Happy Holidays

Good morning, children.

Family is at the heart of the holiday season.

It’s the first full week of December 2011, and I slipped out of bed without waking your mother and came down to my office to write.

It is my favorite time to do that. It’s a time when the whole world seems to be sleeping except for me, and I love the stillness of that; like I have some well-kept secret.

I made a cup of coffee, which is now in hand, and Bruno is curled up under my desk as I write. When I let him out this morning, I smelled a hint of snow in the air, and you all know that makes me smile. As Cary Grant said, “You must always have holly in your heart.”

As I have always told you it is the days before Christmas that I enjoy the most; anticipation being the absolute spice of life.

Wasn’t Thanksgiving wonderful? Grandma Bea, with the incredible results of her operation, now has a pair of new knees and was walking around and working the kitchen like a champ. Giana, now a year old, was walking around too; she is nothing but adorable.

It was so nice to have your uncle make the trip in from Michigan, too, wasn’t it? His family seems to enjoy getting back together with us so much, and look how well his kids are doing in school!

I’m pretty sure Dante will be engaged by this time next year. His girlfriend and he seem to be “oblivious to everything / bump into the furniture” in love. That is so nice to see.

I write today to simply remind you to count your blessings and also to thank you for the ones you have given to me, as this holiday season endures.

You are so fortunate to have generous, loving grandparents that are more than just “alive” — they are integral, enjoyable parts of your life, and their constant adoration of you and your children is the stuff that dreams are made of.

You collectively have created nine grandchildren for your mother and I to love, and may God bless the miracle that grows inside Shanna right now that will round out that group and give us our tenth this coming February.

Girls, each of your husbands maintain solid jobs and you all live in comfortable homes. Boys, the two of you are performing handsomely at school and each of you maintain a reputation that Mom and I are proud of.

Someday you’ll know the pride in reviewing report cards that say, “A pleasure to have in class” over and over. Thanks, too, for pitching in at home and making life so easy for Mom and I to navigate. So many blessings!

If you think I ever considered for a moment that I would have all this family by the age of 50, you’d be kidding yourself. But as I look upon you all gathered at the table every Sunday, I can’t imagine a life without it.

With Sam being a generation younger than all of you, the link between him and your children is another source of great comfort to me. He sometimes reminds me of Gulliver as he takes charge of all of these little nieces and nephews, but he is fully unaware that this bounty will be his absolute source of pleasure and love someday when Mom and I have long since passed and you kids have moved into the “senior” roles. See how symmetrically odd life can be?

It was quite a year, and we all know that the challenges continue. Money is always tight. Cars break down. Kids battle colds and childhood challenges. Everyone feels tired, worn down, exhausted, but man, have a look around.

There are folks out there who are bearing crosses of monumental size. Not that we haven’t come through some of those ourselves; battles with cancer, illness and unemployment among them, but here we are today — solid and together. That is worth so, so much.

So many of my essays revolve around the importance of family and the greater importance of keeping life simple so that it can be properly managed, but I don’t think that is really a secret anymore.

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