I’ve always admired lifelong learners, and I try to be one myself. On any day of any month, I’m discovering important facts about the world around me, such as “fried foods taste great!”
It’s tougher to learn things over Christmas and New Year’s, when you’re practicing time-honored traditions with the same old people. But alas, I managed to pick up a few things. Here we go:
1. If you have teenagers who have friends and can drive, you need to leave town.
When my college-age children are home, they want to connect with their friends who are home. And their high-school-age siblings? Well, they never want to be home. This makes it hard to have family time.
This is what we did: A couple of weeks before Christmas, Bess and I announced we were all going to the beach or the mountains for three nights, either before Christmas or after Christmas, and they could vote. (We all wanted to spend Christmas Day at home.)
I voted the beach, but everybody else voted mountains. We all voted for the days before Christmas. We rented a cabin at Cloudland Canyon State Park near Lookout Mountain, where we hiked and played games and cooked s’mores over an open fire. Family time? Check. Then we went home to see our friends.
2. The best museum in America that nobody knows about is 2½ hours from Columbus.
On the way to North Georgia, we stopped at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville. This place is incredible, and apparently nobody’s ever heard of it. There aren’t even signs on the interstate telling you about it.
I took my family on a recommendation long ago from my former colleague, the artist Don Coker.
We spent nearly three hours there and could have stayed all day. The place is packed with stunning sculptures, paintings and photographs of cowboys, Native Americans, animals, weapons, vehicles and landscapes. There was even a Bo Bartlett oil painting of a cow called “Calling.”
3. Watch these two movies in this order and get a great history lesson.
Two days before Christmas, my family watched “Darkest Hour,” about Winston Churchill’s political struggle and deliberations during the early days of World War II. On Christmas Day, we watched “Dunkirk,” about what happened when the government carried out Churchill’s order to assemble a civilian Navy and rescue the stranded British army.
“Darkest Hour” is showing in Columbus. “Dunkirk” can be rented and downloaded through iTunes or other services. Watch them with a young person – I’d recommend middle school and up. (Both movies are rated PG-13.) They’ll learn something, and so will you.
4. The best Christmas gifts are homemade food.
The best gifts I got this year: a giant ham that a co-worker smoked on his grill, and a rum cake that a co-worker and his wife baked after apparently applying an entire bottle of Myers’s.
Oh man. I’ve heard that in the old days, editors kept a bottle of booze in their desks. I just eat a piece of rum cake.
5. Nothing shows you care like a thoughtfully stuffed stocking.
My mother never complained, but the closest she came to doing so was in 1979 when she pointed out that she was the only one who stuffed the stockings, which meant she was never surprised by anything in hers.
This year, I thought about that and tried to give everybody a surprise in his or her stocking. And me? I got summer sausage and a nice pair of wool socks.
6. Winning feels good.
On Monday, I watched the Rose Bowl with three University of Georgia sophomores (translation: “wise fools”) and one future freshman (translation: “fool”). When Sony Michel sprinted into the end zone, these four young males sprinted outside into freezing weather and kept on going down the street. The fool took off his shirt; the wise fools did not.
Yes, winning feels good. And as linebacker Davin Bellamy can tell you, when you win, you can tell unpleasant people to humble themselves.
So that’s what I learned. In 2018, may you get an opportunity to tell others to humble themselves – and then pass on it.
Happy New Year.