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I remember as a child, for several years I joined a group of other children from the neighborhood and went from house to house, ten or twelve of us standing on the sidewalk while one of the parents went up to the door and rang the bell.

When the door was opened, we cherubs, our faces aglow from the dancing flame of the candles held in front of us, would carol our little hearts out, usually beginning softly with Silent Night or The First Noel, and gifting our neighbor with two or three more, ending with something a little more exuberant like Joy to the World.

The image of the old couple on the corner standing in the doorway listening, his arm around her and her head on his shoulder, wrapped in a homemade shawl, so happy to share in our celebration, is one of my fondest memories of childhood. We always went to their house last, and finished up with Over the River and Through the Woods; then they would invite us in and we'd sit around the fireplace drinking their mulled cider and eating freshly-baked fruitcake. Before we left, we'd very quietly sing them to sleep with O Holy Night, then tiptoe out of the house and disperse.

The year that they died, it felt so strange making our last stop at the house but singing to the young newlyweds that had moved in. Nothing against them, of course, but that was the last year that I joined in Christmas Eve caroling. The next morning, opening my presents, I was unable to summon up the "Christmas spirit"; it was the beginning of my growing cynicism toward the holiday.

As an adult, I've pretty much tried to just let this time of year pass quietly, though hopefully without putting a damper on the festiveness of those around me. But last year came what might have been the last straw.

I had my few close friends over for a quiet, enjoyable evening before they went their separate ways to be with family. As we lifted our glasses in a toast to our deep friendship, thankful that we were all able to be together despite the building storm outside, there was a loud thump from the back door. I got up to investigate, my friend Julia trailing behind. I opened the door to find at my feet a dying bird. It had apparently panicked when the bough it had been perched on snapped off the tree, and had flown smack into the window. Julia screamed and ran back into the house. I carried the bird to the side of the house and returned to my friends. Julia was calm now, but the incident pretty much put an end to our party, and we bade each other good night.

I couldn't help but see the whole incident in a dark light, and the next day I went out and chopped down that pear tree.

This year, I'm spending Christmas alone with a good book and my dog. But don't let me get you down. Merry Christmas to you all!

Having this nodeshell presented to me on Christmas Day as a Random Node, I felt it was incumbent upon me to rescue it and present it to The Ninjagirls Christmas Special.

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