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Happy Sunday! I know, I know. I like to send these on Saturday. But at some point last week, I realized Christmas was sneaking up on me. So I took yesterday morning to get some much-needed decorating done, and then we had a swim meet in the afternoon. The trees are up (yes, I’ve got more than one!), the stockings and the garlands are hung, and there is a lot of red and green and silver and gold all over the place. Now, if someone could just point me to where I can find an Xbox or Playstation for less than $1,000 …

We make a pretty big deal out of Christmas. We’ve established a few traditions over the years, and I look forward to them. The kids get Christmas pajamas in December, and we always watch The Polar Express while we decorate the tree. (Yes, the animation is creepy and only seems more so with each passing year. But our oldest loved the movie when he was little and darn it, traditions are traditions.) On Christmas morning, we make the kids wait at the top of the stairs before they can come down to see the giant pile of presents under the tree. (I need to get the first pot of coffee going.) 

A lot of what I do at the holidays is because my own childhood memories of Christmas are so wonderful. My parents worked very hard to make the day special for my brother and I and I look back on those days as magical. (I’m sorry if that sounds a little cheesy.) Almost every year they would sit us down on Christmas Eve or the day before and say, “Well, kids, we hate to say this but things were a little tight this year, so there might not be as much under the tree as you were hoping for.” Almost every year, this was a half-truth. Things were tight, yes, but there was always plenty under the tree. And anticipation would build all morning because we knew there’d be something big at the end. I especially remember the year we got an Atari 2600. Kids these days would no doubt scoff, but it was unlike anything we’d ever seen. Another fun tradition was that my parents would set limits for how much to spend on each other, and my dad would find creative ways to get around it. One year he bought my mom a cabinet she’d wanted and the tag said it was for “the house.” 

I hope it doesn’t come across as materialistic. Sure, the gifts were nice. But what really meant the most was seeing my parents work so hard to make it special for us. The little speech about how things had been tight? They owned a small grocery store and some years were definitely leaner than others. But my brother and I always had everything we needed and then some, and not just on Christmas. They didn’t look at the price when I needed new shoes for cross country and track, and my mom bought my school clothes at stores she wouldn’t dream of shopping at for herself. Most importantly, they started saving for college before I was born. 

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