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Sunday, December 16, 2001

Suddenly, the gray sky and the arctic chill in the air seem right. The real holiday season, the one I know in my heart is real, is here at last. All the forces holding me back — ancient memories, current hardships, future obligations — for the moment seem less harsh, more endurable. A truce has been negotiated. Peace, however fragile, is at hand.

And all that it took was a day with family and friends (including some friends who are like family and some strangers who could be friends). At the party at Suzanne's house yesterday, I mixed and mingled some. I also sat back, watching and listening, absorbing the rhythm of life (and every so often catching a bit of the melody).

One advantage of being part of a large extended makeshift ramshackle family is that your quirks are taken for granted. Foibles, too - they're not overlooked but they are accepted. Spending so much time alone makes me awkward with other people, even more than I am by nature. I feel weird, but it's good to be with people who are used to my weirdness, especially since they have a few quirks and foibles of their own that I embrace fondly.

Eight children made their presence a central part of this event. None of them has more than one digit to their age. All of them are interesting, complex people in their own right, although when they're together they somehow take on a group identity. I made sure to have conversations with each of them, including one-year-old Matthew, who has no words of his own but listens intently. Next year, there will be at least one more — Taiala, who was born today (and whose mommy was a radiant presence at the party yesterday).

The spirit of celebration comes from all of us being together. The holiday is just a necessary excuse. We all lead separate, complex lives that keep us apart too much of the time. But each of us is still an important piece of the family mosaic, and if we didn't have reasons to come together sometimes, we'd have to invent them. I'm all for inventing more of them.

kids by the tree

The real spirit of the season.
More pictures here.

For now, I'll make a virtue of the necessity to finish my shopping. I intend to enjoy every excruciating minute of the coming week. I'll even throw myself into getting the house cleaned up (only as much as absolutely necessary) for the immediate family (a much smaller group), who will be dropping by Friday. I can't promise not to complain about the rain and cold, but I won't let things I can't control dampen my spirit or chill my mood.

This is, by the way, Suzanne's birthday, and now it's little Tai's as well. Happy birthday to both of them. A year from today, he'll be one, and she'll be ... never mind.

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Jon Carroll's column for December 14, Execution first, trial later

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One year ago: My Stars and Garters

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