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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

KESWICK — As I write this week's column, I am staring out the window of a wooden cabin in the snow-covered foothills near the Blue Ridge's Piedmont valley. This gentle home — belonging to my cousin and his wife — smells of cedar: A Christmas tree stands in the corner. A fire burns in the iron stove and I yearn for the comfort of spending the holidays with my family.

That is, I would yearn to do so — if my family weren't a pathetic collection of psychotic twits. The trouble began last night when I arrived at my cousin's home and he and his wife were watching a program on public television about the historical origins of Christmas. It was an informative piece, and I commented blithely that theologians and biblical scholars — or, at least, the female theologians and biblical scholars on the program — seemed to be unusually attractive people. I suggested that the program would perhaps have been more appealing if its host had worn a shorter skirt.

My cousin's wife, Helen, said that that was perhaps the most inane and shallow comment she had ever heard. George, her husband, tried to diffuse the mounting tension by suggesting diplomatically that Belgian literary history scholars also tended to be very physically attractive. Helen gave this some pause, then said she agreed with George: Belgian literary history scholars were way sexier than biblical scholars. To maintain some semblance of peace within the home, I remained silent, though I found their viewpoint parochial beyond description.

We sipped silently on our eggnogs for a while, until finally a good friend of the family arrived. Dr. Bowel is a music professor at the local college. He is also a very talented composer, although he has a regrettable habit of referring to all of his musical compositions as "movements." That evening he performed a special new work for us that was written for a full orchestra and choir — but he played it all on his tuba. I followed by giving an hourlong jazz performance using only one triangle.

My aunt and uncle soon arrived, and we all gathered around the Christmas tree to sing carols as we do this time every year. Then, as we also do every year, we suddenly remembered that we are all tone deaf, and don't know the words to any of those darned songs anyway. So, we moved away from the tree and I continued my jazz triangle performance until the sun came up.