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Hallelujah, where's the Tylenol?

By Jennifer M. Latzke

Some people watch “Christmas Vacation” and think of it as a nice holiday diversion, a tongue-in-cheek comedy about the over-the-top trials and tribulations of the Griswold extended clan.

My family watches it like it is a documentary.

In fact, I’ve long thought that we should pursue a lawsuit against the creators for appropriating our family’s annual suffering as comedic fodder. Then again, I’m guessing that the same could be said for any average American family this time of year.

You see, at Christmas, we’re all a little Griswold.

What is it about Christmas that makes us temporarily insane? Why this holiday, of all holidays, must everything be at a level of perfection bordering on the obsessive-compulsive?

Will the world end if the gingerbread house turns out lopsided because little hands helped construct it or Dad kept eating the gumdrop shingles? No.

Will they cancel the holiday if you don’t find just the most adorable family picture idea from Pinterest, professionally photographed by your cousin’s kid, printed on the right cardstock and mailed out to your list before Dec. 24? No.

If you don’t fork over the $600 for the iPad that was on your 6-year-old niece’s Christmas list, and instead get her something more age- and budget-appropriate, will you die from not being the “coolest aunt ever”? Sorry, contrary to the holiday advertisements, you won’t die of guilt and shame.

No matter what you may have built up in your head, Sparky, no family holiday will ever match up with your ideal. We all have our Griswold family moments, whether we like it or not.

For example, the Latzke clan still tells stories of the time we went to a neighbor’s tree farm to “embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols.” It was so slick out that Mom slipped and fell three times and each time my sister and I couldn’t help her up we were laughing so hard.

I can’t tell you why we thought it was funny, but trust me, it was.

Then, there was the year Dad got a wild hair to take us all to Kansas City to see the lights on the Plaza and we got lost trying to get back to the hotel. Like, really lost, people. We were almost to St. Louis, kind of lost.

And, we all have those relations that remind us of Cousin Eddie. (Just a hint, if you look around and you can’t identify that person in your family tree, then you might just be your family’s Cousin Eddie.)

The point is, no family is as perfect as the one on the Christmas letter. The important thing is to not let that imperfection ruin the rest of the holiday for you and your family.

Because no one ever talks about the time that the holiday meal was picture perfect in front of a crackling fire in the fireplace and a tree that looked like it just came off the pages of “Better Homes and Gardens.”

Nope. Instead we tell stories about the time Grandma’s hearing aid beeped loudly for a solid 5 minutes at the dinner table and she was oblivious to it. Meanwhile, Dad kept insisting that “something’s in the microwave, hon” and Mom frantically attempted silent spouse communication with him to explain it was Grandma’s hearing aid without embarrassing her.

Oh yeah, people. Embrace your Griswold. Celebrate it.

And pass the Tylenol.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or

Date: 12/16/2013


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