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Christmas spirit may have arrived late but it was special nonetheless

Lead Summary

I’m not sure when the Christmas spirit hit me this year, but it was awfully late in the season.I’m going to be totally frank here: I can’t wait to bid 2016 farewell, but I’m not going to dwell on the negatives — even if they seemed to come in waves this year — today.Instead, I’m going to realize what a special gift Christmas was this year, even if I probably spent too much money I didn’t have.But as I write this Monday afternoon, a few hours before deadline no less, I realize that despite my negativity this year, Christmas won.When did it win? Again, I’m not sure, but I’m sitting here at my desk in a quiet Tribune office and feeling the peace that I think only Christmas can bring.Maybe it was that first Christmas card I received, the one that came with a special gift and allowed me to give my family a fun-filled night out on the town.Maybe it was that night itself, when the conversation between Abby, Josh and Noah was, to put it mildly, lively and entertaining.Maybe it was last Friday night, when I put up the saddest looking Christmas tree you’ll ever see yet one that seemed to warm the house as soon as we plugged in the lights.Maybe it was that moment when we were all crammed in our pew at Trinity Lutheran Church holding lit candles and singing “Silent Night.”Maybe it was that trip to Mankato, Minn., to spend Christmas Day with my sister and her kids.Maybe it was today, when I opened Facebook and looked through the photos my colleague, Brittany Stange, took at one of her three Christmas celebrations on Sunday.That photo accompanies this column, and if I have a wish in the world, it is that we all have that look of contentment and wonder that 10-month-old Josie Stange has on her first Christmas.Truth be told, it’s probably a combination of all of the above, but as I whined and moaned about what a depressing Christmas this was going to be, the holiday took up the challenge and said, “Not so fast, buster.”Christmas gave me some incredible moments this last week, and I’m going to cherish them for a long time.Seeing Abby and the boys interacting always gets to me, but this year, it made my heart really sing. For years, they’ve lived apart — Abby moved to Minneapolis in seventh grade when Josh was a second-grader and he’s now a high school junior — yet they are truly siblings in every sense of the word.And when she left on Thursday morning, I’ll admit I let a little “poor me” seep back into the equation, but as much as I complain about work sometimes, I spent that night doing something I love.By Friday morning, I figured I’d better shop, but with two high school boys, it’s so much easier, if less fun, to just buy gift cards.On a side note here, I miss the days of having little kids because I could go play — I mean shop — in the toy aisle and I had a ready excuse, “Hey, I’m a Dad, and I have to make sure these things work.”By Saturday evening, I realized Christmas was winning and I also knew I wanted it to win.The following day we made the trek to Mankato, although for a brief moment Sunday morning, I was wondering what the heck I was going to make for Christmas dinner.At 7 a.m., I emerged into a world coated with ice, but I knew it was important to my sister that we celebrate Christmas together.And honestly, it was important for me, too.So we delayed our departure a bit and made our way through a blinding rainstorm to my niece’s duplex.We ate, we talked, we laughed hilariously at a couple of comedians we watched on TV and we opened presents.My nephew, Aaron, and his girlfriend, Deanna, wanted my sister and her husband to open one of their presents last.They reached into the bag and pulled out two bags of “Grandma’s” cookies although one of them had the “m” replaced with a “p.”It took me a second, but all of a sudden, I realized that on this most special of Christmas days, my sister was not only going to become a grandmother, but sometime in 2017, I will become a great uncle.“Not that you haven’t been a great uncle so far,” Aaron said with a laugh, “but now you will get the title.”And then today, here at the office, I looked at Brittany’s photos and smiled when I saw little Josie.Next year, my family can duplicate that photo, and as I gazed at the wonder in Josie’s eyes, I realized, yes, indeed, Christmas had won.

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