O    ur family has its holiday traditions – gifts are a big deal. So are the day after xmas sales.

We always go to the mall. It's one of the few things Mom likes to do, and it's one of the few things we can do together (shopping-as-bonding). Dad will grill me on my finances and my car, and return to the TV once he's satisfied I'm not squandering my savings away. We'll take the annual family photo and call Grandma on the speaker phone.

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Christmas dinner will be a glazed ham (Honeybaked because they're convenient) and cranberry "sauce" that's still in the shape of the can. After dinner one brother will hastily depart, but the other will stay. We'll drink Lipton tea out of matching Corelle cups and talk about the year's events and try to be hopeful.

We'll laugh, as we always do, but there'll be an unspoken sadness in the air. There are no grandchildren yet. My parents' friends are dying, or moving South. Our family is shrinking. And I'm not moving back. I have my own home now. They won't admit it but they know it inside.