Category Archives: Parenthood

No Friction With Fiction

Anne with an E

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — After nearly two weeks north of the border – in Halifax and Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island (that’s Nova Scotia, for those of you who can’t find Nebraska on a map) — it was interesting to see how long it takes for me to be impatient and brusque with people after consistently encountering the complete opposite.

And it will be interesting to note if I will ever want to see a lobster ever again or if I will now crave the best lobster on the planet.

Probably won’t take much more than some deplorable aggressive driving by a grunt in a pickup truck, but I digress.

Just about every elevator trip at both hotels involved friendly conversation.

And my Flyers tee-shirt was a key spark in the land where hockey was invented.

“Philly, eh?” I was asked.

Since the Flyers are pretty much struck in neutral and don’t inspire the same ire they once did from hockey purists, the conversation switched quickly to Philadelphia’s pride and joy.

Independence Hall?

Nope.

Liberty Bell?

Nada.

The Eagles?

If you saw what passes for football up there, you’d know better (although my Eagles’ shirt did get one passing thumbs-up).

Give up?

Try Rocky Balboa.

Rocky Raw Meat

It struck me as interesting that Philadelphia, known for being the alleged birthplace of the so-called liberty we enjoy, is universally noted for a fictional character.

Then again, Charlottetown was where the groundwork for Canada’s independence was first laid when members of the rest of the British Commonwealth gathered in 1864, for what became known as the Charlottetown Conference, to discuss how to break from the clutches of the Crown.

And yet, that is not why we – or most others – were there.

It was also for a fictional character that Sofia has come to adore after reading all the books about her.

That’s Anne Shirley, the semi-biographical alter ego of author L.M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery.

At the time of my elevator encounter, during which the friendly chap said “Rocky” was his favorite movie because of the life lesson about taking a beating and not giving up, the better half and Sofia were seeing a stage play based on the series of “Anne” books.

We spent multiple days in Cavendish, where the life of the author is a literal cottage industry, and we saw a musical version of the character’s life (I survived by dozing off for a good portion of it).

So I guess you would say that the two historic places are better known for their fictional icons is kind of messed up, huh?

Three mass shootings in a week, including two in the span of 24 hours? That’s messed up.

A grown man in Montana fracturing the skull of a 13-year-old for not removing his cap during the national anthem? Messed up.

Fictional characters being larger than life? No way.

As much as I dig history, and think it should be studied thoroughly (we did a whole walking tour to learn the history part of Charlottetown), I have to say it’s kind of cool.

Two characters were created that were so sympathetic — and relatable — that they are the first thought for many outsiders of the home terrains upon which they were created.

Visitors from around the world making it the first order of business of running up the Art Museum steps to play the role of Rocky, the brainchild of a then-struggling actor named Sylvester Stallone, is not an anomaly.

In PEI (Prince Edward Island), there was an abundance of Japanese tourists. It didn’t strike me as odd until it was explained to me that a local woman once went to Japan to teach and, due to the lack of age-appropriate literature of the time, she introduced the series of “Anne” books to her students.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a Swedish co-counselor at summer camp, who happened to be a 6-foot-4 Olympic swimming hopeful that I could never convince to play on the counselor hockey team. He related how the original “Rocky” was common viewing at places where athletes there trained, and added how the sequels (there were only a few at that time) were a disappointment.

It struck me how what seemed to be the experiences of Rocky Balboa on the streets of my hometown were not uniquely unique.

That is the power of art.

That what makes bitter reality easier to swallow.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on Aug. 11, 2018.

Time Is On Our Side

Snowy-School-Bus

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Often to my wife’s chagrin, Sofia and I are so much alike that is frightening.

If you ever wondered what the saying of two peas in a pod means, just observe us in our national habitat for a while.

But there is one area where we clearly differ.

I pride myself on being not only on time, but at least 15 minutes early.

And with the ongoing PennDOT conspiracy to road work in my path, I like to leave even extra travel time to get to where I need to be.

If we’re early, we’ll deal with it.

We can always sit in the car and chill with some tunes, until we don’t look too early, right?

I never want to hear the words “it’s about time” when I – or we – are late for wherever we need to be.

That vibe carries into the outside world, where I find myself saying “it’s about time” when enough red tape is cut for logical decisions to be made.

Today, I bring you some examples:

-Ana’s Corner Store, at Township Line and North Wales roads in East Norriton, was held hostage by road work for what seemed like a biblical 40 years. While I like to stop there on my way to make musical magic at Morningstar Studios, I have been avoiding it like the 11th plague that the scenario was. I feared for the survival of the privately owned business but, lo and behold, it has outlasted the road crews.

Instead of amen, let us bow our heads and say, “it’s about time.”

-Speaking of PennDOT –which has twice damaged my car with new road paint, but I digress — it announced that multiple police departments in Eastern Pennsylvania are launching a special aggressive driving enforcement campaign. It will last through the end of August.

Among the participating departments are Norristown, West Norriton, Upper Merion and Plymouth. They will be focusing on a host of aggressive driving behaviors (running red lights, tailgating, speeding, distracted driving, etc.)

I kind of sort of thought this was their job to begin with, and I also wonder what happens after August, when the initiative concludes (17 fatalities in Philadelphia’s five surrounding counties were the direct result of aggressive driving in 2017).

While my own temper is my own worst enemy, I have successfully tamed the beast within as I have mellowed with middle age. Still, nothing like a schmuck thinking the road belongs to him (and it’s usually a him, not a her) to get me angry.

It will be nice to know police will be out to curb this stupidity, which will protect me from myself as well.

Again, instead of amen, let us bow our heads and say “it’s about time.”

-Finally, we no longer have to hear about those a bit longer in the tooth than we are walking to school – 18 ½ miles, each way, in two feet of snow – and mocking us for calling off school before one flake hits the ground.

I guess it does seem a bit foolish, and there have been times when it has backfired, but it is better to be safe than sorry – especially with all those aggressive drivers out there who don’t respect the conditions.

As a kid, I loved snow days. The options were endless. Sledding, shoveling for do-re-mi, playing tackle football or – as it was often with me – sleeping in and then watching movies.

As the parent primarily responsible for Sofia’s transportation, I had quite a different view. There were a few times when the school attempted to stay open during a bad snow storm, and I had to pick up Sofia amid worsening conditions on a day when the school should have planned ahead.

It’s always a tough call, as school districts want to get in at least a half-day so that there won’t be makeups at the end of the year.

But extra buses on the road, with road crews trying to do their thing, make for an added mess.

Why mess with a messy situation?

Tom Wolf signed a bill (Senate Bill 440) this week that will allow the option for “cyber snow days.”

Translation: With computers, which have been around since Al Gore invented them, stay home and do your schoolwork – and still have a chance to be a kid in the snow.

“School districts need the added flexibility of ensuring their students’ continuity of education is not interrupted by the weather or any other unplanned school closure,” said State Sen. Kristen Phillips-Hill said in a statement.

Phillips-Hill, of York, was the sponsor of the bill that is open to all schools, public and private, for approved periods of three years.

To Phillips-Hill, we stand and applaud and say, “it about time.”

The following column ran in The Times Herald on July 15.

Every Day Is Father’s Day

MVP

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Only a few Father’s Days ago, I spent the occasion at an 8-hour dance recital just to watch Sofia perform for, maybe, a grand total of eight minutes.

I accepted it as my lot in life.

Sofia was my own personal Tiny Dancer, and I figured this was how it was going to be – waiting all day with a growling stomach, clinging to a bouquet of flowers while racing other dance parents for ideal seats.

At the time, she was the kid – “that kid” — in her first year of 8-U Rec softball that sometimes needed 10-12 pitches (from a coach) before she hit the ball four inches.

I braced myself to become a dance dad and not a sports dad, as she was more in her natural habitat in ballet shoes than spikes.

We fostered her overall creative side with piano lessons, art camps/classes, etc.

Softball was just something cute she did, usually with yours truly serving in some sort of coaching capacity, as she enjoyed being part of a team and accessorizing, via headbands and wristbands.

And it was all fine with me.

It would run its course and we would look back one day and laugh.

As long she did well in school and maintained “angel on earth” status with the Mount Rushmore of teachers she had in the early grades, all was good.

I could not have been more proud.

At least that is what I thought.

Guess where I spent this past Father’s Day?

I’ll make it easy.

It was not at a dance recital.

It was not at a piano recital, either.

We were in gritty Gloucester City, N.J. – literally in the shadow of one of the bridges — for a travel softball tournament.

And not as spectators – well, mama was a tense spectator while I was in the dugout as a low-on-the-totem-pole coach who keeps the scorebook.

Sofia was on the field.

For those of you not familiar with this world of travel tournament softball, the pace of the game puts it several notches above neighborhood Rec leagues.

Players have to audition for teams in mid-summer and, if they earn an invite, they practice year-round in indoor facilities.

I’m not going to say Sofia is a superstar at this level, because she is not – not yet, anyway – but she meets the commitment level needed for travel ball.

She played left field and batted ninth in both games Saturday. She made a nice running catch and lined a single in the first game, a 7-4 loss to the second-ranked team in South Jersey. That performance earned her a chance to be a game captain in the second game, a terse 7-7 tie in which she stole a base and scored a run after getting hit by a pitch (her specialty).

On Sunday, Father’s Day, she was moved up a spot in the batting order, but we were promptly eliminated, 10-0.

Still, in the midst of this early morning drubbing, it hit me as she rifled a throw from deep left field to the cutoff at shortstop, how much she has developed her softball skill set in such a short amount of time.

And she has done it her way.

Sofia still dances – just not at a school that holds recitals on Father’s Day (eye roll) – and we limit her ballet classes to one long night a week to allow for softball practice, schoolwork and her litany of other secondary activities (Girl Scouts, 4H, school choir, etc.)

In the spring, Sofia also played for her school’s softball team, starting every game at her preferred position, catcher, and was named as an All-Star at year’s end.

It was not uncommon for her to go right from a school game or practice to a workout with her travel team, Velocity.

I could take all the credit for not giving up on her, but the truth is that she never gave up on herself and is eternally coachable, meaning the arrow is still pointing way up.

And no, I have zero delusions that she will be one of those young women on TV playing for UCLA or Oklahoma in the College Softball World Series.

Sofia was never going to be dancing at Julliard, either.

She is what I said I always wanted, an all-around kid.

This is not to be confused with me thinking Sofia is perfect, because she is not. She is the princess of procrastination. She is not quite as compliant with authority at home as she is with teachers, coaches, dance instructors, etc.

And she is bit too addicted to social media.

But Sofia is a young lady of many deep passions.

Beyond softball and dance, she is turning into a mini-me with her love for music (I wish she’d let me show her how similar my bands are to hers, but I’m not giving up). She enjoys going to museums, art and historical, especially if they are about ancient Egypt.

Sofia will soon return to her beloved creative arts camp – well-prepared with a purple streak in her air — to indulge herself in all it has to offer (except sports, as the kids there are, uh, not too athletic).

As parents, all we can do is let our children engage with the world, and embrace their passions with both arms.

In her case, she might need three.

Sometimes, it’s her mother helping her rake in the overflow.

Sometimes, it’s me.

That’s just what fathers do.

It is my lot in life — a life where every day is Father’s Day.

No matter where I am spending it.

This column  first appeared in The Times Herald on June 23, 2019.

Music Is In The Blood

My Chem

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE –– Sometimes it seems that there are two types of people in this world, and I don’t mean those who believe windmills cause cancer and those who know better.

It’s those who get Bruce Springsteen and those who don’t.

And I did everything in my power to have my own flesh and blood “get it,” but my turn at the plate ended while working a full count — and fouling off a few pitches for the sake of drama — before striking out, big-time.

The result? Sofia, now 12 going 21, is too set in her music-loving ways to open her heart and mind – let alone her headphone-covered ears – to the Boss.

The best chance at indoctrination came in September of 2016, when we took her to her first Springsteen concert at Lincoln Financial Field.

It was a moment I had dreamed about, except that everything that could have gone wrong did (in spite of a killer set list).

What would be the 33rd time I saw Springsteen live, and the first for Sofia, was also the first I left one of his shows early (fortunately, all we missed was a rendition of “Shout” and “Jersey Girl” in the final encore).

We got out of the packed parking lot quickly, too, but I am still carrying a heavy burden of guilt that missing a traffic jam can’t erase.

The guilt is religious in nature, even though I’m not a religious person.

I have experienced spirituality, with Springsteen concerts topping the list.

I have many converts to the Cult of Springsteen on my resume – including the wife — with concerts being the quickest route to saving souls.

With the one that mattered most, that of my Sofia, I failed.

She entered the show in question ambivalent and left miserable.

Hot and miserable.

The myth known as global warming was in full force, sending Sofia and her mommy to the first aid area several times to cool down (I still insist that if Chris Christie wasn’t one section over, there may have been some breathable air for the rest of us).

It’s almost like she still has PTSD from the experience – I guess dehydration will do that to a kid – and she shrieks at the sound of almost any Springsteen song for more than one chord progression (for non-music peeps, that’s not long).

The mission of mercy was nothing new.

For her own good, Sofia has been dragged to see a lot of other vintage acts.

That list includes Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Natalie Merchant, America, Gordon Lightfoot, Loretta Lynn, The Eagles and Paul McCartney.

Other than McCartney (the Beatles are universal) – and maybe Mellencamp – she was not too impressed.

Then again, I was not impressed when forced against my will as a kid to sit through some shows that made me just about break out into hives.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel.

Sofia may not be interested in Springsteen or Dylan live – or fully understand why I cried like a baby when Tom Petty died — but the bands she now lives and breathes are making her just as passionate about her own thing.

I can work with that.

Just the other day, when a split second of a Britney Spears song accidentally came on, she changed the car radio to the Springsteen-only station (E Street Radio) on Sirius Radio.

“Even this (the Springsteen song, which I believe was a live version of “Dancing In The Dark”) is better than that (the Spears song),” she said, before quickly grabbing a CD from her meticulously alphabetized CD wallet that looks more like a suitcase that a stewardess would insist be placed in the overhead compartment of an airplane.

So, there is hope.

A lot of it, actually.

It is noteworthy that Sofia even recognizes Britney Spears, whose peak popularity predated her 2007 birth, and that she also knew instantly it was Springsteen she changed the channel to in her haste to escape Spears.

The bigger victory is that my little girl is as passionate about music as I was at the same age.

The apple doesn’t fall from the tree, even if when it tries to be a peach.

The only difference is that she knows every word of every song by My Chemical Romance and Twenty One Pilots, which I have been drafted to taking her to see in Atlantic City this summer, the way I once knew every word of every song by The Doors or The Cars.

She knows the life stories of the band members and, just like her father who never really grew up, searches for deeper meanings of the songs in a way that will also drive into trying her hand at writing her own.

While she swears she has not yet left Taylor Swift and Sabrina Carpenter in the dust, it is evident Sofia has moved on to a more alternative genre the way I did to Classic Rock from AM radio at her age.

“The only truth is music,” said beat writer Jack Kerouac.

My baby – and she’ll always be my baby (even at 12 going on 21) – knows the truth.

And the truth – whether you get Bruce Springsteen or not (or not yet) – can set you free.

 

Hey You, Get Off Of My Lawn

Grumpy

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There are a lot of people I like.

You know who you are.

All eight of you.

Everyone else?

Eh, not so much.

I have followed a collision course from my younger self and, right on time, became a grumpy middle-aged man.

A combination of Archie Bunker, Frank Costanza, Fred Flintstone and Andy Sipowicz.

Perhaps, on a good day, a little bit of the great curmudgeon philosophers — Bob Dylan and George Carlin — sprinkled in.

And I guess we can’t forget Sonny Corleone, had he not met his premature fate as a younger hothead.

While you’re getting off my lawn and turning down the Justin Bieber noise, keep the following grievances in mind as I dance around my Festivus pole:

1) This “Merry Christmas” Thing: I do know a lot of people from a lot of backgrounds. Life has been good to me that way. And guess what? I know no one — at all — who ever said you can’t say “Merry Christmas.” As matter of fact, even though the holiday is now past us, say it twice and call me in the morning. There are real societal outrages right outside your window. Why create one that doesn’t exist?

2) Road Work At Rush Hour: A necessary evil. I get it. What I don’t get is creating a backup on a major thoroughfare between the hours of 8 and 9 a.m. Unless it’s an emergency, go have breakfast at your local diner. Speaking of which …

3) Male Waiters At Diners: I expect to be waited on by an old-school waitress — not waiter — with a bouffant hairdo who calls me “baby” and “honey” and has a natural instinct to fill up my coffee (and remembers I’m a decaf guy) and pre-butters my toast. I have nothing against male waiters in other dining scenarios — like, say, certain authentic ethnic restaurants (even if they are faking the accent for effect) — but we really don’t need the world spinning off its axis any more than what it already is, do we?

4) Casual Cyclists: I’m all for exercise (especially if I’m not the only doing it), but can’t they stick to the bike path? It’s not like we haven’t made them a few hundred to use. As far as I know, if a cyclist is on the road — even if it’s merely to get to one bike path to another on the other side — they are supposed to obey the same traffic laws as a motorist already stuck behind rush-hour roadwork. The next cyclist I see actually yield the right of way — or actually stop at a stop sign — will be the first. And don’t even get me started on the way they hog the roadway, oblivious to the world, once they are on it.

5) Royal Families: They can do what they want in the UK, but we won the Revolutionary War (in all the history books, if you’d like to check). If there any leaves floating about from the John Adams family tree, no thanks. Same for Roosevelts, Kennedys and Bushes. Suggestions of Michelle Obama running are just as bad as those of Chelsea Clinton. And don’t get me started on Ivanka (my eyes just rolled so hard that I got a detached retina). We are better than thinking certain bloodlines are better than others.

6) Guys Who Aren’t Sports Fans But Pretend They Are: You know the type? They show up at a Super Bowl party asking who is playing and then they ask the line (a real sports fan could care less who does or doesn’t cover the spread). Listen, buddy, if you don’t follow sports, that’s fine. Just be upfront about it. I don’t play the stock market. I don’t hunt or fish. I don’t even know how to play poker. I don’t have a woodshop in my house. If you’re into those things, I won’t insult your intelligence by trying to fake my way through a train-to-nowhere conversation. I’m into sports, so don’t insult mine. This is especially if the game in question is a life-or-death scenario involving a Philadelphia pro team or Temple. Speaking of which …

7) Ersatz Dallas Cowboys And/Or Penn State Fans: If you’re from the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area, or if you attended Penn State (or one of its 32,492 satellite campuses), fine. I’ll even be nice about it. I’ll let you slide on Penn State if you are Pennsyltuckian, and maybe even on the Cowboys if you are from a place in the country cursed with no pro team and have a weird fetish about blue stars on silver helmets. Otherwise, for your own safety, keep moving. You are morally bankrupt and spiritually corrupt. Side Note: Villanova is a national basketball program that happens to based on the Main Line. Unless you went there, which probably means you are from North Jersey or Connecticut anyway, zip it.

8) Lincoln Was A Republican: Easy there, cowboy. Not quite. We’ll get into this more down the line, but let’s leave this here for now: Lincoln was a progressive, which is what the Republican party was then but the polar opposite of what it is now.  If you have to go back nearly 16 decades — doing a selective hop, skip and jump over a clear role reversal in between — you don’t have much to go on, do you?

9) Self Checkout: When people in our moral conscience to the north — Canada — are refusing this concept of eliminating minimal wage jobs, it’s mirror time for us in the US. So wrong on so many levels, it’s yet another sign of apocalypse.

10) Unwanted Calls: Don’t tell me about a Do Not Call List. Been there, done that. No such thing. We still live with daily calls from weird numbers (i.e. 111-111-1111). Because I’m me, a stubborn curmudgeon, I sometimes call back and turn the tables. The best joys are when I get someone clearly from a foreign country trying to tell me his name is Tom or Joe — or Archie, Frank, Fred or Andy.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald (www.timesherald.com) on Dec. 30, 2018.

 

 

Soul Saved By ‘Saint’ Sheeran

Sheeran

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — How is this for pretzel logic?

Wildly popular singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran comes from an Irish-Catholic/English-Protestant background, and this lapsed Jew is nominating him for sainthood.

He has performed a miracle.

As soon as Thanksgiving was in the books, Sofia tucked away her Taylor Swift CDs into an alphabetically organized CD wallet and “requested” holiday music be played 25/8 in the car.

And since we are a family thoroughly spoiled by Sirius (commercial-free) radio, we don’t have the patience for any FM channel that may have 12 commercials – and 15 fifteen minutes of babble — between every two songs that we may or may not even want to hear.

Problem is that Sirius spread itself so thin with holiday music channels that my direct bosses, Sofia and her mom, settled on just two: Bad (Channel 3) and Worse (Channel 4).

But, as fate would have it, Hanukkah scheduled itself early this year. By the end of the eight crazy nights, Sofia had been caught up on her Sheeran catalogue.

She was so excited that I was able to put the axis of evil – Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis and the Ray Conniff Singers – on ice.

This isn’t to say Ed Sheeran has a lofty place in my hierarchy of music, but enough songs run from passable (“Shape Of You”) to pretty darn good (“Castle On The Hill”) and his music is playing a vital role by getting playing time in my car in the holiday season.

I even ran out to buy a second version of his new release when the first vanished between the car seats.

All is right with the world.

Even though my soul was saved by St. Ed Sheeran, I was thinking about those of you who still need to navigate through the rest of the season without losing your mind.

There are some wonderful songs of the season, religious and otherwise, but GPS is needed.

As Norristown icon Hank Cisco would say, “If you want to walk on water, you have to know where the rocks are.”

Here are some of the rocks to get you to the other side:

10) Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Bruce Springsteen: A nice enough rendition, but it has worn way too thin. It would have been nice if one of the greatest songwriters of all time could have penned his own song of the season. If I can do it (check out “Gray Christmas” at http://www.ingordonville.come), so can my ultimate boss.

9) Hanukkah Song(s) – Adam Sandler: All three versions, with each one funnier than the next, refused to take a holiday that really isn’t that serious too seriously. This is pop culture at its best, with Sandler rattling off – and rhyming – famous, and infamous, Jewish notables. Though comedic, there is a deeper message about breaking down religious barriers without beating anyone over the head.

8) Same Auld Lang Syne — Dan Fogelberg:  The late Fogelberg, who passed away in December of 2007 – and too late to make any of those gone-too-soon lists against the backdrop of somber music – lamented the ironies of life after running into an old flame on Christmas Eve. At the end of the story song, the snow turns into rain. Gets me all verklempt (too emotional to speak) every time.

7) Father Christmas – The Kinks: Not a song you’d go caroling with at your local senior center, but it tells a real tale of poor kids resorting to roughing up a Santa to get the toys that only “the little rich boys” were going to get. A little crass, yeah, but I can dig the intent of songwriter Ray Davies.

6) River – Joni Mitchell: Like the Dan Fogelberg effort above, it’s more a song that paints a picture of the season than preaching about being naughty or nice. In the process, it’s a real nice offering that still resonates.

5) I Believe In Father Christmas Greg Lake: An original song by the lead vocalist of Emerson, Lake and Palmer sends a strong message in a gentle way about the commercialism of Christmas.

4) Christmas On The Block – Alan Mann: This effort from a late Philadelphia singer-songwriter might not be the easiest song to find but it is a beautiful song – especially for those from rowhouse city neighborhoods – that speaks for itself.

3) Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon: The fact that John Lennon was gunned down in cold blood in the holiday season only makes this song all the more powerful. And now, I’m getting all verklempt again.

2) Silent Night – Stevie Nicks: I’m not a Grinch, I’m really not. “Silent Night” truly is a gorgeous song, but it has been brutally mistreated. Stevie Nicks, the high priestess of Gordonville (and pending inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), flat-out owns it.

1) Little Drummer Boy – Bob Seger: You can keep your Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet. Whenever Bob Seger sings, the vocal cords are secondary. It’s all heart and soul, and this version – with a steady and consistent drumbeat (in a song about a drummer, for crying out loud) — is the perfect match of song with singer.

Honorable Mention: Feliz Navidad (Jose Feliciano); 2000 Miles (Pretenders); Christmas Shoes (NewSong); Christmastime For The Jews (Ronnie Spector); Please Come Home For Christmas (Eagles); Feliz Navidad (Bob Marley); Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Band Aid); Hanukkah Dance (Woody Guthrie); Winterlong (Neil Young); Merry Christmas, Baby (Bruce Springsteen); Wonderful Christmas Time (Paul McCartney); Mistress For Christmas (AC/DC); This Christmas (Donny Hathaway); Christmas In Dixie (Alabama); White Christmas (Otis Redding).

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on Dec. 15.

Distant Replay: Sandy Hook

sandy-hook

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — The best part of my day is picking Sofia up from school.

I relish the moment, knowing the day when she will opt for the long way home – i.e. the bus – looms in the future.

But I never relished it more than last Friday – Dec. 14, 2012.

The full details of the heart-wrenching tragedy in Newtown, Conn. were still not completely clear, but we knew enough.

When Sofia got in the car, she gave a big smile, completely unaware of what happened to other little kids whose parents sent them off to school, not knowing they would never see them alive again.

When I stopped to secure her in her car seat, which is part of the daily routine, there was none of the usual playful banter between us.

Losing the battle to fight back tears, and trying to imagine what those parents in Connecticut must be feeling, I just pulled her close and held on like I never wanted to let go.

It was a small snippet – one played out everywhere in America – in this country’s longest day since Sept. 11, 2001.

For me, that day ended when I got home from work.

Sofia was asleep. Sweet, innocent, unaffected – clutching her Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal – while our two cats, Hank and Licorice, curled up around her.

Unlike 20 precious first-graders, and the school staff members killed with them, she was going to wake up the next day.

I pulled her close again, and had the next of several hard cries – only pierced by therapeutic fierce battles with thick-as-a-brick conservatives on Facebook – that continued through last weekend.

When I took her to school Monday morning, there was a police vehicle on the premises. When I picked her up, it was there again.

Its presence was a sad commentary on the post-Dec. 14 world in which we suddenly live. Even sadder was the fact that I was relieved to see it there.

Welcome to the new normal. We never discussed the events with Sofia last weekend, instead changing the channel from the news to cartoons when she entered the room, but they addressed it at school Monday.

Later that night, she was seen hiding all the figurines in our Christmas village so ‘they would be safe from the bullets.’

She was assured that she had nothing to be worried about.

Where do we go from here in the quest to make that assurance a reality?

Here’s a start: We need to stop asking how these mass shootings can keep on happening in a civilized society.

The truth is that we don’t live in a civilized society.

During the whole ordeal, I was put in mind of those futuristic movies and novels that projected how our culture might be in the 21st century if we don’t have a serious gut-check moment.

And here we are, living it out like some self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s time for some serious soul-searching, and it begins in my own chosen profession of journalism.

The quest for Pulitzers and Peabodys – not to mention ratings and driving traffic to websites – were blatant.

Children who survived, despite being recently scared and permanently scarred, were interviewed. Reporters and anchors talked about the death toll like statistics at a basketball game, waiting to see where it would rank with other recent massacres.

Then we have Hollywood. The gratuitous violence has become so common, seen as so necessary to fill the gaps in mediocre story lines, that our children are undaunted.

They become so numb to it that it is no wonder they don’t act out more often when things don’t go their way.

And then there is the elephant in the room: Gun Control.

Gun advocates began playing defense almost immediately – pointing the finger at mental health, school bullying and armed teachers in every school.

They won’t even concede the obvious, that all of the above – along with social issues like the erosion of the Middle Class – are connected in an unholy alliance.

You can’t resolve one without the others.

You can’t break out your surgeon’s scalpel and carve gun control out of the mix.

This is no time to cling to your guns, or your religion.

If we need God in school, like some say, then we need God at the gun shows, too. We need God in places like our own state, where it is easier to get a gun than a driver’s license.

President Barack Obama, clearly moved by the tragedy, was feared and smeared as someone who was going to ‘take your guns away’ in his first term, as part of a greater left-wing conspiracy to ‘take your country’ from you.

Now, in his second term, with the specter of Newtown, Conn. happening just easily in Norristown, Pa. or Your Town, it appears the same sane president bold enough to give us semi-humane health care is ready to go where no president has gone before with gun control.

By forming a task force charged with getting answers sooner than later, he would be giving your country back.

Not only to us, but to our children.

So, this season, let us drop the inane debate over whether to say ‘happy holidays’ or ‘Merry Christmas.’ Unless you are abnormal – and I concede a lot of you are not (one whacky ‘Christian’ zealot already muttered that it was God’s wrath for gay marriage) – there is nothing to be merry or happy about.

For all the gifts under the tree on Christmas morning Tuesday, or those already given out during the eight nights of Hanukkah, there is only one gift to give this year.

It is the promise to work together for a better world – that civilized society where these tragedies are not supposed to happen – and where we hold our kids out of love and joy, not fear and sorrow.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on Dec. 22, 2012 (the first Sunday after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook massacre)