The fire was crackling. The stockings were empty. The kids were sound asleep.
I was on a Kindle. My brother-in-law was showing my father-in-law how to navigate an iPad, my wife watching enviously beside them. My other brother-in-law was tucked behind his own iPad while his wife checked Facebook on her laptop.
We were all nestled in our technological silos. Silent. That's when my mother-in-law, Lydia—no device in her hand—piped up: "We'd be sitting around talking and playing cards without all these things."
She was right! We joked that next year we could all save ourselves the trouble of travel, buy our gifts exclusively online, mail them to one another and gather on Skype instead of in the living room for the exchange of gifts.
That's when we decided to put down the devices and use just one iPad to play the Scrabble app. We teamed up and passed the iPad around.
What had been dividing us was now unifying us.
And earlier in the evening, I had called my brother on my iPhone and we FaceTime'd my kids with his kids (which always ends up in images of big, gaping mouths filling the screen). I got to see my mom, stepfather, sister, brother-in-law and nephews. Otherwise, I just would have heard their voices.
So I guess I'm 50/50 on whether such gifts divide or unify families.
How did such gifts serve to alter your holidays for good or ill?
Did they bring you together or provide a cozy hiding place from family drama?
Tell us in comments.
Doug Donovan, Patch senior regional editor for Maryland, Virginia and D.C., lives in Towson but was in Latrobe, PA, for Christmas.