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After hearing family stories of holidays yore, I always wanted big family get-togethers myself but my Father was an only child and most of my relatives also have small families, spread out thin.  Yesterday, I held my 25th “Little Christmas” party, a tradition I started in high school to have a holiday celebration with those close to me outside my immediate family — mostly those who are family to me by choice.   The number of people that includes has for the most part grown over the years, but they all share some degree of kinship through me and each other.

Something about yesterday was just … well … perfect.  We didn’t invite everyone we intended, but had a full house.  Merry made my mother’s recipe for chicken cordon blue, and some people brought other edibles.  We exchanged some gifts along with the traditional oplatki and wishes for “Peace, Love, and Happiness” (or alternative some other variant of the traditional “Health, Wealth, and Happiness”).  I snapped some pictures amidst covered faces and groans, and we retold the adventures, good and bad, of past Little Christmases.  Catching up and reminiscing were the activities of choice.  Christina had to work and came in the time people are usually gone, but most people stayed much later this year — even after midnight!

I was in particularly good spirits and my humorous comments during passing out gifts and such were appeciated without reservation.  It was the perfect end to an overall relaxing holiday season — it’s the day I close out my yearly photo archives and get truly ready for a new year. 

It didn’t hurt I got paid by clients in healthy amounts earlier, and I felt satisfied I helped with the event by taking care of my wife’s list of last-minute shopping errands the day before.  I shoveled a “virtual driveway” on the lawn to park one of our cars (who would know to give us a ticket?) and the other was parked around the corner to make room for guests.  Piles of shoes filled the foyer, coats pressing the pegs to their limit with our bed as overflow.  But nothing seemed in the way — there was enough room amidst kitchen, living room, and library-under-construction for everyone to sit and move and mingle at will.  I even figured out how to use the XBOX to play my Christmas MP3 collection.  And in typical fashion for us, we ran out of butter instead of alcohol — due to the demand, not supply of each.

We’ve had a few parties this awesome, but for me, this was one of the happiest days of my life.

Now that the house is settled and we’re taking down the decorations {sigh}, I realize fully that this is what life is all about — not the struggles, or even triumphs per se, but the sharing of them in good company in one’s own home.  All those elements have come together — the harmony of a full hearth — and the realization that in an unexpected way my dreams have come true.  I don’t need lots of kids of my own or cousins by blood or law.  I have a family — a BIG, loving family — that makes the home more than a necessary refuge for a few souls, but a gathering place for loved ones in such abundance as I could only envision of times past.  Such things, against all limits of hope and expectation, are confined to the past no more.