Dear Reader

Reader's Digest - - Contents - Bruce Kel­ley, ed­i­tor-in-chief Write to me at let­[email protected]

s I hang the first or­na­ment, I’m singing along with Eartha Kitt. I know I look like a fool in my Santa hat, belt­ing out “Santa Baby,” but it’s the Sun­day be­fore Christ­mas, tree-dress­ing day.

I’ve cho­sen the tow­er­ing Bavar­ian stick-skier in a red quilted jacket that my dad loved. “Not right in front, it’s dorky,” Rachel protests. She is grown, a work­ing nurse, but re­vis­it­ing the “OMG,

Dad!” role of youth.

AWhen I was a kid, my mother had the Christ­mas-tree bug, and I’ve taken the same silly joy in the rit­ual. I re­mem­ber her hol­i­day jazz al­bums (Jimmy Smith, Stan Getz) drop­ping from the stack onto the turntable as my two older broth­ers and I danced, quib­bled, and dressed the tree.

So I string the lights and build the fire, then let each or­na­ment trig­ger smack talk and mem­o­ries. The ugly glass owl? A memo­rial to Neil’s ob­ses­sive hunt­ing for owl pel­lets when he was a kid. “I was a freak­ing Steve Ir­win,” he dead­pans. The hand­made sleep­ing kitty with a crack across it? My sweet mother-in-law, Ruth, glazed that in honor of our first cat. Only the or­na­ment re­mains, glued and proud.

Each ob­ject fills me with emo­tions I can’t oth­er­wise al­ways tap. Our dear friends the Nashes sent the jaunty mini cow­boy boot af­ter they’d moved away from us to Texas. The tiny San Fran­cisco Gi­ants base­ball in glass brings back the in­cred­i­ble day in 2010 when we all fi­nally cel­e­brated, for real. Bent, awk­ward, or old or­na­ments join the pretty bulbs up front. We sing along with Luther Van­dross—“have Your­self a Merry Lit­tle Christ­mas”—and I feel all the peo­ple and places

life has lucked me with. DEAR READER

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