that, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution itself may be our only path to preserving the freedoms our founding fathers tried so hard to insure. Read those documents. You may rediscover what patriotism truly means and then find the same kind of courage our forefathers displayed when they risked their lives to establish this country, our “…home of the brave and the land of the free.”

  3. Michael Anderson says:


    I used to really enjoy this holiday when I worked for other people, but once I was running my own business I gained a whole new perspective. For small business owners, this is the time of year when we close the books on one year and open them for another, pay taxes owed/reconciled, attend (and host) a zillion business/school/private parties, find time for good cheer, shop like idiots, deal with bad weather, have wild upturns or downturns in revenue depending on the business type (both conditions are stressful), and just generally have our asses handed to us until around January 5th, when we all pass out from sheer exhaustion.

    Didn’t used to be this way. Until humans discovered oil, winter was the time when we hunkered down and hibernated. I used to live on North Pine St. in NC back in the late 80s and early 90s, and I had a guy help for a couple of months in 1992 with some tree work and other yard maintenance. It was in the fall, and he described to me his coming routine: after he was done with my job, he was going to head up to Camptonville one last time until the next year–he had been preparing for the winter for months and had all the provisions he needed, he would drive past his mailbox, park off to the side, attach a chain from his truck to a huge log he used to close access to his property, then shut down the outside world till the sun came back.

    Chris was his name, maybe you’ve heard of him.

    Slurping soup for 4 months, near the pot-belly stove, reading books like there’s no tomorrow…that is my fever dream.


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