I do not know at what age my Christmas memories began, but I do remember being very young and in awe of a very large – and very well decorated – Christmas tree in our family room. I even remember peeking down the stairs late one evening and seeing my mother standing extremely close to Santa Claus. OK, you might not find that an unusual memory, except my family is Jewish.


Apparently, my parents thought it was easier to decorate and give gifts for both Chanukah and Christmas than to try and explain why religiously they only celebrated the "smaller" holiday, although I must have sensed that. (Children usually do.)

And, I remember exactly when I came to the realization that Santa was not real. I was five years old and in the hospital with pneumonia and in the middle of the night, a Santa came by giving out Christmas gifts. I must have sensed his presence because when he arrived at the foot of my bed, I sat up and immediately told him that I could not have any Christmas gifts. He questioned why not (maybe thinking I was going to state I had not been good all year, which probably would have been an accurate statement), and I told him it was because I was Jewish.

He leaned over my bed, pulled away his fake beard, and whispered in my ear, "It's ok – so am I." And without his beard, I immediately recognized him as one of the doctors who had checked on me several times during my stay. We smiled at each other, knowing that we had a special bond, and he left me a gift.

Now, older and wiser, I have come to the conclusion … Santa does exist. You just have to believe …

We had barely introduced ourselves when the newspaper editor held up our book, gesturing to our "two-faced" logo on the front cover and said something along the lines of …

Ok, off the record, admit it, you embellished the characters in the book to be more entertaining.

When we finished laughing, we explained …

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Certain days are etched in your memory. All earning a place based on the significance of the event – some good, others bad. I will never forget 9/11. I was out of town on a business trip and when I called my crew chief that morning to talk about the transport of my race car, he asked if I had been watching the news. Obviously, I had not. And, as I turned on the television, I saw the plane crash into the second tower.

I am not one to be glued to the television – nor am I one to be overwhelmed by emotions. But I could not help watching the news, almost non-stop. Looking back, I think it was because I was trying to make sense out of what I was seeing. Watching with horror and heavy heart as the day unfolded, looking for an explanation.

There are many images that still stand out in my memory. Interestingly, the most vivid ones are the ones that reflect how we, as Americas, stood together as a people. The first-responders rushing in while people covered in dust and debris wandered shell-shocked. Poignant pictures of President Bush at Ground Zero. Firefighters and EMTs from around the country working together.

The American people stepped up to help in whatever way they could. Whether it was donating blood or raising money for the victims and rescue workers. Or, simply prayer. People attended impromptu candlelight vigils and participated in moments of silence. We demonstrated our patriotism and belief in the ideals of our country. Of Democracy. People flew the American flag at their homes and even on their car antennas, while others pinned it to their clothing. Not to mention all the t-shirts.

People gathered together. Sometimes to pay tribute to the dead. Sometimes to honor all the first responders. Sometimes to share their grief with others. And, sometimes because they just did not want to be alone. I was stranded out of town as all flights were grounded but did not feel alone. And, although all of us felt differently in what specifically to do in response to the attacks, we seemed to agree that standing together – a sense of unity – provided hope in this horrible time.


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New Year's Eve seems like the perfect time to stroll down memory lane, although I'm guessing your memories are much more interesting than mine.


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"Interesting" is a subjective word. Regardless, are you talking about memories in general? Or, New Year's Eve celebrations?


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Actually, it was just a passing comment. But since you've always seemed to make a bigger deal out of New Year's Eve than I have, are there any years that really stand out?


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Truth is the most memorable ones are the ones spent with celebrating with closest friends versus crowds. In fact, I think I have spent more than half of my New Year's Eves with John and Diana. Although, I will never forget bringing in 2000.
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