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2008-12-25 - 11:19 p.m.

Back from my parents' house an hour ago and am sad already, missing them. My mom, just happy everyone made it, a smile on her face, flying around, making sure everyone's fed, making sure the little ones aren't eating plastic toy parts, laughing and asking to see my photos, always taking a moment in between everything else to ask about trip plans, to make sure my truck's OK, being a great mom, sending out as always way more than she'd ever dream of taking in. My dad talking newspaper-business talk, remembering stories he'd written twenty years prior, talking about how this January will make it thirty years there. Passing out deer jerky like it's hugs, singing his songs for his new granddaughter, opening new beers for whomever wants one. Little brother and his wife, making big plans for their new house, asking when I can get out to Indiana to help him build his fire pit (I'd love to), his four-year-old loud like his dad, calling everyone by their first names, always always always wanting to wrestle or play basketball or read McElligot's Pool or run around and make ever more noise. Older brother whipping sweet potatoes, adding lemon, a pinch more pepper, a little brown sugar because I said that'd be a good idea and he likes to seek out my opinion. His girlfriend not so bad. Her grandson not so bad. My girlfriend laughing with my mom, never complaining when it gets loud, eating whatever's put in front of her, calling me "Buddy," sneaking out with me when I suggested we take a walk (we saw either a red-tailed hawk or possibly an osprey but we think a hawk and I got a good picture of it and it's awesome and powerful and sleek and I loved its beak). Typing the simple little word "and" just now, a thousand times it seems, and I know it's too much sometimes but sometimes the feeling in the gut, in the heart, in the head, is just too much and the only way to get it right is to run them all together so that what you get is a big run-on of laughs, always more smiles, snitches of talks in corners of the kitchens, down by Mom's washer and dryer, quick flips around the TV to see what part of A Christmas Story they're on now, long-running jokes that go on for an hour, rarely getting old, at their best coming back and back, year after year. All of the Christmases and home videos and stories going together like what the right kind of life can, when you're loved, be.

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