It’s that time of year again when my Polk County family starts appearing in my columns more frequently.

This is because naturally the holidays are a time when I see more of them, and when I see them all in the same place. It’s also that time of year when I have the best stories to tell.

This is a combination of several reasons:

1. Around the holidays we start communicating more often and in large groups. For instance, we’ve got a big group text going on right now about location and time for our Thanksgiving meal and for food assignments. More on that later.

2. Another reason the best stories come out of this time of year is because this is when my family (like many, many, other families) walk the thin line where we love each other but we might get frustrated or annoyed with each other, but we don’t wanna hurt anyone’s feelings, but we’ve got stuff that needs to be ironed out, but being together is all that really matters, but someone better not forget the canned cranberry sauce.

It’s that sort of delicate balance that has to be maintained because we want everyone to have a wonderful time and feel loved and appreciated. But I also want us to eat on time.

3. Laughter. Some of the funniest things happen when we all get together with the people we’re completely comfortable around. You say stuff you probably wouldn’t say around other people. This can lead to gales of laughter, emotionally cleansing heart-to-heart conversations or knock-down, drag-out fights.

4. The holidays are stressful for many people. I know that it SHOULD be only about the spirit of the season and fellowship and togetherness and all those things you read in a Hallmark card. But my family lives in the real world. We have jobs and bills and stresses and hobbies and relationships and children and pets and appointments and all the things that don’t take a break just because it’s a holiday. That means that we have to take care of all our responsibilities IN ADDITION to holiday plans, preparations and expenses. That’s bound to stress some people out and we’re no different. But that just makes my stories more entertaining for y’all.

So that’s basically a preface for any of my family-related columns in the next few weeks.

As many of you know, our Esom Hill Thanksgivings and Christmas Eve get-togethers are a thing of the past. Pawpaw’s little house just can’t hold us anymore. For a couple years now we’ve been gathering at either Neeve’s or Kook’s houses in Rockmart. That means Zoodie, Mom and Papa, Paul Jr., Cousin Pam and others come from Cedartown; Me and Freda come from Rome; Traci and Callie come from Cartersville; and of course there’s several Rockmart folks like Terra, Lindsey, Jody, Julie and Barton who don’t have to drive very far at all.

We’re about to start the big group texting to determine whether Neeve or Kook will host and who’s bringing what.

Several holidays ago, we unknowingly included a stranger in our holiday group text. We thought it was Traci’s number but it wasn’t. The stranger was happy to send funny messages back and forth that included photos of liquor bottles so we affectionately dubbed him or her the “drunken stranger.” Ever since then, we’ve included the drunken stranger in all our holiday activities. We send him or her photos of our family gatherings, along with well-wishes to his or her family wherever they may be. And we always get warm and funny responses.

So what started out as just a wrong number has turned out to be a funny family tradition with a stranger in some unknown part of the state.

I hope as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year celebrations approach, that you will also be surrounded by the people you love. I hope your table is full of good food, and I hope that somewhere a drunken stranger is sending you funny text messages.

Stay tuned for more stories about the Esom Hill crew. I’m sure I’ll have a few good ones in the weeks to come.

Severo Avila is Features Editor for the Rome News-Tribune.

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