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Cooper's Town

"I don't know how you made out this Christmas, but I think I did pretty well. In fact I did great. Wait a minute, I'm not talking about the items wrapped in shiny ribbons waiting for me under the Christmas tree or the surprise packages that came in the mail. The candles, clothes and CDs are nice but not things that made this holiday special. This year Santa delivered. I must have been a really good gal this year because I got a gift that I waited 25 years to receive. I got to spend Christmas with my grandpa. And my aunts, uncles, cousins and my cousins' cousins, aunts and uncles. It was great. My parents (thanks to the Army Air Force Exchange Service) ended up in Dallas, TX, 25 years ago. But my dad's enormous family for the most part has stayed in the Renton area. We stayed in Dallas. Each year I would hear about the holidays - the family gatherings who was doing what and how much everyone had grown. Each year the cousins, aunts and uncles would call and wish us Texans a Merry Christmas. My parents, sisters and I would have our own celebrations, but I never dreamed that one day I too would be on the other end of that phone. The stars aligned just so and the opportunity to work in Poulsbo was handed to me. Along with it has come other benefits. This year I got to see my much younger cousins tear in to their gifts and say to the crowd look what I got! I silently thanked them for what they had given me. We all watched the football games and shared dinner together. I watched my grandfather soak in all of the commotion that surrounded him. It was just as I had hoped it would be. The kids, and adults for that matter, were so loud that I could hardly hear my mom and dad on the phone when they called to wish us long distance relatives a happy day. The kids' chatter and the laughter from the kitchen and living room blocked out some of their words when the phone was passed to me. When they called I realized this gift of being here, too had its price. My gifts from my parents and sisters, usually stuffed into a red stocking or piled neatly in my parent's living room, were a parcel in the U.S. Postal Service. I didn't wait until Christmas to unwrap them. And I didn't get to the post office in time to mail all of their gifts before the big day. And my mom's delicious sugar cookies arrived in near-crumbs (still the best darn cookies ever though). I didn't get to savor the prime rib and its garlic-herbed aroma that would have us all drooling by the time we ate dinner. In my mom's voice I heard a hint of sadness that reminded me this was the first year she wished me Merry Christmas over the phone. I had to hear from my aunts about my dad liking this food or that instead of seeing his expressions. I did however take comfort in knowing my dad was there in spirit when my cousins were tearing through their gifts. My uncle made his children, when they were done opening gifts, pick up a great mountain of wrapping paper and ribbons and throw it in the trash. They, as I had done for many Christmases, avoided it for as long as possible without getting dad too upset and then stuffing the paper in a bag quickly as he was telling them for the last time. And when bombarded with questions about gizmos and gadgets my uncle responded to his children using the same advice my father had given to me over the years. Why don't you read the instructions. Ah, family. "

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