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GROB: Merry Christmas from my penguin and me

GROB: Merry Christmas from my penguin and me
Press reporter/columnist James Grob takes a selfie with his 8-foot inflatable penguin named Opus.
By James Grob,

I have an 8-foot inflatable penguin named Opus, and Opus and I want you to have a Merry Christmas.

Opus is my contribution to the holiday transformation that happens at my house every year. My wife does the rest. As I write this column in my living room, I look around and see Christmas everywhere. There are Nativity scenes and angels and reindeer and snowmen and snow women.

There are stockings hung by the electric fireplace and candles and bells and glowing lights and colorful balls, and a sparkling lighted tree, with wrapped packages beneath it.

Shepherds and wise men and little lambs keep me company throughout the day, and boughs of holly keep my spirits light.

It’s important to my wife that our house be adorned in Christmas decor. I’m sure that she’d love me to participate in the adorning process a little more than I do, but I just step back and let her do her thing. I think it’s more peaceful that way, as her passion for the project makes her a little bit bossy, and I sometimes bristle at bossiness.

So I just set up and plug in my 8-foot inflatable penguin named Opus outside, occasionally reach things that are stored in places too high for her, and tell her that I love her for making our home a Christmas oasis.

It looks like it’s going to be an oasis for just the two of us to enjoy this year, as I don’t expect we’re going to have any visitors from the east. Or from the west, north or south. 2020 has been a year of isolation for most of us, and Christmas 2020 isn’t going to be any different.

For the past few years, my wife and I have read Christmas stories and poems and introduced talented musical acts as we’ve been the hosts at the annual Christmas Extravaganza dinner that takes place at the Methodist church here in town. That’s not going to happen this year, and that’s a shame.

I’ve been coming to grips, over the last couple weeks, with the fact that I’m not going to see my adult daughters this Christmas season. They’re out on the West Coast, and I don’t expect them to get on a plane and fly all the way to Iowa.

Nor will I likely see my beloved nephews, even though my sister’s family is only a couple of hours away. My parents are only an hour away, but in this time of isolation, there’s a pretty good chance we won’t be getting together, in person.

The big Christmas bash my wife’s family has in Kansas City every year has already been downscaled to a Christmas ZOOM party, and we’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to spend Christmas time with our grandkids. It might not happen. It might get postponed, or it might at least be limited. It’s heartbreaking.

We attend Christmas Eve services every year, full of Christmas carols and candlelight, but this year we’ll be watching them on YouTube.

I’m sad about all that, and maybe a little bit angry sometimes. When I was griping about it the other day, a friend told me, “We’re all in the same boat, buddy.” That made me feel a little bit better. Shared misery isn’t quite as miserable.

But then I thought about it a little bit more, and I realized that, no, we aren’t all in the same boat. We’re all in different boats, just riding out the same storm on the same sea. Some of us are on ocean liners, some of us are on yachts, some of us are in bass boats, some in row boats, some in canoes, and some of us are floating on a flimsy little door like those kids in the movie “Titanic.”

And although this storm is big enough to topple any boat, the folks in the little boats are a lot more vulnerable. Let’s not forget about them.

It’s not the Christmas I want. It’s not the Christmas I remember. But it sure looks like it in my very comfortable living room, because my wife refuses to turn Christmas off, regardless of the circumstances.

It’s about abundance, charity and goodwill, isn’t it? It’s about angels and shepherds rejoicing together, and it’s about wise men following the light of a peculiar star, because something wonderful is happening in that direction. Something wonderful is always happening somewhere, and blessed are those of us who seek it, even in 2020.

Christmas is about sharing gifts and helping others, and there’s never been a Christmas when that’s more important than it is this Christmas.

You could be the innkeeper who tells a poor pregnant woman and her husband that there’s no room for them here. You don’t want to be that guy. History hasn’t been kind to that guy.

Be the guy who smiles, who welcomes, who laughs and shares. Be the innkeeper with the 8-foot inflatable penguin named Opus out front.

This year, more than ever, be the guy who makes misery more merry.