Travels with Kathi

Travels with Kathi: #24 – The Holiday Gene

The Holiday Gene

You would have to be blind and deaf, locked up in a underground bunker without any power, batteries, or digital devices to be unaware of the holiday season. I think it is fair to say Kathi loves the Christmas season like no other time of the year. Her enthusiasm is centered around her love for family and friends. Her efforts get revved up at Thanksgiving , and rise to a crescendo on December 25th. Her near-obsession with making every thing as perfect as possible comes from two influences: First, she is a woman, a mother, a grandmother. Secondly, she has the Holiday Gene.

Our annual path to the 25th starts with Christmas lights. This portion of the journey must be started while the roof and the application equipment, the ladders, are free of snow. Some Decembers bring us unbearable cold and snow, so low-hanging lights must be strung wearing snow boots and heavy parkas. The snow is welcomed as a necessary background for Kathi’s magically-posed photos of our black labs, the photos she uses for her annual Christmas cards.


Kathi is a great collector of wall plaques with kind sayings, photos of dogs who have gone to heaven where they stand by the gate waiting for Kathi to arrive, and all sorts of Christmas ornaments. These treasures must be stored in many boxes in safe places awaiting the magical time. My part of the process is to transport all the boxes full of holiday stuff into the house, unpack the contained treasures as I am directed, and return the boxes now containing off-season knick-knacks back to storage. I feel comfort in being somewhat familiar with the holiday process. It’s sort of husband job security.

In the past, we would travel into the near-by foothills to a client’s woods and harvest a fresh tree. That tradition has been the victim of our old knees and backs. Kathi has begrudgingly consented to switching to a reusable tree. All lights, inside and out, are placed on timers to mute my constant complaint of having Christmas lights on during the day.

As she gets all her treasures properly placed, even to the point of replacing every-day dog toys with Christmas dog toys, Kathi is content. All is ready for Christmas. With the presence of pictures and ornaments from Christmases past, we are surrounded by family and pets that have gone before, as well as our current family and pets who will soon be celebrating the holidays with us.

The holiday season is not complete for Kathi until our New Year’s Eve celebration. That’s the time when Kathi gets to share the holiday season with our long-time friends. Sharing Christmas Day with friends is limited by friends’ obligations to celebrate with their families. The party can be preceded by an early-evening nap, but the festivities start at 9:00 pm and are completed shortly after the ball falls in New York’s Time Square; or rather the recording of the ball falling as it is repeated for our time zone. This celebration is to start next year on a positive note.


That’s what the holidays are for me. It seems I find myself more and more in the minority in today’s world. Public sentiment seems to support the presence of an increase in personal sadness during the holidays. I talked to a lady last week who had a family member who was diagnosed with a catastrophic viral infection that destroyed his heart. The condition was diagnosed and he was placed on a transplant list. A compatible heart was found and the transplant was completed in a week. When the surgeon was asked how could the whole process from diagnosis to transplant have been completed in such a short time, the doctor said each year a lot of hearts become available during the holidays because a lot of people die, the result of an increase of accidental deaths as well as suicides.

Some say the holidays have been hijacked by businesses presenting us with continual marketing: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and on and on. Those pundits claim that bombardment of retail ads has made us equate how good our holidays are by the value of gifts received, thereby leading many to disappointment and despair. If we allow our minds to focus on perpetual buying deals and gift value instead of the great messages of the holidays then the fault for the erosion of our holidays is on us, not on the advertisers. We must be vigilant in holding on to the true meaning.

Gene Therapy

Do you have the Holiday Gene? How does a person know which of us has the Holiday Gene? I would suggest you look at Kathi. She is motivated by thankfulness and love, and wants to share through gifts. She doesn’t need to get the best deal brought to her by continual advertising or Amazon Prime. She doesn’t need to go to Black Friday sales and endure near-riot conditions . Her gifts are perfect because those of us who receive those gifts know her heart. It truly is the thought that counts; not just a thought on Christmas day, but the thought all year round. She has the gene.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those of us who find ourselves Holiday Gene-deficient could receive a gene transplant, or at least gene therapy . Maybe by next year the world could be a much better place. We’d still have to reprogram old behaviors. We’d have to show our love in our eyes; we’d have to get that love in our heart. Where could we all learn that love, that look in the eye? Not everyone lives with Kathi.

For many of us the answer of the perfect role model we seek may be right in front of us. I see that love we’re looking for in the eyes of an animal as a small girl leads her pony into the tack stall of the barn. We see it when Kathi and I return home from a day of farm calls, open the door, and are greeted by three excited, loving dogs welcoming our return. The perfect love we seek exists in the eyes of our animals. Like Kathi, those animals don’t have to purchase an expensive gift to prove love. We just feel it.

Our animals may not celebrate the holidays, but they do have a similar gene to the Holiday Gene. It may be the Good Animal Gene. Best of all they display that behavior all year long.

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