It's been a very long time since I enjoyed Christmas.
First, a brief history lesson.
My mother did all the work to make Christmas happen. She collated the Sears Christmas Wish Book wish lists, she bought the presents, she decorated the house, she did all the cooking and she slept on Boxing Day.
Somehow, though, Dad was the spirit of Christmas in our house.
He dressed up as Santa and made the rounds in our neighbourhood, visiting all the kids.
He lingered in bed Christmas Day morning, ensuring we kids agonized as the wrapped presents sat there, taunting us in their fancy wrapping and bows.
And when it came time to unwrap his presents, he made sure each one was given its appropriate share of attention.
We were allotted a minimal amount of cash to buy presents. Dad might get a pair of socks from Shane, a bag of tobacco from Kevin, a set of lighters from me and some gloves from Jason.
But we knew - as he opened each gift - those were the best darned socks, tobacco, lighters or gloves that ever existed in the world that day.
He left our world in January 1996 and somehow, Christmas has never been the same. It has always been missing a little bit of spirit.
Surely, my brothers have carried on in his absence. I was never able to. I couldn't decorate my apartment. I couldn't even open the box to look at the ornaments I've had since I first set up a Christmas tree with my Newfoundland roommate Rosetta in 1995.
This year is different.
I've baked my cookies not out of a sense of duty to give friends presents but out of a sheer enjoyment of the season.
I've decorated a tree - the pictures you see here - and agonized over every swish of Shep's tail, just like Mom used to when the cats got too close.
I've gone out to visit friends and I'm doing Christmas my way.
And for the first time in 15 years, I'm enjoying it.
Happy ho-ho, y'all.