"GO! OUTSIDE!" he exclaimed, and retreated to his bedroom.
We were a blended family before such a term existed. My widowed father and divorced stepmother had joined forces the preceding winter, and combined us into a household that included 10-year-old me and 10-year old stepbrother, almost 8-year-old-brother, and 5-year-old-stepbrother.
We were not destined to become a well-orchestrated unit. As Tolstoy tells us, "every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," and in that regard, I suppose, we are all alike. The details don't seem to matter anymore, but there were difficult and hateful moments, even on our first attempt at a Christmas Day in 1963.
But at 6:00 a.m.? We were a group of kids, a tad bedraggled and unwieldy in our losses of parents and siblings to death and divorce, but kids, nevertheless: exuberant, energetic, and wide-awake to the four glistening snow saucers and four shiny sleds under the tree.
Boots and hats and mittens went flying and so did we, down the hillside on which our house was perched, over and over again in the dark of Christmas morning. Mr. Shivers, our basset hound, bounded up and down the hill, delighted by the snow and the shrieks of laughter, and for a few minutes at the crisp and cold break of day, we were