For children

A Christmas special: learning to love your relatives

Our family Christmas gatherings were always at Grandma's house, the last week in December. No matter what city we were living in, we drove "home" to Pittsburgh. It would be dark and late when our car lights speared up the driveway and Daddy said, "Here we are." Prodded from sleep, my brother and I stumbled out of the car, sometimes through new snow, into the kitchen with the huge oak round table. First the kiss from Grandma, then hugs, huge cups of cocoa, promises to visit Aunt Leely and to help make cookies in the morning. Upstairs, finally, to our beds with sheets like ice on our toes, spooky sounds in the air from the night freight trains moving alongside the slushy Allegheny River.

The next days were stuffed with relatives saying, "My how you've grown," laughter, turkey talk, plenty of packages to peek at, along with making and draping popcorn around the huge blue spruce Christmas tree.

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