I greatly enjoyed this holiday season. I liked that we:

found a tree :IMG_0031 and decorated it a little earlier this year:

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I liked that my mother got to visit a while longer to help us enjoy the gingerbread people my son and I made:

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I liked that we finally got to have that New Year’s Eve picnic like my Aunt Janet and Uncle Be Be:

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This is a season that reminded me of the importance of turning to the real people in our lives for a model of how to live. Television, “reality” or otherwise, does not provide a good model for how real people create pleasure and meaning in their lives. I thought about this when I received so many kind messages about my New Year’s Eve picnic and the accompanying story I shared about my family’s tradition. Television makes all New Year’s traditions the same: every woman wears a sparkly dress; men wear suits and tuxedoes; they all don cardboard top hats and blow air thru cardboard horns; sometimes they have rattlers; they sip champagne and kiss at midnight…unless you’re in Times Square. If you’re in Times Square, you skip the sparkly dress and the suit but keep the other stuff. It’s just monotony packaged and sold as a good time.

I know real families who create wonderful rituals and traditions to enjoy that television does not portray. On my friend Carmen’s wonderful blog, she thoughtfully writes about preparing black-eyed peas for the New Year as a tradition that she and many of her friends ritualistically perform as an element of familial and community history. I actually first learned that black folk prepared black-eyed peas for New Year’s day after reading the Darden sisters’ cookbook, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine (a cookbook I truly love as a book of good stories and photographs as much as for the recipes)My grandmother never cooked black-eyed peas. I suspect it was because they weren’t her favorite beans. She cooked pinto beans. Like her, I prepare pinto beans; they’re my favorite. When I first learned that African American families prepared black-eyed peas for good luck in the New Year, I improvised and made pinto instead. As my mother was visiting this year, I didn’t cook beans at all because she doesn’t eat them. In fact, she was most happy that she wasn’t in Cleveland so that she didn’t have to field numerous invitations from friends to enjoy a meal of black-eyed peas and collard greens as they are two foods she abhors. What my Mom’s friends did in preparation for the holiday season that she liked, as did I, was they ordered big ethnic meals for their families to enjoy before they prepared their big dinners. Thus, she had friends who ordered fanciful Italian dinners for their families. Other friends ordered Chinese food by the carton full so that they didn’t have to cook a thing themselves on Christmas Eve. One year, she told me that she had a friend who hosted a sandwich bar. In that vein, we had sub sandwiches on Christmas Eve.

We do ourselves such a service when we pay attention to the people in our lives; learn from them. T.V. people do not allow an assessment of the full scope and measure of their lives. Mostly what we see from television people is how they spend money. Thus, they might give us insight into how to shop–or better yet, how they shop, but not how to live.

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