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Clippings: Of holidays and family business

Hush Dad, it’s Christmas… Let’s not talk business,” I whispered. It was Tuesday afternoon and wrapping paper was flying as 16 members of our extended clan tore through a pile of presents that seemed to take up most of our 850-square-foot cabin high in the Green Mountains.
Angelo Lynn and I married this past summer and though we have been together for years, it was my first official Christmas as a Lynn. I looked around the room and realized that this year, more than ever, nearly everyone in the room was part of a family business, and more often than not, the publishing business.
As I shuttled between pouring drinks and making gravy I wondered if we could get through to the poached pear dessert without it turning into either a press conference or a board meeting.
Angelo’s youngest daughter Elsie (publisher of the Essex Reporter and Colchester Sun) arrived with her partner, the photographer Oliver Parini. Christy, the second youngest, now the ad manager and assistant publisher at the Addy Indy, was there with Sam Ostrow, an architect at a firm practically across the street from the Addy Indy office.
A year ago, Polly, Angelo’s oldest, had moved back to Vermont and she and her partner Jay Mikula are now editor, and manager, and co-publishers of the Killington-based Mountain Times.
Angelo’s brother Emerson Lynn, and his wife Suzanne had put their paper, the St. Albans Messenger to bed the night before and were there with their two young daughters. And sitting on the couch was Angelo’s father, Emerson Lynn Jr., the third generation publisher from Kansas, quietly taking it all in.
Ink runs through the Lynn arteries. At any given dinner, headline news becomes the appetizer, editorials, the main course. The discussions are heated and passionate – and fascinating given the diverse perspectives, generations and political leanings of the various family members. As someone who has worked in magazines my whole life, (I now edit EatingWell, a national magazine based in Shelburne) I love every minute of it.
Here in Vermont, family businesses are part and parcel of our landscape. Fathers and daughters, mothers and sons share the news of dairy prices or the availability of copper wire over dinner. It is how things get done. But how do you come home to your daughter/brother/sister/spouse and casually ask “so how was work today?” without getting into a three-hour Powerpoint discussion?
Christmas Day, everyone put work aside. In the cabin, we have no cell service, no TV and spotty Internet connections. We felt cut off from the news and happily so. Outside I could hear shrieks of laughter from the girls as they and their three dogs sledded and played in the snow. Inside, Sam helped carve the Misty Knoll turkey, Emerson took family pictures, Jay fiendishly washed dishes as fast as we could mess them up. The only reference to paper was to what to do with all the wrappings.
No one brought up work.
No one, that is, except my father, who just as the bird came out of the oven, began to reminisce about his 38 years at IBM, where he began by selling typewriters.
“Dad, you have to realize that everyone here is in a family business…” I interrupted, with a sigh. “If we start talking about work, dinner will petrify.”
My father looked around the room, smiled and paused. But not without adding, “You know, when I started at IBM, it was the Watson’s small family business.” And he went on to tell that story.

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