Merry Christmas!

Let’s see if I can paint a quick picture of my Christmas morning …

As customary, I awaken just before dawn, in the last chapter of the night’s darkness. I gently kiss my sleeping, beautiful bride of four-plus decades and whisper a “Merry Christmas” that I hope gets inserted into her dreams. Creakily, as us old guys get into gear before the parts start working, I schlep into a country-charm living room awash with decorations and reminders of this most special of holidays. I get the fireplace going and take a minute hearthside to watch the flickering, dancing amber glow of the fireplace doing its job. Why, I wonder, is the delight of being a Christmas fire-gazer so darned hypnotic?

My first job of this and every morning starts by opening the door to the downstairs where I am greeted at the top of the stairs by the 12 legs and three speed-wagging, thumping tails and wiggling backsides of my yellow-lab family members who immediately scurry back down the stairs to “their box” to bring dad this particular morning’s choices of presents that they’re sure I can’t live without. After a quick visit to the yard for relief following a nighttime of puppy dreams, the kids sprint up their version of a Stairway to Heaven (i.e., our deck), anticipating my presence with their manna from heaven. I am, of course, their favorite person every morning of their lives, mainly because of visions of, not sugarplums, but their morning meal.

After the pups inhale their Christmas breakfast, we parade back into the living room. I proceed past overflowing stockings and turn on the twinkling lights on the homespun-decked, fragrant Fraser Fir that was cut down from a neighbor’s local tree farm a few weeks ago. Truly, one of the greatest gifts of the Yuletide is the smell and sight of a beautifully adorned Christmas tree. With good reason, I always say a little prayer to Father Christmas and the angel perched on high before plugging in the tree’s lights. My prayers are answered this morning with a beautiful light and ornament display.

The world outside is silent still. Bundled in a blanket and still in my highly unflattering flannel PJs and mega-thick country-warm socks, I briefly (it’s 8F outside) step out onto the front porch with my first hot chocolate of the day to take in the crisp morning air and a light dusting of snow that has graced the picturesque Appalachians of North Carolina. In the distance, peaking through a morning haze, the sun creeps skyward as its canopy of gold bathes the High Country landscape of evergreens and fresh snowfall. I watch my breath rise skyward as the birds and chipmunks are already vying for choice positions on the birdfeeders in the front yard. The world awakens.

Three minutes of brrrr are enough. I proceed back to the living room, lie down and quickly nod off, under a blanket, on the couch as all three pups squeeze in and on and around. A pile of puppy heartbeats is an exceptional comforter of warmth — for them and me — and an everyday present for dad. Charlie Brown was right — happiness is a warm puppy.

Ninety minutes later, my best friend and love of my life pulls me from the warmth and comfort of puppy snuggling with her own Merry Christmas smooch and pronouncement that it is past time to arise. Alexa is asked to play Holiday Sing Along with Mitch (Miller), a traditional first song on Christmas morning for my wife’s family, which is always joyful and celebratory and, this morning, accurate (“a winter wonderland”). Shortly thereafter, the smell of the morning casserole, bacon, sausage and biscuits-and-chocolate combines with other welcome fragrances to make our home a sensory overload of pleasure. It’s a good thing that Christmas calories don’t count.

After getting my morning act together and recognizing that I’m basically useless to the tasks being knocked out in the kitchen, I retreat, armed with my laptop, to a prime spot in front of the fireplace. I commence to cranking out this Christmas blog (much quicker than anticipated). I then begin my annual pilgrimage of let’s-see-what-everyone-has-been-doing-all-year on Facebook, including having occasional e-chats with friends and family far from the High Country, during which my significantly-better-half works her you-know-what off in the kitchen. Life is sometimes very good to husbands who are recognized as helpless in a great many scenarios.

I don’t have to open a single present to know how incredibly blessed I am. I have awakened to 43 Christmas mornings with my Debbie — truly the heartbeat of my life. I could not ask for more. But having so many friends and a fantastic family puts my life over the top. From the world’s best in-laws to their children and their kids’ children, from steadfast friends, including “besties” stretching back to the 1970s, to the world’s best uncle and cousins and their kids … and so much more.

It’s A Wonderful Life, indeed. I am beyond blessed and oh so thankful to be so. When people ask you what Christmas means, I hope you can tell them, as I field that question, “Everything.”

Merry Christmas, everyone. May you and yours behold this holiday season with the eyes of the child within you, and embrace the coming year with a dauntless spirit and a powerful dose of optimism and kindness. You have my prayers that Christmas stays in your heart all the year long.

May your days be merry and bright! God bless us, every one!


Addendum from LSomerbyCooke …

To those of you who persevered through another year of my blogs … thank you. Your efforts to support me in this endeavor are more appreciated than you know.

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