43 years of Christmas Eve (kind of)

My parents started hosting Christmas Eve for our extended family in 1977, the year after my grandfather died, which also spelled the end of my grandparents hosting it, as my grandmother moved back home to Pennsylvania after she was widowed. At the end of the evening’s festivities, we take a picture in front of the tree.

In 2017, for the 40th anniversary of that tradition’s start, I posted the pictures for 1977 and then every tenth year after that, which I have followed up in 2018 with the pictures for 1978 and every ten years after, and then I did it again in 2019.

This year, thanks to the apocalypse, we did not do the big family Christmas Eve, but we did do Christmas Day over Zoom. However, I want to keep the tradition going, though it’s a bit truncated a) because we didn’t really do it this year and b) we don’t have a copy of the picture from 1980.

I will say that in 1980, I was 11 years old. This was the last Christmas where I would be the only one of my grandmother’s grandkids in the picture, as my uncle Fred’s wife Roxanne was pregnant with their first kid, Jared. (My aunt Monica, who never did Christmas Eve with us after she followed her mother to Pennsylvania, also just had her first kid, my cousin Laura, in the fall of 1980.) My uncle Nat was, by this time, either dating or was married to his second wife, ToniAnn.

In 1990, I was 21 years old, and had the previous May graduated from Fordham University. When this picture was taken, I had been working at Library Journal as an assistant editor for six months. I was still dating Marina, who was in the midst of her graduate work at MIT at this point. Nat and ToniAnn had split up and he had married Ginny, and had two kids with her.

Standing, l.-r.: John (third parent), Marina, Helga (fourth parent), my father, my mother, Fred (maternal uncle), Nat (maternal uncle), Roxanne (Fred’s wife), Ginny (Nat’s second wife), and Alissa (Nat & Ginny’s older daughter).

On the floor, clockwise from upper left: Blair (Fred & Roxanne’s second son), me, Victoria (Nat & Ginny’s younger daughter), Jared (Fred & Roxanne’s oldest son), and Dillon (Fred & Roxanne’s youngest son).

Not in the picture because she was taking it: Livia (paternal aunt).

In 2000, I was 31 years old. Marina and I had split up that fall, and I had starting dating Terri. This was her first Christmas with the family, indeed, her first time meeting several members of the family. I was living in Weehawken at this point; Terri and I would move in together the following April. By this time, Nat and Ginny had split up, and Nat was dating a woman whose name I don’t recall two decades later; she had two daughters, who also came along.

Back row, l.-r.: Blair, Helga, Fred, my father, Nat, and John.

Middle row, l.-r.: Livia, Nat’s date’s older daughter, Dillon, Nat’s date’s younger daughter, Victoria, my mother, Nat’s date, and Terri.

Bottom row, l.-r.: Jared, Alissa, and Roxanne.

I’m not in the picture because I was taking it.

In 2010, I was 41 years old. Terri and I had broken up the year before and I started dating Wrenn. She and Dale moved in with me in May of 2010. Fred and Roxanne had split by this time, and Dillon had moved down to Florida with her. Nat was now married to Donna, his fourth wife.

L.-r.: Wrenn, Fred, me, my father, Helga, my mother, Donna, John, Nat, Dale, Jared’s date (whose name I no longer recall), Blair, and Livia.

Not in the picture because he was taking it: Jared.

This year, we didn’t do the family Christmas Eve. I don’t know if we will next year — my parents are older now, and most of the extended family either isn’t local (most of them) or have their own thing on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day this year, we did do a family thing over Zoom, but we couldn’t really do the picture in front of the tree.

We’ll see what next year brings…..

KRAD COVID reading #90: “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas

A special holiday edition of KRAD COVID readings has me performing one of my favorite pieces of the season: Dylan Thomas’s childhood reminisce, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” When I was a kid, we would often listen to a recording of Thomas’s recitation of this after we put the tree up. And now I perform it all for you.

A joyous holiday to you all, whatever you might celebrate, and we’ll see you in 2021.

the shortest day……..

“The Shortest Day”
by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us — Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

Art by Charles Vess

my Sunday feeling

This has been an emotional weekend. Yesterday was the memorial for Dave Galanter. If you missed it, it’s been archived on Dave’s memorial web page, which also has lovely testimonials from people, as well as a donate button if you want to help the family in these troubled times.

That was but one of several Zoom sessions this weekend. Among the others were Saturday afternoon’s karate class, Saturday evening’s poker game, and then this evening, me and several of the black belts in our dojo had a nice gathering. Normally, this weekend would be the annual dojo holiday party, which we obviously couldn’t do. But we had twelve black belts gathered over Zoom — including one person from our Italian branch! — which was lovely.

In addition, Wrenn and I put up our tree! (That’s the picture above.) We went back and forth about doing the tree this year, and then decided we wanted to be as festive as possible, if for no other reason than to celebrate that this shitshow of a year is coming to an end.

Also, I’ve been plugging away at Feat of Clay, the sequel to A Furnace Sealed. I started the book on the 1st of December and twenty days later, I’m 10,000 words in. Not the best pace ever, but not the worst, either.

Christmas is this week, and we’ll be doing it the same way we’ve done everything that involved gathering in groups prior to mid-March 2020: over Zoom. Not perfect, but it’s better than nothing. Honestly, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Streamyard have saved my sanity this year.

Tonight’s task is to write up “Living Witness,” which will be the final Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch entry for the year, as Tor dot com is taking the last couple weeks of the year off (though I will still be providing reviews of each episode of Star Trek: Discovery when they drop on the 24th and 31st).

How are you all spending your holidays?

42 years of Christmas Eve

Every year, my parents host Christmas Eve, and have since 1977. Each year, we also take a picture of everyone present in front of the Christmas tree.

In honor of the 40th anniversary of their hosting it in 2017, I posted the tree picture from every decade, starting with 1977, and also including 1987, 1997, 2007, and 2017 and then I did it again last year with the pictures in 1978, 1988, 1998, 2008, and 2018. At this point, it’s now officially a blog tradition, so without further ado……………..


1979: I’m ten years old. I was in a phase where I almost always had a puppet on my hand. Usually it was Daniel Striped Tiger, but it was Christmas, so I went with Noel Bear. Next to the tree was the big loom that John used to weave stuff on. The tree was in the living room facing the dining room.

L.-r.: Nat (maternal uncle), Laurie (Nat’s girlfriend), John (third parent), my mother, Helga (fourth parent), me, my father, Roxanne (Fred’s wife), and Fred (maternal uncle).

Not pictured: Livia (paternal aunt), who took the picture.



1989: I’m twenty years old, a student at Fordham University in my senior year (I would graduate the following May). I was dating Marina, whom I would marry three years later. The spot where the tree used to be was now occupied by a computer desk, which we all used, so the tree was now on the other side of the living room by the back door to the patio. Nat is two relationships further on at this point, having married Ginny, and both he and Fred have procreated.

Top row, l.-r.: Ginny (Nat’s wife), Helga, my father holding Vicky (Nat & Ginny’s younger daughter), John, Marina, and Fred holding Blair (Fred & Roxanne’s middle son).

Middle row, l.-r.: Livia, my mother, me, and Roxanne holding Dillon (Fred & Roxanne’s youngest son)

Bottom row, l.-r.: Alissa (Nat & Ginny’s older daughter), Jared (Fred & Roxanne’s oldest son), and Nat



1999: I’m thirty years old. I’d been freelance for a year and a half at this point. Marina and I were married in 1992, but this was her last Christmas with us, as we split up in September 2000. Hilariously, ten years later, it’s all the same people as the ’89 pic, just older. Different house, though, as my parents had moved into the house they’re still in, with the tree by the front window in the living room, where it has always been.

Top row, l.-r.: Marina, my father, Helga, Roxanne, Fred, Nat, John, and me

Bottom row: Alissa, Blair, Ginny, my mother, Jared, Dillon, and Vicky

Not pictured: Livia (taking the picture)



2009: I’m forty years old. I’ve started and ended an entire relationship in the decade since the last picture (with Terri), and started another earlier that year. This was Wrenn’s first Christmas with my family. (Her surviving the evening is a big reason why I kept her….) This is the same year I won a Lifetime Achievement Award, got roasted, and achieved my first-degree black belt. Pretty good year, overall. Also in the interim, Fred and Nat have both split up with their wives. Nat has remarried.

This, by the way, is one of my favorites of the Christmas Eve pictures……

Top row, l.-r.: me, Helga, Wrenn, Fred, my mother, my father, Blair, Angela (Jared’s girlfriend), Nat, Donna (Nat’s wife)

Bottom row, l.-r.: Livia, John, and Jared



2019: I’m fifty years old. Fred, Blair, Alissa, Vicky, and Dillon have all moved far away. Jared and Nat are still local, but do their own thing on Christmas Eve (also neither is with the person they were with in the ’09 pic). Wrenn and I now live down the street from my parents’.

L.-r.: Helga, Livia, John, my father, my mother, Wrenn, and me

My father is holding a pillow that Wrenn made from a T-shirt that Dale had actually gotten for my parents before he died and which we lost track of amidst his stuff until recently. It was a nice reminder of him for everyone.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!