The Christmas Cigar

Never underestimate the power of a good cigar to give people a reason to get together.

A true story from Jason’s 2012 holiday season.

So picture it. Last Saturday, the maternal family assembled at The Matriarch’s house in a quiet suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan. My grandmother had prepared a lovely spread and most of the family — sans one aunt, who with her husband was visiting their daughter in Colorado — was there. My four cousins from Indiana are all growing so fast; it’s hard to believe the eldest is already half-way through her college years. I distinctly recall being ready to graduate high school when I learned that my youngest aunt would bear her first child. Makes me feel … old.

My brother was there, with his wife and his almost 8-year-old son. So was my mom.

The party was fun. Everyone got along nicely and there was enough food to service an entire team of sumo wrestlers. We were there perhaps four hours or so. As we packed up to leave, my brother asked me what I was doing the next day. I answered him honestly: “Not much.”

The next afternoon, he called me and I invited him over. I’ve lived at my current home for two years; it’s the first time he’s visited.

Some background might be in order. When we were kids, we were different people. Still are, truth be told. He was excitable and practical; I was more laid back and academic. We never really had any bad blood, but we didn’t have a lot in common. So we’d see each other a few times each year, on holidays, and call it good. About five years ago, our relationship improved. I made some different life choices, and for about a year, we were closer. Then I dragged him and his wife into some unnecessary interpersonal drama, and things chilled out again. After that, he worked overseas for two years and in a way, we were back to the status quo — friendly, but only on the holidays.

Anyway, when he stopped by, I offered him some delicious beer and a cigar — a Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 Cameroon. I enjoyed a Carlos Torano 1916 Torpedo. We talked for a few hours. Nothing profound, mostly stories about his work overseas, his travel and current work responsibilities. It was the first time he and I sat down to talk since early 2009.

Then he suggested we should sit down for a cigar more often.

The next day, we had another family party. He brought me my gift, which was a large box, a bit heavy, that made funny sounds when I shook it. He made me guess what was in it, and I managed to fail miserably. True to form, he did a bait-and-switch. The box contained two bottles of water and a box of macaroni duct-taped to the bottom. Above it, in those plastic air bubble bladders, were three cigars. And a cryptic note suggesting that they didn’t need to be enjoyed in solitude.

Moral of the story: Never underestimate the power of a good cigar to give people a reason to get together.

Happy new year.

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About jason

Jason is the principal of Gillikin Consulting, a business-media and ethics consultancy based in Grand Rapids, Mich.