I never thought of my family as close, but over the past few days I have realized that we truly are. I was fortunate enough to spend 44 out of 45 Christmases with my parents, brother, and sisters. As our families expanded through marriage and children, the holidays seemed to always bring us back to the beginning. My parents were both from Southern California, and I grew up mostly on the east coast, so my grandparents and cousins were not a consistent part of my life. Maybe that's why Mom and Dad always made such a big deal about Christmas time. I count myself lucky to have such a close family, especially now that my father is gone.