Recognizing that Friday is Christmas, by my math, today is the Eve before Christmas Eve. I just wanted to get that fact in there before offering the most traditional of seasonal salutations. Merry Christmas to you and yours from me and mine. If you don't observe the holiday, I apologize for the salutation but not the sentiment.
As I've gotten older, I've discovered there are many different customs and beliefs, but so often they come down to different ways to say and to celebrate similar situations, so however you observe, best wishes.
Based on how my life has gone for nearly 63 Christmases (so far and looking forward to more), I don't need (or miss) snow or frosty weather or sparkling lights and boughs of holly or gift wrap and holiday cards--though all of those are very nice and help complement a contented and contemplative state of mind.
I've spent a lot of this year being sick, and more time struggling to get well and realize I'm rounding the big bend in the road where that ratio rarely evens out, so I'm grateful for the love of a woman for thirty-eight years of marriage in sickness and in health, though neither of us ever thought those circumstances would ever include Norwich, Connecticut. Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.
I'm filled with gratitude for the presents of the presence of our two children, Patrick and Michelle. From memories of walking the floor of a hospital delivery room in Central Germany with a newborn son while singing "I've Been Working on the Railroad" for hours, to holding our infant daughter, her feet in my hand and her head in the crook of my arm as she clicked her tongue just moments after being born.
He is now 33 and she is 28. The adults they have each grown to be are as wonderful and extraordinary as the children who blessed my life when I so needed those blessings. Through a move from a faraway and very different country and culture that all three, my two children and my wife, had known to a somewhat dour folk and rocky near-seacoast of Southeastern Connecticut, with customs and a lifestyle unlike any that we’d known, we have exchanged many gifts over many years among ourselves--and as families in Germany still do, we’ll open our presents and our hearts to one another on Christmas Eve.
I'm told there's no such things as strangers, only friends we haven't met. If this true, and it is, after all, Christmas, when miracles can and do happen, as you head home at whatever time today or tonight from that last gift shopping expedition, rather than follow The Star, seek out the sound of the ringing bell and collection kettle and share some of the change, paper and coins, in your trouser and jacket pockets.
You'll never miss it, and someone you'll never meet will be grateful for a moment of peace on the ground.