A Year Later

December 24, 2022 – Wilkesboro, NC

After living and moving in three different locations in the past year – three different houses and a trailer, even a camper – I’m finally able to sit down to write a Christmas Eve column in my home… hopefully, my permanent home.

It’s 3 degrees out in North Carolina outdoors. The weather channel says it feels like -7. It’s very warm in the Locke Nest Cabin… warm enough to make me sweat as I’m typing this. The dogs are panting; Tara, my wife is sleeping and smoldering away in a bed warm enough to bake bread and biscuits in.

Our plan for today is to stay home, love on one another, “tolerate” the dogs, and open up one – just one! – present, and bask in the blessings of our life.

A year ago today, I was doing exactly what I am doing right now, at roughly the same time. And, same as last year, Tara is safe and comfortable and happy living with me. In the past year, we have gotten married, adopted two more puppies, and have the start of what I hope to be a great wealth of wonderful memories.

From what I am told, my family in Ohio is doing well. And that’s enough for me to know.

During the Christmas Season, in my family, I know certain things – traditions – will happen. If they didn’t, I would really, really worry, like a person that has rationed out their final purchase of groceries, knowing one day the food will be gone. I know every year my mother will bake the best cookies. Several kinds of cookies she has perfected over her many years of baking them. Practice does not make perfect. No. No. Practice makes better. Experience gives birth to perfection. Unlike sheer practice, experience adds that extra little kick of knowledge only attainable through a much more mature amount of time.

And trust me, my mom has perfected her Christmas cookie-baking gathering with family and friends. That is one of the more beautiful qualities of her creating those haystacks, baking the clothespin and sugar cookies, and rolling up the chocolate and peanut butter ball buckeyes.

I know my sister and father will go on their yearly Christmas shopping date, buying gifts for my mother to open up Christmas morning, a tradition that has always made me happy and smile to think about. Hell, it makes me chuckle out loud as I’m typing this, trying to imagine what those two are like together in the store aisles, pushing a cart in front of them, discussing back and forth to one another about whatever it is my mother wrote down on her Christmas list to her Santas.

As for me, I started my traditions – both new and old – a year ago. I started watching my holiday cartoons (Garfield’s Christmas Special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and the like), decorating a tree and a home, sending out gifts, giving to others I hardly know, and having phone conversations with those close to me. That warm and safe Christmas feeling, ever as intoxicating as anything I ever ingested, has been gifted back to me.

And I thank Tara, my amazing wife as well as my best friend, my parents, my sister, and her husband, Shad; those two breathtaking nieces of mine that have not a clue how much they mean to me and Tara. I thank the newest members of my family: Shane and Dawn and Alex.

And I thank God for it. For all of it!


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