[dropcap]I [/dropcap]should start by telling you I haven’t always loved Christmas. In fact, I used to hate it. Because my father left a hole in our family after he died, one we all fell into. Nobody felt merry in our household. After all, what good are holidays about happiness and cheer if you don’t have either?

Take, for instance, the winter I worked loading trucks in a warehouse. The manager asked who wanted to work Christmas day. I raised my hand first.

“You?” he asked. “But you’re only sixteen. You should be home with your family.”

I shrugged. “Let William be with his family, sir. I don’t care about Christmas.”

Later in my life, I met Jamie Martin, and I told her the same thing. Her response was, “Yes hell you do care about Christmas, and I’m going to teach you how.”

And she did. Jamie made merry at Christmas more than Kris-damn-Kringle himself. She was particular about everything from cheese straws to Yankee candles. She and her daddy cooked in the kitchen until their fingerprints almost melted off, cussing about it every step of the way.

Like happy families do.

Our first Christmas was spent in Charleston, South Carolina, on our honeymoon. Chocolate croissants for breakfast, shrimp and grits for dinner. Carriage rides. Hot cider. Oysters. We gave gifts. I cried. And she let me.

If I inherited the entire city of Birmingham tomorrow, I couldn’t be as happy as I was that Christmas.

And when Jamie lost her own daddy, she sunk into the grayness of despondence. Much like a fatherless boy I once knew. That Christmas season, there weren’t many decorations, fewer cookies, and no scented candles. “You know,” Jamie said. “I don’t really care about Christmas this year.”

Yes you do, darling. And I’ll teach you how.

Like somebody once taught me.

Happy anniversary, Jamie.