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My mother was a modern woman before there was such a thing. She was wise and practical, and uncommonly independent even though she was devoted to my father. She married young, lived with my father's parents while he served in Korea, and had me while he was traveling across the country by train to try to get home before I arrived, which he didn't.

She got a job at a time when women who worked were the exception, rather than the rule, and managed money like a lettered accountant. She was more like Laura Petrie in capri pants than Donna Reed in a house dress, and had an instinctive sense of style that I was never quite able to emulate, though God knows I tried.

It was Mom who made sure that Christmas's were over-the-top, five-star affairs. She baked scores of cookies and decorated like a Macy's window-dresser. Pop bought the train set, but it was Mom who brought it to life by assembling a village of street vendors, park benches, carolers, houses, miniature flocked trees and mirrors that passed for ponds. But, best of all, she was our Santa.

Mom was a savvy shopper and began stockpiling presents for the next year the day after Christmas, when everything was on sale. She shopped the sales all year long, and the result was so many gaily-wrapped presents for my father, my sister and me on Christmas morning, that it took us over an hour to open them all, sometimes two. This tradition continued until the day she died. Though Mom got us hundreds of wonderful presents, the one I love the most is the stuffed teddy bear she got us when we were long past the age to want such a gift, but it was just what I needed that Christmas, and I still have it.

Like most everyone else on the planet, I love Christmas, not only because of the presents, and the homemade cookies, and the fact that I was born on Christmas Eve, but because my mother made every one of them special. And that is why I wrote The Santa Diaries for her. I hope you enjoy it as much as she did. Read it here:

Merry Christmas, Mom! We miss you like crazy!

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