Friday Mailbag: A Christmas tradition, defending Agatha Christie, common ground on EV, and our shifting political landscape


MINOT, N.D. — Decorating for Christmas might be my favorite family tradition.

In my family, it’s a very specific tradition. Right after Thanksgiving we go and buy a tree (we’re a real tree family). Then we order Pizza Hut (it has to be that specific restaurant, which we don’t patronize any other time of the year). We put on the lights and ornaments while listening to my grandmother’s holiday records (including “I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas” by the inimitable Yogi Yorgesson).

Then we watch “A Christmas Story,” which still makes us laugh even though we can recite most of the dialog by memory.

But maybe my favorite part is signing the door.

The home my family lives in, which is the home I grew up in, has a loft space where we’ve always stored the Christmas decorations. The littlest member of the family gets the job of going up into the crawl space to hand things down. In 1990, the year we first moved to North Dakota from Alaska, that was me. While I was up there, I took a pen and put my name and date on the inside of the door to the space.

I’ve been logging Port family holidays on that door ever since — 31 years and counting — and now it’s crowded, too, with the signatures of other family and friends who have spent the holiday with us. Last year, after Thanksgiving, I came down with COVID-19 and spent the bulk of the holiday season fighting for my life in the hospital. I still signed the door, though, and I’m grateful I’m still around to sign it with my family this year.

My daughter tells me that if we run out of space on that little door we should remove it, frame it, and start signing a new one. I agree.

Now that I’ve shared with you that bit of personal holiday nostalgia, it’s time for this week’s mailbag questions. If you’d like to send me correspondence about my columns or podcasts, fire it off to Submissions used in this column may be edited for clarity and brevity.

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