Out and About (Sort of) This Christmas Brings Mixed Feelings by Howard Freedlander


I’ve really tried to get into the Christmas spirit, mostly succeeding but not entirely. Something is holding me back. I think others are enduring the same ambivalence.

I’ve bought my gifts. I’ve changed the CDs in my car from Irish ballads to Christmas songs. The past Friday night I attended a wonderful concert of holiday music by the renowned American Boychoir. I listened carefully at church the past Sunday to an upbeat sermon about the essence of Christmas.

I love buying gifts, bringing me more joy in some instances than experienced by the recipients. It’s fun, while fraught with fear and anticipation about the recipient’s reaction. Standard fare at this time of year. I love listening to Christmas music; my mood typically brightens. A concert by young, trained singers is a joyful experience. Listening to our Episcopal priest discuss the birth of Christ and the circumstances surrounding it provides an abiding sense of hope and optimism.

Then, a friend’s year-in-review insert in his Christmas card brought me back into reality. He eschewed his typical concluding comment about politics (which frankly I don’t recall) by admitting he didn’t know what to say. Translated: like many of us, he hopes for the best from our next President while harboring ample skepticism. This is my take. I have prayed in recent weeks that Donald Trump would make more good decisions than bad ones.

Even I marvel about at my uncharacteristic pessimism. I consider my viewpoint as reeking of reality, sadly so.

After returning Sunday from church, I then read about the President-elect’s “thank-you” tour to states where he had won, in some cases unexpectedly. During this tour, Mr. Trump has seen fit to slam those who had opposed him. Sounds like a sore winner, doesn’t he?

Will he learn about charitable thinking, even at this appropriately spiritual time of year? Seems doubtful—his unpredictable, unconventional style draws millions of supporters. His victory confirms his popularity.

Taking a more thankful viewpoint at a time that demands a large dosage of grace and kindness, I will say nothing more about politics. Instead I will pay homage to two people no longer walking the earth with us: Mike Menzies and Jim Fretterd.

President and CEO of the former Easton Bank & Trust, Mike Menzies died in June 2014. He was a superb community banker and tremendous community leader. He loved serving his customers. He loved adding value back into Talbot County by contributing his prodigious talent and intelligence to several non-profits in our community. He is sorely missed.

At the end of November 2016, Lt. Gen. (MD) James F. Fretterd, longtime adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, died after struggling with poor health in recent years. This Caroline County resident was a dynamic, highly effective military leader. He engineered significant changes in this historic organization in terms of overseas deployments, diversity in the highest ranks never before seen in the Guard, application of the Guard’s capability to the former Soviet and newly independent Republic of Estonia and greater awareness in Annapolis and Washington of the Maryland National Guard’s role in its domestic and foreign missions.

I previously wrote about General Fretterd shortly after he died. I served and worked closely with him. He was my boss and my friend. I grieve his loss.

I wrote at the outset about my conflicted emotions about an otherwise cheerful holiday. With no intention of reviving dissonant opinions about immigration, I heard recently about a

Talbot County man who just gained U.S. citizenship. Two Eastern Shore natives accompanied him to the citizenship ceremony in Baltimore. While their stoic friend shed no tears of happiness about his new status, apparently others in the room became emotional, as would be expected.

Good things happen. Families too poor to buy presents receive heartfelt support during the Christmas season. People who can, open their wallets and hearts to those who can’t, who are suffering from poverty and family misfortune. Generosity flows during this time of year—and hopefully after the decorations come down, and the joyous music ceases.

Consider this column a look back at a year filled with plentiful happiness and good health. Family members are enjoying satisfying lives. And my wife and I gained a new, terrific addition to our home in the form of Sandy, an absolutely delightful Yellow Labrador. Her presence in our lives is comforting.

I already have commented on politics. I hope our new President will surprise me and millions of others as our 45th commander-in-chief.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Letters to Editor

  1. David Montgomery says:

    I am sorry you are finding this holiday so difficult. I, on the other hand, am celebrating every day that my friends, family and I once again have a say in the future of our country. Please don’t single out President-Elect Trump as a sore winner. He is far outnumbered by the sore losers, starting with the losing candidate; the incumbent who levels unprecedented attacks and insults at his successor; the celebrities, politicians and leaders of the losing candidate’s campaign who have tried to subvert the electoral college; the vast majority of the press who cannot stop questioning the legitimacy of his election, and the former President who claims I only voted for the President-elect because I am an angry, white male. I could not be happier. I am delighted every day to see a new report of an accomplished, experienced and fully qualified person being named to a cabinet position regardless of race or gender. I am reassured when the President-elect does not make excuses for acts of terrorism and appoints ambassadors who actually like our historic allies. I am full of hope, unlike the incumbent first lady. I fully expect that reversing 8 years of growth in regulation, taxes and deficits will restore levels of economic growth that will make everyone better off. I hope for domestic tranquility now that we are saying goodbye to a President who foments rivalry and distrust between races and classes. I am glad that the incoming President supports our police and military, rather than disdaining their sacrifices and leaping to judgment without the facts about every incident in which they are involved. I hope, most of all, that the constant attacks on my faith and restrictions on my freedom to follow the teachings of my church will end. I am looking forward to a great New Year.

    • Richard Skinner says:

      In this column and the published reply, we witness clearly the state of affairs: a divided citizenry seeing polar opposites in the same objects or activities and wondering what is wrong with the eyes of the other. The differences are beyond schisms; more like chasms, suggesting that what divides us is more than partisan differences and more akin to profound perspectives on very basic human values. I hope I am wrong, but . . . .

  2. Harriette Lowery says:

    Howard, you and your wife are a blessing in our community, thank you for all you do. Please continue your wonderful articles in 2017, as well. God bless you and your family always.

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