We went out to tag our Christmas tree this morning, a family tradition that we have held even after the children have gone. We used to choose a tree from our own property at the old house, both for the romance of it and the reduced cost. You get some pretty odd trees that way, but of such oddities is charm born. There was one year that Jonathan cut one from his in-law's property up in Jackson when they were clearing space for an addition. Over 20', that one was, and even after cutting it down to 16' it was a project to lug it three hours back to Goffstown. It was down to 12' by the time we erected it, and the route to upstairs was seriously impeded. I think that was the first year the boys were here from Romania. Jonathan and Heidi still cut their own tree, but in a different place. I don't know it that option is available in Houston for Ben, but I haven't heard him mention it. Chris and JA always found the tree-tagging less important, but we made them go at gunpoint, as we do now with Kyle. It's tradition, dammit. Merry Christmas.
I have been wondering with some apprehension what the financial news out of Europe means going forward. It does illustrate how far people will let things go while remaining in denial. They, like we, blame the politicians for it all, but the citizenry didn't get so very concerned that they voted them out. Much as here. The EU is only part of the problem, though it is taking the heat. Covetousness is the problem. Christians usually focus on individual coveting as the sin to pay attention to, but group covetousness may be more damaging. We are studying the OT histories in Sunday School. We want a king so that we can be like other nations. The same today. Other school districts have...Other professions with the same amount of education make more...The army gets all the new equipment...Other Little Leagues buy those nice...Other hospitals have that equipment...Those other cities...those other states...those other countries... The Europeans saw this collection of American states with a better economy and drew the wrong lessons. And we, of course, do that too. As long as I can remember, one of the big arguments for universal health care is that all the other kids have one.
PJ O'Rourke gets it half right when he points to this commandment as being important for a nation's well-being. On an individual basis, it's a good reminder not to covet because it breeds discontent. Get one of your own. But he left out the part that it's bad to get one of your own if you can't afford it. My third and fourth sons thought they could afford x amount of car because their friends were all affording it somehow, so they must be able to as well. And why shouldn't they "deserve" that as much as anyone else? The part where a lot of those friends eventually couldn't make the payments looked less visible. Buying too much car is the chief cause of bankruptcy in your 20's. As with my post on standing alone, it is perhaps good training to endure having something inferior to what your peers have simply for the discipline of denial.
Pondering how life might have been different, I remembered how unusual it was for people graduating from William and Mary to leave the general region, where the very name had cachet and people immediately tagged you as a smart person. I came back to New England, then soon to New Hampshire, where people didn't even recognise the school. I always highlighted the good reasons for coming back here, but there was some timidity and retreat in it as well. I seldom think much about how life would have been different for Tracy and I - I think it would have been an enormous difference - but today it struck me: my sons would not be Newhampshiremen. I don't think that matters so much to the Romanians, for fairly obvious reasons. And Benjamin has always been a citizen of whatever he is reading or watching - of Watership Down, of ESPN, of Redwall. Still, even in Texas there's a self-definition, an idea of origin that clings to him, I think. Kyle has lived mostly in Massachusetts until 2009, so I don't know what he'll see himself as. Those ideas don't start to become important until one is older anyway.
But the idea of Jonathan not being a Newhampshireman is frankly inconceivable. Apparently he thinks so too, having moved back here to insure that his children are Newhampshirewomen.