Now I Understand Trigger Warnings (Not the Gun Kind)

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There is a commercial running on various streaming services which causes me great distress. Without the benefit of any trigger warning—which now make eminent sense to me—I was traumatized and thrust back into one of the most disheartening and tragic events of my youth.

First, a little background.

When was eight or nine years old, my father, then a member of the Rhode Island State Police, acquired, through the generosity of a supporter of the members of that organization, a pass to Lincoln Park. This was a Rocky Point-like amusement park located in exotic Massachusetts near Fall River. I don’t t recall the exact location (likely a protective measure of my subconscious to ameliorate the painful memories.)

At this park, there was a ride only big kids like me could ride. My siblings weren’t ever close to being eligible. The one issue standing between me and the glory of commanding my own vehicle was the height requirement.

Each year for what seem like forever I would look forward to the park because this was the year, only to have my hopes dashed as I failed to measure up.

One year, I was within an inch. Clearly, next year was my year.

All through the Fall into Winter and Spring I would measure the change in me. By the summer I had added two inches. This was indeed my moment in the sun.

I can still recall the Friday night when my father came home with the pass (it was shared among the troopers with children) and the excitement began to build. I am certain I didn’t sleep that night, envisioning racing around the track, driving that car, achieving my dream.

The ride to the park that Saturday seemed interminable. The roads were longer, slower, and jammed with traffic. Sitting in the rear-facing seat of our Country Squire station wagon, my legs bounced in anticipation.

Then, the moment arrived. We pulled into the lot, walked to the entrance, my father produced the pass, and we were in.

I can still hear my mother’s voice fading in the distance as I ran to the ride. “Waiiiiiit for us…….”

I didn’t. This was my year!

They found me standing in disbelief next to the measuring stick. I was more than tall enough. I was more than ready. I was more than prepared.

What I was not prepared for was the other sign. Closed for repairs.

My heart sunk in my chest. My hopes melted in that hot summer sun. All the anticipation was for nothing.

But, somehow, I remained an optimist. There would be other years. There would be another day to claim my glory.

My hope never faded.

The park, which had given me so many years of pleasure, moments of anticipation, and dreams of what it would be like, closed the following year.

So next time somebody puts something on that reignites that disappointment in me, I will not be responsible for my actions.

You must be this tall, damn you fate!

JEBWizard Publishing ( is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services. Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publish

Life (is not) in the Rear-view Mirror

As we age, we sometimes look at life through the rear-view mirror, longing for a past often whitewashed by nostalgia. As a result, some of us fall into a funk, thinking the best days are what we can only experience by looking back.

I’m guilty of writing several pieces relating to stories of past events. Most tell of fond memories of an age of innocence, holidays gone by, meeting those who would become lifelong friends, or tales of those shared experiences that molded and shaped us.

While memories are important—and worth preserving for those moments when they can ease the pain of those trying times we also share—they are sanitized, exaggerated, or altered to fit our most essential desires. They are no more life than a photograph, a brief moment captured in time.

Such a backward-looking approach to life can blind us to the many opportunities to create new memories.

Time for us is linear, despite, as James Taylor sings in “The Secret of Life,”

“Now the thing about time is that time isn’t really real
It’s just your point of view
How does it feel for you?
Einstein said he could never understand it all
Planets a-spinning through space
The smile upon your face”

James Taylor, Secret of Life

While quantum physics contends there is no difference between time and other universal forces, for us, the arrow of time only goes in one direction and, sadly, with increasing velocity.

As a wise man once said to me when describing his current situation in life, “Joe, monthly magazines come every three days.”

So, while we all wish time would elongate and slow down it is finite and fleeting for all of us.

Thus, the criticality of balancing the comfort of pleasant and important memories with our life as we continue to live it.

Over the past two years (or what will be two years on April 29th), we have been most fortunate to have our grandson Levi bringing joy and wreaking havoc of the most enjoyable kind into our lives. For him, his young mind is a sponge taking in all the world and, hopefully, creating memories that will last a lifetime. (Disclaimer: I take no credit or blame for some of his recent vocabulary acquisitions.)

At this tender and innocent age, the memories may only be fragments of his experiences, but his ability to recall such moments will grow as rapidly as he does each moment. I hope he holds fast to the memories but only enough to offer a smile or a tear, then gets on with living.

From what I can see, he has embraced my love of reading. While the realities of technology will continue to challenge the experience of holding a book and quiet moments of reading, I think we have planted the seed for a lifetime of intellectual exploration.

As you can see from his method of selecting books, not by title or name or main character but by dumping the entire content (which increases almost weekly) of his bookbag on the ground, carefully examining each one, then selecting anywhere from one to the whole bag as the book(s) of the day, he has a variety of interests.

It is these moments—particularly for me when he hands me a book or ten, climbs up next to me, and lets me read to him—I can recall with immense joy and look forward to more such experiences for as long as he will tolerate this old guy.

Whatever memories we create with Levi and his soon-to-join us brother, as precious as they are, pale compared to those I’ve yet to make. 

Every once in a while, we all need a glance into life’s rear-view mirror. Of course it is essential to remember where we came from and the people who steered us along. But what is in front of us is the most precious aspect of life. Devote your moments to it.

Hold fast to your memories to inspire you to make new ones with whatever time life grants you on this planet.

Please take a moment to share my work on social media. Agree or disagree, the more who read this the bigger the opportunity to share with others. It would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

JEBWizard Publishing ( is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at or 401-533-3988.

A Greatness Clouded in Innocence

But I know a place where we can go
That’s still untouched by men
We’ll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass waves in the wind
You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

Don Henley, The Age of Innocence

Ever since the phenomenon of Making America Great Again took root with many Americans, I’ve been trying to figure out when, exactly, America was “greater” than it is today, by what definition, and when the decline began.

For the first few years, we were a loosely affiliated collection of former colonies whose primary goal was subjugating or eliminating the indigenous people who were here long before anyone “discovered” America.

We’d fought a war for independence, assisted by the centuries old competition between France and Great Britain, then largely ignored by both. We fought another war with England in 1812-1814 that resulted in no significant territorial changes, contributed to the demise of the Napoleonic era, and yet, on a positive note, started two centuries of a strong partnership with England.

After the War of 1812, we committed on a grander scale what amounted to genocide of Native Americans and, tragically, continued our policy as a slave holding nation unlike most of the western world.

Not much greatness so far.

In 1860, the slavery issue reached a boiling point and plunged us into the most destructive war ever fought in this country. 450,000 Americans died in the war with over a million wounded. But this country was also the site of even more horrendous acts of violence. One almost never mentioned in high school history classes.

Depending on various sources—actual numbers are difficult to determine—somewhere between 10-114 million Native Americans died because of US Government action (note: most historians estimate between 6-11 million deaths during the Holocaust because of actions by the German Government, thus making the Nazi Holocaust the second largest mass murder in history. Let that sink in for a moment.)

Certainly not much greatness here, but at least there was a glimmer of hopeful things to come with the end of slavery. Although the road to freedom traveled the treacherous territory of Jim Crow Laws, the rise of the KKK, and almost universal discrimination against those of African descent. Yet it was a start.

We fought a war with Spain. “Remember the Maine” was the battle cry when the ship exploded in Havana, Cuba Harbor. But unlike the looming attack in Pearl Harbor some years later, questions arose as to the validity of the incident. While initially blamed on a mine or torpedo, and trumpeted by an outraged media deluge, subsequent investigation determined it was more likely a coal bunker fire aboard ship.

As a result of the war, Spain ceded the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the US (which many agree was the entire purpose of the zealous claim of attack even though evidence to the contrary was known to those in command.)

Geopolitics at its best, but I wonder if one can claim that as indices of greatness.

In 1941, the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor and thrust the US actively into the war, although we had been providing matériel to England since the war’s inception.

Here perhaps America took on the mantel of greatness. But the history taught to many of us, me included, gave the impression that the US won the war single-handedly. But if one examines the reality of the war and takes into consideration the number of dead resulting from it, it becomes clear that no one nation was responsible for victory.

History would show it took English Intelligence, American Steel, and Russian Blood to defeat the enemy. We certainly became the dominant power after the war, and if by greatness one uses military might as a measure, no country on earth could challenge us.

Then, with the Marshall Plan, America showed true greatness. Rather than harsh treatment of the Japanese or German people, we tried those responsible for the war and helped rebuild the infrastructure of the defeated countries.

Clearly, we showed signs of how great we could be. Yet the undercurrent of racial discrimination still pulled us down.

We stood firm in Korea against a communist invasion, albeit defending a section of a country arbitrarily divided after World War II, and fought to a stalemate that technically exists today. It would be just prior to this war that President Truman desegrated the military over the objections of many military commanders and public outcry.

It was another glimmer of hope,

In Vietnam, we attempted to recreate the Korean situation, failing to recognize the significant differences between the circumstances. In Korea, there was little local resistance supporting the communist aggression. In Vietnam, the Viet Cong, once known as the Viet Minh, with a long history of resistance to foreign invaders, offered significant military challenges throughout all of Vietnam.

The American military fought with bravery and determination but were left floundering because of the limitations of the US policy on the war (not directly invading the north) and the level of determination by the Viet Cong and their supporters.

Vietnam changed America, for many reasons. Draft deferments for those in college created a chasm between those drafted and sent to Vietnam and those who could avoid it. While significant numbers of those who could avoid service volunteered, there remained a divide within American society. And during this war, simmering racism contributed to tensions among the troops.

On the home front, riots rocked major cities as racial tensions flared.

The 1990s saw the first Iraq War. We liberated Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion and ended the war when it turned into a massacre. Some would argue we should have kept going, but the UN mandate deemed otherwise and we showed great restraint in following it (as we would expect all UN nations to do.)

With 9/11, America was again challenged and rose to the occasion. Afghanistan was both justified and necessary under any measure of international law.

But then the wheels came off with our misadventure into Iraq. Once again, the American military performed flawlessly. While incidents of prisoner mistreatment tarnished our reputation, it was not representative of the overall actions of our men and women in uniform.

Using torture to extract information, however, was more than a blemish. It contradicted everything this country represents. Despite many more rational people calling for abandoning such practice—one that anyone with any common sense will realize is the least effective way of obtaining information—the reality was we as a nation forgot the moral standards we demanded from everyone else because we could.

More has been written in the last few days about some picture on a beer can than about two people shot—one fatally and one seriously wounded—for going to the wrong address or innocently getting into the wrong car.
That is hardly an indication of a great nation.

Joe Broadmeadow

Along with the troubling international escapades came a new antagonism and abandonment of compromise in the political world. We were no longer a people of different opinions working toward a common goal. We demanded absolute loyalty to one perspective and ignored, or actively thwarted, any who disagreed.

If one looks at history just from this perspective, it is difficult to see exactly when America was great and when the decline began.

Yet it is important to remember we also put humans on the moon and made enormous strides in science and medicine. All examples of America’s greatest asset, its people.

What I think our problem has always been is that we forget the details of history, particularly the horrors and tragedy of warfare, and embrace the elements that place us in the best light. Our memory is like an old war movie, devoid of the blood-drenched horrors of lost limbs, horrendous wounds, and the screams of dying soldiers calling for their mother.

In school, much of the history I learned about colonization of the US and the western expansion ignored what amounted to a genocide on a scale that exceeded the Nazi Holocaust.

Not Making America Great

What they taught about slavery amounted to a few Lincoln speeches, the Emancipation Proclamation, and Reconstruction told in a Cliff Notes manner.

The Civil War brought an end to slavery and replaced it with the shackles of discrimination.

Time and reading more developed studies of history have put things in a better perspective. The Civil Rights Act happened in my lifetime. Brown v Board of Education was only two years before I was born. Integrating Boston schools happened the year I graduated from high school. The last school desegregation case, in Mississippi, happened in 2019. 2019!

One cannot claim to be a great country when such inequality exists. What one can claim is these same examples are signs of our great potential. We have risen to the occasion in times of war. We need to do the same when we can focus on domestic issues.

Now we face another crisis. One of violence, particularly gun violence. It is not just a question of bad people with guns, or simply a mental health issue. It is infinitely more complex than that.

The United States has a murder rate eight times higher than any other of the high-income countries. The rate for murders by guns is twenty-five times higher. (

Thus, even if one argues guns don’t kill people, people kill people, people are still dead in the end because of violence. Nobody is better at killing Americans than their fellow Americans, with guns or otherwise. But the comparison to other nations should still shock everyone. We are an inherently violent nation for reasons we refuse to even try to investigate.

We went to war when terrorists killed 3000+ Americans on 9/11. Yet we are willing to ignore the senseless violence within the country that takes almost eight times that number on an annual basis. We wring our hands, wrap ourselves in the Second Amendment like some security blanket, and sigh.

We may learn that placing more controls on who has weapons may not make any difference, or we might discover the opposite is true. But in either case, ignorance just allows this senseless violence to continue. If America seeks to be a great country, wouldn’t determining a solution be a sign of such a goal?

Yet our focus is on matters with little potential for harm to others.

More has been written in the last few days about some picture on a beer can than about two people shot—one fatally and one seriously wounded—for going to the wrong address or innocently getting into the wrong car.

That is hardly an indication of a great nation.

This is a public health crisis of the most significant kind and one which, until we resolve it or at least dedicate ourselves to finding solutions, will forever taint any claim to greatness, past or future. That Congress refuses to even fund research into the fundamental reasons behind the level of violence in such an advanced society is beyond me.

It casts an enormous shadow over any claim to greatness. It is almost as if we don’t want to know the answer.

What we suffer from is a longing for the innocence of our past, albeit a nostalgic past whitewashed of reality. It is time we end the innocence of our ignorance and seek a lasting legacy of greatness that is well within our grasp if we only open our eyes, dig deeper into ourselves, and listen to each other.

Please take a moment to share my work on social media. The more who read this, the bigger the opportunity to share with others. It would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

JEBWizard Publishing ( is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at or 401-533-3988.

The Best Job in the World

Over the course of my life, I’ve held several jobs. My first one, at 15, was washing dishes at the Admiral Inn in Cumberland, Rhode Island. My aunt, Katherine Szpila, was the hostess. Almost all my cousins and a couple of uncles worked there at some point, and I got to eat all the boneless fried chicken I could handle.

I then moved on to the Almacs grocery store. In 1972, Almacs was a great place to work. As a unionized shop, it gave me an appreciation of how important having an organization supporting workers could be. Not that most managers were difficult, but there were a few.

And I will admit to a bit of payback I exacted when I started my next serious job at the East Providence Police Department. Almacs corporate offices were in East Providence, in the Rumford section. Back then, that area was one of the quietest areas to work and I hated being assigned there.

But there was a small benefit. I would position myself on Roger Williams Ave and stop any cars leaving the Almacs facility. (Nobody stopped for the stop sign or drove the speed limit.). When I was fortunate enough to snag one of the more cruel bastards who took pleasure in wreaking havoc whenever they visited the store I worked at, they got an autographed ticket from me.

While I let most of them go, I didn’t let them all go. It made it tolerable to work the slow area and gave me a great deal of satisfaction.

After EPPD, where twenty years flew by in a flash, I moved on to other careers. While each of these had their moments, particularly my time as a Police Officer, none can measure up to my latest job.

Now, my job is to make memories with my grandson, Levi, and his soon to arrive brother.

We make memories I hope he (they) will carry their whole life. And, in those trying moments everyone faces in life, I hope those memories will bring a smile to their face and a moment of hope, even for the briefest of moments.

Of all the things I’ve done in my life, making memories that last is, without a doubt, the most important. There is never a better moment to make memories then now. Seize that moment, or all that will remain are memories never made.

JEBWizard Publishing ( is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at or 401-533-3988.

My Mom and Her Determination

I tried to go to an Italian bakery today and could not figure out why it was so crowded. This reminded why…

(Here’s a re-posting of a piece I wrote some time ago. It’s the time of the year…but with all the uncertainty, I missed the actual date of March 19th. My mom has now been gone for 11 years, but the sentiment remains. Nevertheless, here it is…)

It has been almost 8 years since my mother died. Thoughts, sights, and sounds remind me of her almost daily.

Words she often turned into her own askew versions. Her penchant for reading EVERY street sign whenever she was in the car. Twinkies she hid in the freezer in violation of her diet. The one constant reminder is my white hair, undeniable genetic evidence that part of her remains with me.

These are memories of a special woman.

Each year, on a particular date, there is a poignant reminder of something she did for me.

I suspect she had similar traditions with my brother and sisters; she was that kind of a mom.

She had a way to make you feel special.

Nevertheless, this one was between us.

As many of you know from my writings, I do not share the faith that my mother did. She had absolute confidence in her beliefs. Despite all the things she experienced, the joys and the sorrows, she never once doubted them.

She made a valiant effort to share her faith. If there is any blame to go around for her failed attempt to instill that in me, the fault is mine.

What is the annual event that triggers such a memory?

St. Joseph’s day.

Every year, I would get a card from my mother. It came in the mail. It was not a text, an email, or a phone call. It would arrive in the days just before the 19th, more evidence of her careful consideration and purpose.

She took the time to select, address, and mail a card. Through a simple gesture, she preserved the dying art of thoughtfulness.

The card celebrated the Saint’s day of my (sort of) namesake. Her thoughtful gesture had a dual purpose, serving as a subtle reminder of her faith. I used to chuckle whenever I opened the card. Amused by my mother’s determination, yet touched by such a simple, caring act.

She never gave up.

Since her passing, I miss the card every year and her every day.

Mom, while you may not have succeeded in making me a Saint there is a good chance you made me less of a sinner.

Happy Saint Joseph’s Day.

The Day After Christmas: The Whole Story

On this day after Christmas, I wish you all the best of the season and all the joys of life. Here is the entire Day After Christmas Story to carry you through until next year…Enjoy


In keeping with an old tradition, I bring you Part 1 of the serialized story of The Day After Christmas.

Millions of years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the Pawtucket Times would publish a story over the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

I, along with many others, anxiously awaited the arrival of each new chapter, culminating in the ending on Christmas Eve. So, over the past few years, I have started my own version beginning with today’s opening segment. We will read this story together as I have no idea where it will go or how it will end. My only advantage is I will read it as it is born, while you my dear friends, will see it just moments after its arrival.

…and to all a goodnight!

Growing up in Cumberland, Rhode Island back then seems, at least in my memories, to have been a place of magic; making those Christmas seasons, and the spirit that infused them, all the more special.

I will just tell the storylike Charlie Brown and Linus, of something worth holding ontoLet it take us where it will…Merry Christmas!


December 26th is the slowest, and laziest, day in the North Pole. Everyone, I mean almost EVERYONE, sleeps until noon. But for one tiny—even by elf standards—elf, the day after Christmas is the busiest day of the year for her.

Emily Louise Frazier—her family is famous for growing the Frazier Pine one of the most popular Christmas trees in the world—held a critical, if almost completely unknown, position within Elfdom…she was the Monitor of the Christmas Spirit. Or as she liked to call herself, Santa’s accountant. And not just any ordinary add the numbers and balance the checkbook accountant. On no, she was the Christmas Spirit Accountant.

He job was to track the level and growth of the spirit of Christmas, for that spirit wasn’t just something one felt as Christmas day grew near. It was something that lived among the people all the year round. Bringing the joy of giving to others, the pleasure of spending time with your family, and the warmth of a good heart to all the world.

But Emily Louise Frazier was worried. More worried than she had ever been in her entire life. She stared at her little Elf laptop and shook her head. Numbers never lie. The trend was not good and now, on the day when all of Christmas Town enjoyed their one day of uninterrupted rest, she had to rouse them from their slumber and give them the bad news.

Christmas spirit was dying, a slow yet undeniable descent to a level never before seen in the history of the world and she had no idea how to fix it, or even if it could be fixed.

Making her way to the main house, she stood trembling at the door trying to force herself to ring the bell and bring such terrible news to the nicest people on the planet, Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Reaching up on her tiptoes, she managed to reach the lower of the two bells, the one placed for the elves. The opening notes of Charlie Brown’s Christmas Theme (Mrs. Claus is a big jazz music fan) echoed throughout the house.

Soon footsteps followed, coming closer, and for a moment, Emily thought of running away. But she had a responsibility and prepared herself. The door swung open and Santa and Mrs. Claus stood there, rubbing their eyes trying to focus, looking over Emily to the vast, yet sleepy town outside the door.

“Down here, Santa,” said Emily.

Santa and Mrs. Claus looked down at the now shaking little Elf.

“Emily, my dear,” said Mrs. Claus, “come inside dear, you’re freezing out there. Come in, come in.”

Emily hesitated a moment, then stepped inside. “I’m not cold, Mrs. Claus. But I have some terrible news I need to share.”

Santa closed the door behind her, then knelt down to bring his smiling face to Emily’s level.

“No worries, Emily. There’s nothing you can say that we can’t fix. Now what is so terrible that you had to wake us on our one day off?”

Emily swallowed hard, took a deep breath, then said, “Santa, I’ve been studying the charts, going over all the data, looking at the trends, and it’s clear that Christmas Spirit is in decline. The usual burst of spirit just before Christmas fizzled. I’m afraid it will fade completely over the next few months and be gone by next Christmas.”

Part II The News Spreads

“Hmm,” said Santa, “that is troubling. Are you sure?”

“Very,” said Emily.

Mrs. Claus reached for her hand. “Come dear, come sit at the table and I’ll make some hot cocoa to warm you up.”

Emily setup her laptop on the table while Santa worked at filling his pipe.

Mrs. Claus appeared within moments, carrying a tray with three cups of cocoa and a pile of cookies. She paused before she put the tray on the table and stared at Santa. Santa caught the look and put the pipe away.

Mrs. Claus smiled, then placed the tray in front of Emily. “Here you go, my dear.”

After taking a sip from the cocoa, Emily clicked a few keys then turned the laptop to face Santa and Mrs. Claus.

“What am I looking at?” asked Santa

“The first few graphs represent trends in various things, like kindness and charity. And these here represent various places, countries, cities, towns, and villages. The last graph shows a summary of the overall trends throughout the world. I compiled these graphs from a bunch of data sources that…”

Santa held up his hand and smiled. “Emily, in plain English please, I’m still a bit tired from last night.”

Emily nodded. “The world is becoming less kind, less charitable, and less happy.”

“Oh my,” said Mrs. Claus. “That’s terrible.”

Santa tapped his nose several times as he stared at the computer screen. Then, he pointed to several green dots on one graph almost lost among all the red ones.

“What are these?”

Emily smiled. “It’s the one glimmer of hope, I suppose.” She sighed. “First, I thought it was just a data error…”

Santa tilted his head to the side.

“Sorry. First, I thought I’d gotten something wrong, but I checked and rechecked and it seems there are some places in the world where everything and, it would seem, everyone is happy, kind, and charitable. And getting better every day.”

“Why is that?” said Santa

“I have no idea.”

“Well, then. There is the answer to our problem,” said Mrs. Claus.

Santa and Emily looked at Mrs. Claus.

“How is that the answer?” Santa said.

“Oh my dear, you are such a wonderful man, but sometimes a bit slow with simple solutions. If things all over the world are getting worse, except for these few places, then someone has to go there and find out why.”

She smiled and waited for him to catch on.

“It really is that simple. Go there and see why people there are so different from the rest of the world.”

Emily blinked a few times, then closed her laptop.

Santa reached for his pipe, thought better of it, than just tapped his forehead, thinking. “Emily, you and I are taking a trip.”

“We are?”

“Yes, we are, my dear. First thing tomorrow morning we leave for, ah, for… where are these places, anyway?

Emily started to speak, but Santa stopped her.

“Let’s keep this to ourselves for the time being. No need for any rumors to get started. You know how the elves and reindeer love to gossip, and I don’t want anyone to be worried until we sort this out. You can tell me in the morning and program it into the GSP thingy the Elf flight director put on my sleigh.”

“GSP?” said Emily.

“GPS, my dear,” said Mrs. Claus, “GPS.”

Santa shrugged.

The three of them stood up and headed toward the door.

“You go pack, Emily,” said Santa. “But keep this to yourself for now. I’ll tell the flight crew I want to take the sleigh out for a little spin tomorrow, just to try out some new flight tricks. Meanwhile…” Santa placed his finger over his lips. “Shhh, mums the word.”

As Santa reached for the door handle, Mrs. Claus knelt down and gave Emily a kiss on the forehead.

“Don’t worry, my dear. We’ll find the answer. I am sure of it.”

With that, Santa slowly opened the door, hoping no one had seen or heard anything. But they were all shocked to see the entire town gathered outside.

Mrs. Claus laughed. “There are no secrets here, my dear, no secrets.”

Part III A Journey of Discovery

Early the next morning, Emily was up, dressed, and wearing her backpack as she waited for Santa to arrive. She wondered how they would ever figure out why some places still held the Christmas spirit while others seemed to have lost it.

I hope I can be a help to Santa, but I’m not sure I’m cut out for adventure. As these thoughts percolated in her mind, a voice called out to her.

“Emily, time to go.”

The voice was familiar, of course. Everyone here in Christmas Town was familiar, but it was not the voice she expected. Glancing out her window, she saw the team of reindeer pawing at the ground, eager to fly—reindeer never tire of flying.

She saw the sleigh with its new all-season covering for flying on days other than Christmas—Santa preferred to fly in the traditional way on Christmas Eve.

But it’s who she saw driving that surprised her. Sitting up front in the driver’s seat was Mrs. Claus.

Emily ran outside, threw her backpack into the sleigh, and climbed aboard.

“Where’s Santa?”

Mrs. Claus smiled. “Santa does a wonderful job delivering presents. He’s marvelous at it. But for other things… let’s just say you and I are better suited to handle this than he is.”

“But I thought Santa managed everything.”

“Santa, my dear, is the face of the organization, but it’s all the elves and I who make the whole thing work. Now, are you ready for the first stop?”

“Yes, Mrs. Claus, I’m ready.”

“Okay, but there is one more thing you need to do before we takeoff.”

“What’s that?” Emily said.

“You need to call me Emma,” said Mrs. Claus, with a bit of a twinkle in her eye. “It’s short for Emily.”

Emily’s eyes grew wide. “You’re named Emily too?”

“Of course, my dear. And I’ll let you in on another secret.” She leaned over and whispered in Emily’s ear. “And my name before I married Santa was Frazier.”

Emily’s eyes grew twice as wide. “We’re related?”

Emily Frazier Claus smiled. “Not only related, my dear, but I am your great, great, great times one hundred great grandmother. And it’s time for the Frazier women to get to the bottom of this problem. We’ve been doing troubleshooting for years, keeping Santa on his toes. There’s nothing we can’t do; if we set our minds to it.”

She reached over and pulled Emily close to her. “Ready?”

“Ready Mrs.… I mean Emma.” With that, Emily punched the information into the GPS, then snuggled back next to Emma. I haven’t even left yet, and I already uncovered one surprise. I wonder what else I might discover.

In a flash, the reindeer leapt into the sky and they were off…

Part IV: The First Secret

“So, where are we off to first?” said Emma.

Emily reached toward the GPS and enlarged the view. “It’s a small village in the Austrian Alps called Erinnerung Dorf. I think I said that correctly.”

“You did, my dear, sounds German.”

Emma guided the reindeer as they descended into the cold, quiet village. The deserted streets seemed sad and lonely. Snow swirled in the air. As they landed, they came to a stop next to a small church. It was clear there had been a terrible fire, and the building was only recognizable by the steeple in the pile of rubble.

“Oh my,” said Emily, “this looks like it happened within the last few days.”

Emma touched her on the shoulder and pointed. A large group of villagers walked down the street—women, girls, boys, and men—some carrying tools, some driving trucks bearing lumber, some holding baskets of food.

And they were all singing, laughing, almost dancing as they made their way to the burned-out church.

Emily pulled back, afraid of what the people might think when they saw them. Emma took her hand.

“They can’t see us, Emily. To them, we are invisible. We need to see what’s going on here without letting our being here change anything. So what do you think is happening?”

“Well, there’s obviously been a fire and it would seem they have banded together to rebuild the church, but it is strange how happy they are. I mean, this fire must have happened on Christmas and ruined their day. Perhaps someone may have been hurt. Clearly the church is important to them and it is destroyed. And yet, they’re singing and laughing like it’s the best day of the year.”

“And indeed it is,” said Emma. “They understand one of the most important lessons of life.”

“And what’s that?”

Emma smiled at the tiny elf trying to understand such joy amid such devastation and loss. She knelt down and looked her in the eye.

“These people understand that life is a constant series of changes and what has happened, has happened. We cannot change the past. They understand this. They have learned that the key to a good life is to Celebrate what you had, and what you have, not dwell on what you’ve lost.”

Emily smiled. “So by doing that, they hold on to the Christmas Spirit no matter what happens in their lives.”

“It’s as simple as that,” said Emma. “Now where to next?”

Part V: The Joy of Giving

Emily leaned over and plugged the next coordinates into the GPS. “Next stop is…hmm. Wait a minute, let me recheck this.” She opened her laptop, punched the keys, shrugged, then confirmed the entry.

“Something wrong?” asked Emma.

“No, just a little confused. The next location is a Children’s Hospital in Bogota, Columbia. They treat cancer patients there. I’m just a little surprised it would be one of the places where happiness is increasing the Christmas Spirit.”

Emma smiled. “Never underestimate the power of the human heart, my dear.” And with a flick of her wrists, the sleigh rose into the air and headed to South America.

In what seemed like a blink of an eye—of course it would, this is Santa’s sleigh—they found themselves landing on the rooftop of the hospital. Emily sat for a moment in the sleigh, unsure of what she might find.

“Come on, my dear. I think this is going to be very informative for our little investigation.”

The two walked down some stairs, opened a door into a corridor, then followed some nurses into a large open room. Inside, they found about thirty kids, from little ones of four or five to teenagers, all working on cards and small craft projects.

Emily walked over to one of the groups. A teenage girl helped two small children draw pictures and paste them into greeting cards. At another table, two older boys put Christmas ornaments into packages and placed labels on them.

“What are they doing?” Emily asked.

“They’re making gifts for the poor for next year,” said Emma.

“They’re making gifts?” Emily said, her eyes giving away her surprise. “But they are all very sick, why would they be making gifts for others? Shouldn’t they be the ones people send gifts to to cheer them up?”

“Because they also understand about not focusing on things they cannot control,” said Emma. “And they understand another truth about living a happy life.”

“What’s that?”

Emma put her arm around Emily.

“It’s quite simple, my dear. Something Santa and I and the elves have known for centuries. The joy of gifts is in the giving.

“It’s that simple, isn’t it?” said Emily.

“It’s that simple. Now let’s leave them to their fun and move on.”

Part VI: A True Friend

Weaving their way through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Emma guided the sleigh to their next location; a small town nestled in an isolated valley. Landing in the outskirts of the village, Emma and Emily made their way to an old house in the center of town.

In the house, a small lamp lit the inside of an enclosed porch where an elderly man sat reading a book.

“Maybe I got the location wrong,” Emily said.

“Let’s wait and see,” Emma said

A few moments later, another old man came walking down the road, dragging a small sled loaded with groceries. He walked up to the house and carried the groceries inside.

Neither man spoke, but it was clear this was not anything unusual. A moment later, he emerged from the house, sat on a chair next to the man reading the book and said, “All set, Jim. Everything you need is here.”

“I’m not sure what I would do without you, Tom.”

“I think we both get something out of this. You get your groceries; I get to leave the house so my wife doesn’t give me chores to do.”

Both men laughed, then fell into silence, lost in their thoughts.

Emma took Emily’s hand and said, “Follow me.”

She led Emily into the house and then into a small den off the hallway. Pictures of the two men covered the walls. Some showed them as young boys, but they easily recognized the faces. Others showed them at a college graduation, in military uniforms, standing next to a jet fighter, a lifetime of shared memories.

One wall was covered with images from a wedding. Tom stood smiling next to a beautiful young woman, with Jim standing next to him. There were pictures of kids, pictures of vacations, pictures of a lifetime.

Emily stopped at the last picture. It was Tom’s wife, now much older, and there was a memorial card along the edge of the frame, Mariam Louise Johnson, 1948-2014.

The sight of the picture brought a tear to Emily’s eye. “Sad that his wife passed away. He must be lonely living here by himself.”

Suddenly, laughter burst from the porch. Emily and Emma hurried out to see what was going on. The two men were both laughing their heads off.

“And I still can see the look on Mariam’s face when you put that snake in the tent,” Jim said, wiping his eyes. “I thought she was gonna kill you.”

“I did too,” Tom said. “I didn’t sleep at all that night because I was afraid she would get me back.” He paused a minute, took a deep breath, and sighed. “We’ve had some fun, haven’t we, my friend?”

“Indeed we have, Tom, indeed we have.” Standing up, he patted his friend on the shoulder. “Okay, same time tomorrow? See you then.” Making his way back outside, he pulled the small sled back up the street and disappeared.

Tom went back to reading his book, but the smile remained on his face.

“I think I have this one figured out,” Emily said.

“And what have you learned here?” Emma asked.

“That having a good friend, a genuine friend who is with you through everything that happens in life, is a key to a good life. And friends are a big part of the Christmas Spirit. In other words, It’s better to have one true friend than hundreds of pretend ones.”

Emma smiled. “Once again, simple as that.” Pointing toward the sleigh, she added, “Next.”

Part VII: Challenges

Emily snuggled up against Emma as the sleigh rose into the sky. It’s not that she was cold, it just that Emma made her feel safe. As they made their way to the next stop, Emily thought about what they’d learned so far.

“Emma, can I ask you something?”

“Of course, dear. What is it?”

“Do you think I may look at things the wrong way?”

“What do you mean, dear?”

“Well, in all the places we’ve been, the things that help grow the Christmas Spirit were just so simple. Maybe I’m missing something in the way we analyze these things.”

“Let’s see what else we find, and then we can talk about it more.” Emma pointed to the skyline of Manhattan. “That is one of Santa’s favorite sights. And I’m sure we’ll find something special here.”

The sleigh made its gentle descent into the city, coming to a stop outside a school. The sign read, Watson Institute for Education.

As Emma and Emily made their way up the ramp to the door and then inside the building, something occurred to them. There were no stairs, and all the door handles were lower than normal.

“What kind of school is this?” Emily asked.

Just then, a bell rang. “I think we are about to find out.”

Soon the hallways filled with all manner of motorized wheelchairs. Kids of all ages navigated the hallway, heading to what appeared to be a large auditorium.

Emma and Emily followed.

As the crowd settled in, several students took to the stage, one took the lead.

“Hi everyone, and thanks for coming. As you know, every year we vote to select a new charity for our annual fundraiser. This year, we’ve selected St. Ambrose Hospital.

“If you check your email, you’ll see your assignments for the various events. It’s important we all make our best efforts to insure the success. I’m sure you all know we raised over $100,000 dollars for last year’s charity and our goal this year is $125,000.

“I know with your help we can do it.”

At that, the audience burst into applause, nodding of heads, or just wide smiles.

Emily looked at Emma. “Can you believe they’re organizing a charity? That’s amazing.”

“Not really amazing, Emily. It’s just another of those lessons in life. Our challenges do not define us, but how we face them does.”

Emily nodded. “I’m learning, I have much to learn.”

Emma laughed and pointed toward the door. “Come on, dear. We have places to go and things to see.”

Part VIII: Need in the Midst of Abundance

“Let’s try something different. Let’s go to one of those places where the Christmas spirit is in decline. It might be a useful comparison.”

“That’s brilliant, Emma. Data comparison and using what appear to be conflicting data points can be very…” Emily looked at Emma, who was giving her the same look Santa did when she went off on her technical explanations. “Sorry.”

“No worries, my dear. You’re enthusiastic about your job. That’s why I had Santa assign you there.”

“You picked me for the job?”

Emma smiled. “Remember what I said, Santa is the public face of Christmas. He’s the Ho Ho Ho and delivering presents guy. We’re the brains behind the operation.”

Emily looked through the data and selected a site. “How about here?” she said, turning the laptop to show Emma.


And with a few strokes of the keys, they were off; moments later, landing outside a huge ivy-covered stone wall topped with iron spikes. Emily stood up, trying to peek over the wall, but could see nothing.

“Come on, Emily,” said Emma, “there’s a gate over here.”

As the two stood in front of the monstrous gate, a Rolls Royce limousine with a uniformed driver pulled up. Tinted back windows block their view of the passengers. After a moment, the gate swung open, and the car started up the winding drive.

Emma and Emily hurried behind them for what seemed like ten minutes.

“I didn’t know there were driveways as long as highways,” said Emily.

“I didn’t know there were houses the size of shopping malls,” Emma said, pointing to the colossal mansion before them.

The chauffeur came around to the back and opened the door. A middle-aged woman made her way out of the car and, without a word to the driver, headed up the stairs to the door.

She appeared to be crying.

A moment later, a middle-aged man got out, lit a cigar, and nodded at the driver. “Well, another lovely, wasted evening, eh, Mr. Weatherby?”

“I wouldn’t know, sir,” answered the driver.

“Well, I’ll tell you it was. Bloody auctions and Mrs. Jameson is furious I wouldn’t bid higher for some trash art she wanted. Charity or not, I’m not buying trash.”

“Very good, sir,” said the driver. “Will you be needing the car anymore this evening?

“Only if you’ll run me over. It will be better than listening to her harangue me about being cheap. How does she think we acquired all this is the first place? Not by wasting money on every stupid charity in the world. If it were up to her, she’d give it all away.”

Emma and Emily followed the man inside. At the door, a butler greeted the man and took his coat.

“Is Mrs. Jameson in the study?”

“Yes, she is, sir. She asked not to be disturbed.”

“Well, I own the place so I will disturb whomever I want.”

The man made his way down a long corridor and into the opulent study. The woman sat on a couch, glass in hand, and glared at him.

“Look, I don’t care if the bloody charity can cure cancer. I’m not wasting my money…”

“Our money,” she interrupted.

“We’ll see about that; I have skilled lawyers. Nevertheless, I still cannot see wasting money on trash art.”

“But it is for a worthy cause and we have so much.”

“We have so much because I don’t throw it away. Next time, find some damn charity that doesn’t peddle junk. Now, I am going to bed; you can wallow in self-pity all you want.”

And with that, the man left the room while the woman sat drinking her drink and wiping tears from her eyes.

“Well, this one is troubling,” said Emily. “How can people with so much be so unhappy?”

“Think about it for a moment, my dear. Think about it. What is the most basic premise of the Christmas spirit?”

Emily thought for a long moment, then her face grew bright with a smile. “Sharing, of course. Sharing time with family and friends. Sharing a Christmas meal. Sharing gifts. It’s all about the sharing.

“Once again, so simple an idea,” said Emma. Happiness exists only when shared with others.

Part IX: Age is a State of Mind

Emily tapped her computer screen a few times, then closed the cover and reopened it.

“Problems?” said Emma

“No, just I thought the next site was in Canada, but the screen display is showing me a location in Morocco.” Emily tried to refresh the screen display once more. “What is wrong with this thing?”

“Perhaps we should just go where it says,” Emma smiled. “Could be something there we need to see.”

With that, Emma looked at the screen display, punched the numbers into the GPS and in a flash they were landing in a dusty field outside a small village in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.

Two old men sat at a table outside a small café sipping coffee and playing the card game called Ronda. As one man dealt, the other rubbed his wrinkled arthritic hands.

“Much pain today, Mohammed?” said the other man as he shuffled the cards

The man shrugged. “Like always, Youssef. All those days in the fields and tending the goats took their toll.”

“We worked hard then,” said Youssef. “Long days in the scorching sun and frosty nights in the winters. But coming home to our wives made it all worthwhile. It’s hard to believe they’ve both been gone over ten years.”

Mohammed nodded. “Seems like just yesterday we were playing with the grandchildren and watching them grow into fine men and women.” He paused a moment. “By the way, I heard Ayoub passed away, praise Allah the merciful, he was just ninety-five.”

“Ninety-five, such a young man to go so soon,” said Youssef, as a smile broke out on his face.

Mohammed laughed. “I know, ninety-five for me seems like years ago.”

“It was two years ago, Mohammed. Are you losing your mind?”

“I have lost nothing, my friend,” slowly rising from the chair, “I can still beat you in arm wrestling any day.”

“Hah, I’d like to see that!”

Mohammed’s eyes narrowed. He reached over, knocking the cards from the table. “Well then, let’s see who the better man is, shall we?”

Youssef rubbed his wrists and stretched his arms, then placed his right elbow on the table. “Come on, old man. Let me embarrass you once again as I did last year.”

“Old man? Who you calling an old man? What are you, two days younger than me? And a lot uglier.”

With that, the two men locked wrists and began the battle. Soon, a crowd of people gathered around. They cheered the men on, yet seemed to favor neither one.

After a few moments of back and forth, grunts and groans, arms tipping one way then the other, the two men broke into wide smiles.

“I think we have drawn a crowd, my friend,” said Mohammed.

“We have. They always want to see the two strongest and most handsome men in the village compete. Plus,” he winked, “the girls all love us.”

Two women stood just outside the circle of people, shaking their heads as they watched the men.

“Do they do this every day?” one said.

“They’ve been doing this every day for years,” answered the other. “My great grandfather will never stop competing until the day he dies. At least today they only arm wrestled. Two weeks ago, they had a horse race into the desert and we thought they were both gone. Then they came riding back together, laughing and joking. They almost killed the horses; the two of them were fine.”

Emma and Emily stood listening to the women and taking in the scene.

“You know, Emily, your little computer sent us here for a good reason. Sometimes, people think the spirit of Christmas is just for the young when it is for the young at heart as well.”

Emily smiled, “One of the most important things people can do to hold onto the Christmas spirit is to keep it even after they are no longer children. But how can one do that? They have responsibilities as they grow older.”

Emma put her hand on Emily’s shoulder. “Remember this always, my precious young one. Age is a state of mind.

Part X: Remember the past, look forward to the future, live in the moment

Rising over the lower foothills, Emma steered the sleigh toward the heights of the High Atlas Mountains.

“Wouldn’t it be better to go around them?” asked Emily. “They look kind of tall.”

“Where’s the fun in that? And if you think they’re high… well… just wait. People once believed these mountains held up the sky.”

“They did?”

“Indeed, they did. There are many such legends in history. When you think about it, we’re investigating one of those legends… except ours isn’t a legend at all, is it?” Emma smiled, then let the GPS direct them to the next stop.

Emily read from the sign on the front of the building, “Walsh Center for Geriatric Care.” She turned to Emma, “What’s geriatric?”

“It means old. This is a nursing home for the elderly.”

“Hmm, why do you think we’ve been sent here?”

“What say we pop in and find out?” Emma led the way through the door and into a lobby area. Several people—some in wheelchairs, some with canes, some just shuffling along with their hand on the wall—made their way into what looked like a central meeting room.

In front of the room, a DJ played music Emily had never heard before. Some guy named Frank Sinatra was singing a song called My Way. Back in one corner, a few couples stood close together, dancing.

As the song ended, one gentleman stood and walked to the front of the room. He took the microphone from the DJ, then waited for the room to quiet.

“Okay, a couple of announcements. First, as you know, we lost two more friends over the past few days. I’ve received notes from their families about how touched they were by the baskets of letters we sent. So thanks to everyone for doing that.

“Next month, they will be a family day open house. Invite as many family members as you like. Some of us here don’t have many members left, so let’s share and get a big crowd here to make everyone remember we are all family.”

He paused a moment, pointing at a woman in the front row. “Betty has a few things to add.” He held out the microphone for her.

Betty rolled to the front of the room.

“Thanks, Bert. Now, for those of you interested, we have an outing planned for this summer to the beach. All I need is a list of names for those who are interested, and we’ll take care of all the special arrangements. Our bake sale was so successful this year we even have enough left over to double our donation to the Homeless Shelter. Now, how about we liven it up a bit with some more music and dancing?”

The group broke out into a round of applause and the sounds of Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World” brought more couples to the dance floor.

Emma tapped Emily on the shoulder, tilting her head for her to follow her back to the sleigh.

“So, what do you think?” she asked.

Emily looked up at her. “Well, I’ll tell you one thing. For a place full of old people, they certainly have a lot of life in them. I mean, dancing, planning trips, running bake sales to raise money. They have more energy than I do.”

Emma laughed. “And you know what else they have?”


“A secret.”

“What secret?”

“Another simple one that is key to a happy life and keeping the spirit of Christmas thriving.”

“So?” Emily said. “Aren’t you going to tell me?”

“If you think about it, you’ll figure it out.”

Emily stood next to the sleigh, looking back at the building. The sounds of more music playing and people laughing drifted to her ears. “They love to remember, don’t they? But they also have fun in their lives no matter what. And they still look forward to tomorrow…”

“There you have it, Emily. Their secret is quite simple. Like the two friends in Morocco, they know that age is a state of mind and they Remember the past, look forward to the future, live in the moment.

Part XI: One of the Few Things Worth Remembering

“Cumberland? Where is Cumberland?” asked Emily.

“it’s a town in Rhode Island, the smallest state,” Emma. “I wonder what we’ll find there?”

The sleigh slowed on the approach into the town, taking them on a circular route around Diamond Hill, over the reservoir, until finally descending into the parking lot of a small pub on Mendon Rd. called McT’s.

“Why are we here?” asked Emily.

“I don’t know, but I know how to find out.” Emma jumped from the sleigh and motioned for Emily to follow. As they got closer to the door, a cacophony of voices greeted them. Laughter mixed with the conversation while music played in the background and groups of people gathered at the various tables or stood at the bar.

The conversations were a varied lot.

“Hey, remember the time we let the goose go in the gym and the janitor had to corner it with a trash barrel?”

“What ever happened to Kevin T? I heard he moved to Australia.”

“How is your mother? I haven’t seen her since we went to the prom and she dropped us off.”

“Can you believe it’s been forty-seven years since we graduated… CHS ’74? Where does the time go?”

Emma tapped Emily on the shoulder, and they headed back out into the parking lot. “Notice anything about the cars here?” she asked.

Emily looked around and shrugged. “They’re just cars.”

“Look again.”

Emily looked at all the cars, seeing nothing that jumped out at her, but then it hit her. The license plates. They were from all over the country. Some as far away as California or Texas. Some were clearly rental cars driven by people from who knows where.

“They’re from all over. Some of these people traveled here from far away.”

“And why do you think that is?”

“I suppose to see friends and family. To revisit a place important to them.”

“That’s exactly it, my dear. You see, the world is full of things that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. This town has a bit of magic to it. It embeds itself within those who grew up here and plays a big part in making them what they are.” Emma smiled at her little friend. “For most of them, it will always be home. And do you know why?”

Emily thought for a moment. “Well, since this little quest of ours has been about finding the spark that keeps the Christmas Spirit alive, I suppose it is about remembering the important things in our lives and somehow this town is… ahh… worth remembering?”

Emma nodded. “You’ve discovered another important secret about the Christmas Spirit. It is One of the Few Things Worth Remembering…”

Part XII: Hope may be invisible, but it is always with us

Emma sat back in the sleigh, letting the reins go so the reindeer could browse a bit. “So, Emily, what do you think about picking one more place and then heading back?”

“Well, we have gathered quite a bit of information that I can use to build a report for Santa. I think it’s enough. But I’m worried. Suppose we can’t save the Spirit of Christmas, then what?”

“Hand me your laptop. I want to show you one place you might not have noticed in all your data.”

Emma took the computer, looked through a few things, then handed it back. “I think I have just the place to go.” And with the coordinates plugged into the GPS, Emma grabbed the reins and they were off.

While every one of their trips had been quick, this one was in less than a blink of the eye. Emily looked over the edge of the sleigh as they settled onto the roof of Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

“I know this place is wonderful, but many of the kids here are very ill. It’s kind of sad that this happens to them. What will we find here that we don’t already know?”

Emma smiled. “Let’s go see for ourselves if there really are miracles here.”

Wandering through the corridors, they glanced into various rooms. Kids of all ages with all sorts of medical challenges seemed to be everywhere.

“I never realized how many children need this place,” said Emily.

“This and all the hospitals like it… and there is a need for more,” Emma said.

As they turned down the hallway, they came to the Neonatal ICU. Inside, there were babies who seemed almost too small to be real. Parents sat next to many of the covered beds, often holding on to the tiniest of fingers.

Nurses checked the readouts of the machines keeping the babies alive. Doctors drifted in and out, conferring with the nurses. The sounds and sights brought a tear to Emily’s eyes.

“I know this may sound awful,” sobbed Emily, “but it would seem this is the last place we can find an answer to saving the Christmas spirit.”

Emma pulled her tight to her. “On the contrary my dear, this is a place where we have the best chance of saving it.”

Emily wiped the tear from her cheek. “But how, it seems so sad here.”

“It would be, except this place, of all the places in the world, offers the one thing every child, every person, needs. Whether they are ill and in the hospital or dealing with some other troubles in their lives… Hope.”

A smile grew wide on Emily’s face. “Of course, hope. Hope may be invisible, but it is always with us.”

The Day After Christmas: The Last Secret

Climbing back aboard the sleigh, Emily sat quietly, looking up at all the stars.

“So what have we learned?” asked Emma.

Emily remained silent for a long moment, gathering her thoughts. “Well, it would seem the real secret to keeping the spirit of Christmas is simple. Each place we went taught us something. Here’s what I learned.”

Celebrate what you had, and what you have, don’t focus on what you’ve lost

The joy of gifts is in the giving.

Better to have one real friend than hundreds of pretend ones.

Our challenges do not define us, but how we face them does

Happiness exists only when it is shared with others

Age is a state of mind

Remember the past, look forward to the future, live in the moment

Be one of the few things worth remembering

Hope may be invisible, but it is always with us

“All of that is true, my dear. But there is one more thing to learn.” She picked up the reins, then, with a wink of her eye that reminded Emily of Santa, said, “You might want to hold on.” And with that, the sleigh rocketed straight into the sky… and kept going. At about 50,000 thousand feet, they released the reindeer.

“Ah, don’t we need them to fly?” Emily asked.

“Most of the time. We will come back for them later. They like being free once in a while. We’ve made some modern additions to the sleigh… we just haven’t told Santa yet.” Emma uncovered a secret compartment. “Let’s keep this part of the trip to ourselves, okay?” She winked, then pushed a black button.

The sleigh rocketed above the earth so far that the world appeared a shiny blue marble in the blackness of space.

“Tell me what you see, Emily.”

Emily glanced at Emma, then relaxed her death grip on the sleigh. “Is that the Earth?”

“It is indeed, and what do you see?”

“Well, I see the oceans and the continents and clouds.”

“Now what is it you don’t see?”

“Don’t see? I don’t understand, Emma. What do you mean?”

“Do you see borders, or boundaries, or fences? Do you see tribes, or countries, or races?”

“No, of course not.”

That’s because all of that is artificial. All fabricated. None of it matters when you look at it from this perspective. We are all people of earth on a small blue marble in a universe full of wonder and magic.”

“So all those things we learned really are everywhere if we just know how to look for them?”

“That’s it, Emily. When it comes to the spirit of Christmas, often we miss the most important aspect. You see, my dear, if you focus on what is wrong you miss all the good in the world. And with magical things like the Christmas Spirit, There are some things in the universe that cannot be measured, they have to be experienced.

“Everyone leads different lives. Sometimes it is full of joy, sometimes sorrow, but as long as we remember to hold on to hope, there is always tomorrow for dreams to come true. Now why don’t you take another look at your data there and tell me what you see.”

Emily opened her laptop, and green dots covered the map. There were still a few red dots, and she knew now that there always would be, but they would come and go in the face of hope.

“What say we head back to Christmas Town and let everybody know we solved the problem,” said Emma. “Oh, and one more thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Let’s let Santa believe the whole thing was his idea. I like to let him believe he’s in charge.”

Emily laughed. “Okay, Emma, this will be our little secret.”

And with that, they gathered up the reindeer and flew back home, where Emily would let Santa give everyone the good news.


Thus ends the story of The Day After Christmas. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little jaunt into my imagination and that your Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever it is you celebrate is everything you want it to be.

Merry Christmas 2021,
Joe Broadmeadow

P.S. Take a moment to read this last thought before you drift off to sleep and dream of sugarplums…you’ll be rewarded at the end with another cute picture of my grandson!

Thought on this Christmas Eve (reprinted from 2017)

I often look back on some of the things I’ve written. Sometimes, I cringe at what I released into the wild, and then sometimes I think, you know, not half bad, Joe, not half bad…
And so with that in mind, on this Christmas Eve 2021, the 65th time I’ve experienced this magical day, I repost something I wrote several years ago, on Christmas Eve, 2017. I hope you find it at least not half bad…


On September 21, 1897, the editor of New York’s Sun newspaper captured the spirit of Christmas with these words,

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…”

Seven words with an unanticipated longevity to the truth they proclaimed. The answer to a question from an 8-year-old girl.

This 8-year-old girl, facing life’s reality, sort reassurance from the authority of a newspaper. Imagine the quandary facing that editor, tell the truth or chip away at innocence?

He demonstrated great wisdom. He told the truth. A truth that holds to this day.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…”

This is a spirit different than religious traditions. It is a non-denominational phenomenon crossing cultural boundaries and containing a powerful message.

It is easy to lose hope in this world. One begins to wonder if evolution has slowed when it comes to the humanness of humankind.

Or given up on us entirely.

Despite this I say, now more than ever, yes there is a Santa Claus. Even among those who hold no such traditions. The spirit lives in the commonality of our being human.

All we need is a willingness to give for the sake of giving. To seek our happiness by making others happy.

We can share the experience of watching the wonder in the eyes of a small child. See the spark of the spirit come alive and grow within them. Embrace the comfort of old friendships, the warmth of family, or just the companionship of a good dog (but never a cat…okay, a cat as well.)

We all yearn to make others happy and feel the satisfaction of bringing joy to those we love. Or those we are yet to meet.

We can find solace in those same words; Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

It is within us all. All we need do is open our minds.

So, no matter where your tradition comes from. Be it a generous caring man of a different era, proclaimed a Saint, and turned into the legend of Santa Claus. Or a celebration of another tradition with equal import to your memories. Whatever you celebrate, in this Christmas season and from here on, I wish for you;

To have no regrets except for things you didn’t do.

To never to be afraid of failing at anything, except failing to try.

To remember the past, but waste no time on it.

To look forward to the future, but understand you cannot control it.

To hold onto hope, no matter what.

To embrace your moments in this life, once past they can never be reclaimed.

To find what fills your heart with smiles and have it grow, like the Grinch’s, three sizes this day.

To find that childlike spirit long buried by the cares of the real world.

To let the shackles of growing up fall away.

To dance like Snoopy to the music of Schroeder.

To understand, like Linus, it is the spirit that matters.

To know there is always tomorrow for dreams to come true. Even on your last day on this earth, the dreams of those we leave behind live on.

To work for a future of a world filled with laughter.

To understand it is through our differences we share the commonality of being human.

To be a child again, if but for one moment. To hear the far-off sounds of jingling bells. To see a faint red light of a magical reindeer approaching in the cold winter sky. To feel the excitement at the footsteps of a jolly old man on the roof of your memories.

The best part of the Spirit of Christmas is it is within our power to keep it well all the rest of our days.

Happy Christmas to all and to all a lifetime of good nights!

The Circle of Christmas Memories

As this, my 64th Christmas, approaches, the usual string of memories stir from within the synapses of my brain.

With the first few notes of The Little Drummer Boy, or the words “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” from The Christmas Song, to the rousing music of Handel’s Messiah and the Hallelujah Chorus, I am transported back to so many moments.

The anticipation of watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were more meaningful when they required planning. Once a year made them memorable, on demand makes them seem less so.

Vague, shadowy memories of my first few Christmas mornings to the fuller, if time-altered, memories of Christmases in Cumberland, Rhode Island where I’d share the latest in G.I. Joe accessories with my friends, to the all-too-rapidly passing moments of our daughter’s first Christmas, come weaving and dancing in my mind’s eye.

These moments, precious and joyful, all seem to pass so quickly. Every year, as December 25th approaches, even to this day, I want the moments to slow down, to linger, to hang in the air like the aroma of freshly made cookies, so I can savor each one.

But it seems each year passes faster than the one before.

And yet, there are things look forward to in the times ahead. Like the Spirit of Christmas Future, we’ve an opportunity to make new memories.

This will be a last Christmas for me in this stage of my life and next year will be my first Christmas at the beginning of a new stage, as a grandfather. I will have the opportunity to create those lasting memories my grandson will someday hence think back over as he winds his way through his own life.

Here’s hoping they are as vibrant and meaningful for him as those I’ve held close to my heart all these years.

Free Christmas Gift Picture, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on  Clipart Library
Blinking Christmas Lights Gif GIFs | Tenor

Stay tuned (a saying also imbedded in my memory although possibly confusing to some) here for a Christmas Surprise. On December 12th, I will publish this year’s special Christmas story in 12 parts.
Hidden within the words is a secret message. The first five people to figure it out and email me with the correct answer will win a copy of every book I publish in 2021.

To make sure you see the posting, subscribe to this blog by adding your email and clicking the subscribe button on this page and then share the blog with EVERYBODY.

Merry Christmas and may all your memories stay with you forever.


JEBWizard Publishing ( is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at or 401-533-3988.

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A Summer Vacation’s Worth of Stories

This time of year—scorching humid days, once verdant green Spring grass turned brown and coarse, evening fireflies sparking the imagination—always makes me think of summer vacations long ago. Not those taken for a week or two, but the real summer vacation that punctuated our progress in life.

The opening days of Summer—those first glorious days of not having to get up for school, the freedom of having an entire day to do whatever we wanted, the seemingly endless days ahead—made such a powerful impression in our memories.

See you in September

See you when the summer’s through

Here we are (bye, baby, goodbye)

Saying goodbye at the station (bye, baby, goodbye)

Summer vacation (bye, baby bye, baby)

Is taking you away (bye, baby, goodbye)

The Happenings, See you in september

Then, as June slipped into July and July to August, the first thoughts of returning to school bubbled to the surface. A new grade, new challenges, new teachers, new things to learn, and experience. I may not have looked forward to the end of the summer, but I looked forward to returning to school.

For me it was Ashton School, then Highland Middle, and finally Cumberland High School, CHS ’74.

We had something with us when we ventured back that’s denied today’s generations. Something that made our return both comforting and exciting.

We had stories.

Summer stories to tell our friends in the long tradition of human storytelling. In the telling of the stories, we reinforced (and often enhanced) the memories, ensuring they would last a lifetime.

Today, every moment of every day—tweeted, texted, Instagrammed, Facebooked, or Instant messaged—becomes the same as all the others.

In telling our stories, we had to recall from memory those moments that mattered to us. The things that made enough of an impression on an eight-year-old or a fourteen-year-old to warrant a story.

They would lose their magic in a mere text message.

The stories we told came from the heart—enhanced by our imagination—and created a bond between the storyteller and the listener. It was a way of saying, “you’re important to me, I want you to hear my stories, and I want to hear yours.”

We cannot share such a bond in an email or text. The immediacy of such technology robs the story of all emotion and value.  It is just another bit of noise in a noisy world, lost among the cacophony, becoming only more background static.

August is when these thoughts and memories rise to the surface. Back then, it seemed the dog days of summer grew shorter, even if we knew that the days had grown shorter almost from the moment summer vacation began.

The sun, making its way back south, posed new challenges to baseball games. Early summer sunlit ball fields now became danger zones as fly balls disappeared into the blinding August afternoon sun and caromed off a player’s head. (Something which we might turn into a great story.)

Now, we were not without our means of instant communication. We had telephones, and the sound of a ringing phone brought anticipation, hope, and surprises. We often planned calls—I’ll call you at 6—and battles would ensue if the phone was in use.

We faced the frustrations of a busy signal or an unanswered call. Answering machines—those first links in the chain bonding us to communication technology—came later. But when a call went through, we had those glorious moments of speaking with someone we likely hadn’t seen since the last day of school. In these calls, we laid the groundwork for future stories—I’ll tell you more later, I have to hang up now.

Until we hit that magic age of driver’s licenses and the freedom it brought, all we had on returning to school was our summer stories.

If I could give anything of value to today’s world, it would be moments like those I shared with my friends telling those stories.


JEBWizard Publishing ( is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at or 401-533-3988.

Signup here for our mailing list for information on all upcoming releases, book signings, and media appearances.

America in the 60s & 70s and America in 2020: For Better or Worse?

(This is a bit of a long one, but it is an interesting topic and, hopefully, worth the read)

The good ‘ole days may not have been as good as we’d like to believe, or were they better? An intriguing question. As I often do, I like to use the words of others with my own to illustrate the commonality of our experiences.

Here’s a quote one of my most influential teachers,

“The past is delusion; the present, elusion; the future, illusion.” Dan Walsh

With the past, we often twist Shakespeare’s words about the evil men do.  Instead of “The evil men do lives on, the good is oft interred with their bones.” We change it to, “Our fondness for the wonderful memories of the past live on, the evil is oft interred in the deepest recesses of our brain.”

In a reaction to a recent piece,, Paul Edward Cary, who enjoys debating many of my positions (respectful of our differences and, on the rare occasion, our agreement) argued the United States has declined in moral character over the past 50 or 60 years.

It sparked an idea.

Was America a better place in the 60s and 70s? Are we a nation in decline? I decided to see what I could discover.

While measuring morality is subjective, there are other benchmarks we can use to test the hypothesis. I looked at various historical events and national attributes—health, infant mortality, education, civil rights, Supreme Court cases, and crime.

Supreme Court

Time magazine did a project several years ago seeking opinions from a variety of law professors and legal experts on the most influential—for good or bad—Supreme Court cases.,29569,2036448,00.html

Often the court serves as a catalyst for change in society, righting wrongs embedded within the fabric of American lives. Some would argue these decisions were not always for the better. But here are the most beneficial and the most troubling in the 1960s-70s contrasted with those the court decided in the 2010s.

In the 1960s, several cases sparked major changes and controversies. Fifty or sixty years sounds like a long time ago. But to those of us alive in those years, thinking back, it’s hard to accept such cases were necessary.

Loving v. Virginia (1967), which found restrictions on interracial marriage unconstitutional. 

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), which protected freedom of the press in the realm of political reporting and libel. 

Baker v. Carr (1962) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), which established the one-person, one-vote concept in legislative apportionment.

2015 saw the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 same-sex-marriage ruling.

Perhaps the cases necessary in the 60s and 70s set us on a better, more moral path. The law professors saw them as positive cases. Yet, that they were necessary paints a troubling picture of a segregated and less open society.

On the negative side, many professors were critical of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). The case removed campaign-spending limits on corporations and unions, and Bush v. Gore (2000), which resulted in George W. Bush’s winning the presidential election.

Of all the cases I looked at, this one from 1973 troubled me. San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973).

“This decision held that inequities in school funding do not violate the Constitution. The court thus said that discrimination against the poor does not violate the Constitution and that education is not a fundamental right. It played a major role in creating the separate and unequal schools that exist today.” (From the Times article)

The controversial decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) appeared on the lists of both the best and worst decisions. Without once again venturing down this rabbit hole, I’ll leave it to you to decide if this contributed to our “moral decay.”

I know my lawyer friends will all pipe in with their own favorites. Still, the very need for the cases decided in the 60s and 70s casts a shadow on the perception of a more fair or moral American society.

As further proof of the importance of court-imposed mandates, one need look no further than our own backyard and the 1970s desegregation of the Boston School system.

The case—Morgan v. Hennigan, 379 F. Supp. 410 (D.C. Mass., June 21, 1974)—decided by U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Garrity, required Boston to bus students to various schools to achieve a racial balance.

That a court, in 1974, had to force a city the size of Boston—a city which prides itself on its contribution to the very founding of this nation—to comply with the findings of Brown V Board of Education, a twenty-year-old refutation of the concept of separate but equal school systems, is astounding.

But before we take too much comfort in this decade being better than the past, there is this. In Cleveland, Mississippi, the school district finally stopped contesting a ruling from 1965 regarding the desegregation of its high schools.

The city agreed to desegregate the schools in 2017, having fought against it by various legal maneuverings for fifty-two years.

1960s News Stories

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 3, 1963 (UPI) – Five firemen stood less than 50 feet away today sweeping methodically with a high-pressure hose and sending hundreds of racial demonstrators tumbling in the street.

The force downs a man as fast as a charging tackle on a football field and is no less damaging.

I was in a corner telephone booth dictating a story as a crowd of chanting, singing, gyrating Negroes surged time and again into the face of a police blockade. Spray hung across the intersection like fog.

When the first powerful blast hit the front line of anti-segregation marchers, they toppled and rolled in the streets, clinging to the curb and to each other.

As the hose swung away, they jeered the firemen, taunting with catcalls. But the ones who didn’t flee at first soon were routed by the full force of spray.

Then the firemen turned their attention to a small group of Negroes on the corner where I was standing.

“Let’s get those people out of there,” an officer shouted.

The firemen swung the hose quickly and the gush of water splattered the seven Negroes on the corner. They fled into a restaurant and the firemen followed, playing their hose in the restaurant for two or three minutes.

“They’re turning the hose on us,” I shouted to another newsman.

Elvin Stanton, of radio station WSGN, jumped into the phone booth with me. We braced for the blast of water which hit the glass wall with a roar.

The water was brown, then a boiling white froth which roared through the cracks in the booth, sloshed under the booth and soaked our feet. Then they turned the hose on an upper ventilating slot and our shoulders were soaked.

I kept yelling that we were reporters, but the torrent kept pounding on the glass booth. Somehow, the glass held until they turned the hose around.

We walked out. As we strode soggily by the firemen, one turned and asked: “Did you get wet?”

SELMA, Ala., March 7, 1965 (UPI) – State troopers and mounted deputies bombarded 600 Negroes with tear gas Sunday when they knelt to pray on a bridge, then attacked them with clubs. Troopers and posse men, under orders from Gov. George C. Wallace to stop the Negro “walk for freedom” to Montgomery, chased the marchers nearly a mile through town, clubbing them as they ran.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1960 into law on May 6. The purpose of the law was to close loopholes from the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and dealt primarily with voter disenfranchisement. The act created penalties for anyone who tried to obstruct voter registration and extended the life of the Civil Rights Commission which had been set to expire. It also established federal inspection of local voter registration polls in an effort to counter-act discriminatory laws in the South that worked to disenfranchise voters on a racial basis.


And then we had Vietnam, or more correctly Viet Nam.

While our involvement in Viet Nam began long before the 60s, most Americans wouldn’t have a clue where the country was until 1965.

Here’s one interesting tidbit of history.

June 8, 1956: The first official American fatality in Viet Nam is Air Force Technical Sergeant Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr. He was murdered by another American airman as he was talking with local children. His wife lobbied for years, finally succeeding in 1999, to have his name added to the Viet Nam Wall Memorial.

Think about that for a second. The first official American casualty in Viet Nam was murdered by a fellow American.  It gets no stranger than that. Perhaps had we taken that as an omen, we might have decided the avoid the whole thing.

But we didn’t. And when I said it could get no stranger, I was wrong. Fitzgibbon’s son joined the Marine Corps…and was killed in Viet Nam.

Here’s a brief historical timeline of the 60s and 70s and the routes of involvement.

1960 The United States announces 3,500 American soldiers will be sent to Vietnam.

July 1964. Gulf of Tonkin incident. U.S. warships come under fire by North Vietnamese gunboats in two related incidents. There is little doubt the first incident happened. The NV Gunboats were responding to an earlier bombing attack on two North Vietnamese held islands by U.S. and South Vietnamese Naval forces. 

The second incident, which Lyndon Johnson would use to escalate American involvement, is in doubt. Johnson secretly confided to his advisors, “for all I know, the goddamn Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

On March 6, 1965, two battalions of U.S. Marines waded ashore near Danang,

March 16, 1968 The My Lai massacre—known as Son My in Viet Nam—where American soldiers killed nearly all the people—old men, women, and children, including infants—in the village of My Lai. The months-long military campaign known as the Tet Offensive (January 30–September 23) topped Vietnam news.

Amid the carnage of Viet Nam, on July 20, 1969, Americans put a man on the moon.

1973 The Paris Peace Accords, negotiated by the Nixon administration, reached agreement after five years. Nixon secretly orchestrated a delay in the talks during the 1968 Presidential Campaign through back-channel communications with the North Vietnamese government promising better terms. He then took 5 years, at the cost of almost twenty thousand more dead Americans, to settle the war.

1973 All U.S. Combat troops leave Viet Nam. 500 American POWs return from North Viet Nam.

Military advisors remain until 1975

April 1975

The U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government surrendered to the Communists on April 30, ending three decades of war in Vietnam. Hours later, the first Communist tanks rumbled into the capital.

During Viet Nam, anti-war protesters and racial strife tore apart the country.

May 4, 1970, National Guard troops fire on war protesters, killing four, at Kent State University.  Allison Beth Krause, 19, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20, Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20, and William Knox Schroeder, 19.

Several National Guardsmen were charged in the killings, but they dismissed the cases.


Attica prison riot

Native Americans forced from Alcatraz after citing an 1868 Treaty allowing them to live on the island


Supreme Court rules against the death penalty

The last man to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan, aboard Apollo 17 in December 1972, brought an end to the Apollo program.

AIM seizes Wounded Knee, SD
The American Indian Movement (AIM) seized the hamlet for 90 days before surrendering. It was a protest of violations to American Indian treaties over the past centuries.

The 60s and 70s were the decades of hard rock ‘n roll.

Crime and Punishment: Police, Violent Crime, & Prisons


The debate over racial bias in Law Enforcement is the latest controversy to roil the nation. In 2014, the Obama administration passed a law— the Death in Custody Reporting Act—requiring Law Enforcement agencies to track all in-custody deaths and report them to the Justice Department.

The Justice Department has never created the database or received any information from the nation’s law enforcement agencies. We cannot identify a problem if we operate in the dark.

But we can compare the nature of a policing, and the relative dangers associated with being a cop, by tracking the numbers of officers killed in the line of duty.  These numbers take into consideration all manners of death, not just violent encounters.

Officer Killed in the line of duty


One officer killed is too many, but the trend has been declining. In the 1960s and 70s, during the height of racial tensions and anti-war protests, they targeted police officers with snipers and bombs. Yet, over time these incidents have grown less and less frequent. The media hype of today amplifies and distorts the level of violence beyond reality.

Killed by Law Enforcement

1970-1979      No accurate statistics exist

2015-2019     5400 and the average per year is consistent (1000). Still, unarmed Black men are more likely to be killed by the police than white men based on a preliminary analysis of the limited data. (

Violent Crime


1970-1979      191,690 (9.06 per 100,000 population)

2010-2019     155,034 (4.8 per 100,000 of population. 2019 numbers projected based on average # of homicides of the previous nine years as final numbers from FBI not yet available. Again, there are racial disparities in murder rates, but the overall numbers even among various races are lower.)

Violent crime per 100,000 populations. Rates climbed in the mid-1960s, peaking in 1990-91. They have consistently declined since then.

1970                451

2019               387.2 

Prisons (Number of prisoners)

1970                196,000

2010               1,570,00

Health and Education

MVA Fatalities Rates per 100,000 population

1970    25.67

2018   11.18 (last year data available)

Infant Mortality Rates

The U.S. is far behind other developed nations in infant mortality. Comparable country average (nations with similar levels of development such as Canada, United Kingdom, France, Japan) is 3.4 per 1000 live births

US Infant Mortality Rates per 100,000 population

1970    26

2015   5.8

Literacy Levels

The U.S. is 7th in the world in literacy rates. The ability of most Americans to read sits at about 99%, although there are racial disparities. Educationally, Americans sit in the middle of the world curve in terms of analytical abilities in math, science, and reading.

In the 1970s, the U.S. led the world in education. Clearly, we have failed in the promise of public education.

Defense spending as a % of GDP

1970    7.8%

2018   3.16%

Education vs. Military Budget

1970    Military $79.1 billion   Education $1.0 billion

2020   Military $989 billion ($160 billion increase over 2 years)  Education $64 billion (10% decrease over 2019)


#1 in Music Billboard Chart

1960 Theme from A Summer Place (Percy Faith)

1970 Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)

2010 Tik Tok (Kesha)

#1 Movie

1960   Swiss Family Robinson

1970    Love Story

2010   Avatar

#1 T.V.

1960   Andy Griffith Show

1970    Marcus Welby, MD

2010   Breaking Bad

In the culture category, while I may be prejudiced here, but the 60s and 70s win this one, hands down.


Can we say the U.S. has suffered a decline, moral or otherwise, over the past 50 or 60 years?

Probably not.

Yet I can make an argument we have become more socially open and accepting. We embrace a more democratic form of social interaction, minimizing the once formidable lines of separation between races, ethnicities, and religions. 

Despite the constant bombardment of “breaking news,” we have become less violent people. By all measures, we have seen a reduction in homicides and other crimes of violence.

The burgeoning prison population and the de-emphasis on education are troubling. The overwhelming number of people are in prison for non-violent crimes. Imprisonment has little to do with crime reduction. It turns people into career criminals doing life on the installment plan.

What drove the reduction in violent crime? Many theories abound.

Some claim the high rates of incarceration take violent offenders off the street. This seems logical, except with a fifty percent recidivism rate, it is only a partial explanation.

Increased community policing efforts is another suggestion.

Reduced opportunity to commit crimes due to the prevalence of home surveillance cameras, cellphone cameras, and other technology such as DNA evidence is a factor. The “graying of America” is another possibility with the average age rising above the mean for those most likely to commit crimes.

Two wild theories relate to reduced violence within society. One, proposed by Rick Nevin, a Virginia economist, claims a correlation between eliminating lead from gasoline and a reduction in violent crime.  In a peer-reviewed study, he makes an interesting case. He even wrote a book on the subject, Lucifer Curves. (

An even more controversial theory, by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, the co-author of Freakonomics, and John Donohue of Yale University, argued that the 1973 Supreme Court Case of Roe v. Wade legalizing abortions was a significant contributor to reduced incidents of violent crime.

Research shows unwanted children had higher incidents of psychiatric problems and propensity to violence. Eighteen years after the decision, when those pregnancies legally aborted would have reached the age of 18, the start of the range of age of most violent offenders, the incidents of violent crime decreased.  Controversial, to say the least. Critics of the theory tend to oppose abortion, so a full analysis is lacking.

These matters are all complex and intimately related. I doubt one explanation can account for the data. Yet, an honest look at comparing and contrasting the America of the mid-20th century and the one we live in today would show a vast overall improvement.

We have not suffered a “moral” decline. We have entered an age where we are overwhelmed with information absent any legitimate controls over the validity or veracity.

Fake news is a real phenomenon, but it is not characterized by just the things we disagree with. If there has been any decline, it is in our undervaluing the benefits of education.

The world becomes a more stable, safer, and fair place when we fundamentally understand our differences. There is no single path to a better America. Yet there is one certain path to our demise and decline, ignorance.

Until we set our minds to creating the best educational system and opportunity for success in the world, we will continue to look to the false memories of the good ‘ole days.

Our success lies in seizing the day, not clinging to the past.                                   

Memory Containers

I have always enjoyed walking. I once spent six months walking from Georgia to Maine. When you walk, life slows down. You notice things you may never see in a car.

Even the most familiar roads contain surprises hidden in plain view. That is one problem of living at vehicle speed, we often miss the opportunities of life.

Although I have lived in many places, some longer than I ever lived in Cumberland, it is the first place I ever knew as home. Thus, it is etched onto my soul and the most memory-rich of the places I walk.

When I lived in Lincoln, my walks would often take me by many such familiar places. I lived just over the line from Cumberland and sometimes walked a loop up Albion Road to Mendon Road and down Manville Hill Road.

Passing by Cumberland High School released a floodgate of memories of the Class of 1974. It seemed at once like such a long time ago and the briefest of moments, despite the abundance of memories. Many of the houses I’d pass once were the homes of friends. Some may still be there; most are scattered by the winds of fate. But the memories still live.

Memories of many firsts, many experiences, many moments.

Passing every house, even those I now walk by since moving away from Lincoln, I think of the memories within a home. Cumberland memories are more intimate, more familiar, more embedded in my DNA. In my new neighborhood, or wherever I find myself walking, all the memories are hidden away in other lives.

But I know the memories are there. I know they exist. It is the way my mind works. I picture the moments. I hear the voices, the laughter, the tears. I am a spectator to a kaleidoscope of lives, anonymous yet familiar.

It is a universal bond all humans share, the magic of memory.

Christmas celebrations, births, birthdays, deaths, new puppies, old dogs, hot dogs, charcoal smoke, snowstorms (No school!), baseball games, marriages, divorces, learning to ride a bike, watching a child take those first steps or a loved one taking the last ones, even if you don’t know it at the moment.

Moments of every life remembered.

I wonder if the spirit of all the memories, the quantum energies of life, still echo within the walls. Inside every house—sometimes a home, sometimes the scene of heartbreak—do the memories still remain?

Our memories are a quantum entanglement, always with you no matter how far away from them you’ve wandered. That’s the most precious thing about memories, they persist even if we cannot recall them. Once made, always bonded, even if they are shadowed and hidden by the mists of passing time.

Our own thin place, where we see with the utmost clarity or vague familiarity that which reminds us of our common humanity.

By taking the time to notice things we often fly by in the cocoon of everyday living, we experience the most common of shared human qualities. The community of memories.

“This is a gift that I have, simple, simple; a foolish extravagant spirit full of forms, figures, shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions, revolutions; these are begot in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater, and delivered upon the mellowing of occasion.”

William Shakespeare


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