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The moment Ralphie’s teacher tells him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

This Christmas Eve was different. For the first time in so many years our family didn’t gather at my brother’s house because he is deployed to the war zone. I remember at last years Christmas Eve gathering my brother told me he wouldn’t be home for next Christmas and it turned out that, as usual, he was right. My brother also predicted that my son’s unit would be shipping out and that came about too, just as he said.

So our plans for Christmas Eve changed.

Family scattered….my daughter-in-law took our grandson to visit her family this Christmas and since she lives in our city, that was only fair but still I missed them too. But I was able to talk to them both frequently and on Christmas Eve our three year old grandson was so excited about Santa and talking to his Daddy in Iraq that my daughter-in-law said he was pacing around in circles while talking on the phone to me.

My sister-in-law decided to travel to share Thanksgiving with her youngest daughter in Arizona and Christmas with her oldest daughter in New Hampshire. So, no Christmas Eve in the yellow house. We decided to carry on the tradition of our family at ye old Donoho House.

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The morning after Christmas Eve.

The preparations became a Marathon with little sleep and a lot of work before the actual appointed time on Christmas Eve. Thank Goodness I had some help from my special Elves. (my daughters and son-in-law)

My son-in-law pulled out the fifty year old wool carpet in the dining room and refinished the beautiful hardwood floor underneath. (the living room is next)

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We had to move the furniture back in, as well as do a little decorating.

The Christmas decorating spirit was missing in me during the early weeks of December and I had too much to do at school to have any energy left for the end of the day. No Christmas card was finished again this year, unfortunately, although it was drawn.

It was just very hard to contemplate the first Christmas without my son…..and my brother.

But back to the Christmas Eve festivities. My parents arrived first. Then, there was a steady stream of family coming in the door and the room seemed brighter and warmer. My sister’s father and mother-in-law were flying in from Maine and they were supposed to come to our Christmas Eve celebration but their flight was cancelled. We wondered if it was because of the incident on the flight from New York to Portland. They had to fly in on Christmas Day.

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Maine samples the shrimp.

We had a buffet kind of supper and then sat around talking and halfway watching The Christmas Story and A Wonderful Life. Most of us have memorized most of the lines in both of the movies.

The youngest among us were so impatient to open the presents that we finally relented. It was a typical Christmas Eve. We were all very happy to be together and were wondering how my son and my brother were celebrating Christmas when we got a phone call from my brother. We were all able to hear his voice for the first time in a few months. A very nice call. Especially for our parents.

We had already heard from our son on Christmas Eve morning.

We celebrated family near and far with hopes that Christmas, 2007 will have everyone home safe.

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The day after Christmas Sabby surveys the room.