I've taken the last couple days off from work to spend time at home getting ready for the holidays. My friends know just how big a baby I am about Christmas. After my birthday, in early November, I start getting the urge to break out the decorations and Christmas records. Its been this way my whole life. And I'm not just an amateur Christmas lover. If it was an Olympic sport I'd be a medalist! Starting with my collection of over 1000 Santas, and 50 Nutcrackers the Crandall House at Christmas is quite a sight. I'm fortunate to be married to a kind woman who indulges my Ho-Ho-Ho obsession. There's just something about the season that touches you in a way nothing else can. The tree lights and decorations are warm and inviting. Christmas cards arrive from relatives you only hear from once a year. The smell of fresh baked cookies and the gathering of families fill your heart with joy. A special season indeed. But I've just realized that over the last many years I've lost touch with my favorite time of year in my haste to get it up, and over. From the moment the last Thanksgiving dish is washed, it's become a 30-day sprint to get as much in as possible. Decorations up, gifts purchased, parties held, and attended, Church on Sunday and Christmas Eve, Christmas cards in the mail, concerts to attend, and before you know it comes December 26th and you pack it all up without really having taken the time to stop and enjoy it. And so it goes year, after year, until we lose touch with why the season once meant so much to us. It becomes a holiday we try to live through, rather than being one we can't live without. I'm afraid I was becoming that person, until I started to decorate the living room tree during my two-day break and an old blue ornament that belonged to my Mom opened the flood gates to my Christmas memories. My earliest recollection of Christmas is 1964. My father had gone ahead of us to his next Air Force assignment in Germany and we spent Christmas at my Aunt Fuss's house in Detroit. The Motor City in the early 60's was a beautiful place at Christmas and it snowed, which was a treat for kids who had been living in Arizona. We got to sled every day and somehow we managed to set my little brother Toms ear on fire, though I'm sure I didn't do it! Everything was like a Currier and Ives scene and I've never forgotten it, I just misplaced the memory for a while. The blue ornament of my Mom's reminded my of many other Christmases growing up. It reminded me of the first Christmas Diane and I spent away from home, on the island of Guam with our 8-month old Sara. We closed the curtains and turned the air conditioning on high to try and make it cold like in Colorado. I remembered Christmases when money was tight and presents were few, and I remembered Christmas in 1982 when we got on I-25 as soon as the blizzard ended and took 3 hours to drive from Colorado Springs to Aurora to be home with Mom and Dad. The blue ornament that Mom gave to us, along with others before she passed away, may be the best gift of this Christmas because it will remind me each year forward to stop and remember just what the season truly brings. Not hustle and bustle, but love and peace. On that oold blue ornament there's a church and the words Silent Night. In the silence you can hear lots of wonderful things. Merry Christmas.