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The 2006 Christmas Season
Christmas wasn't the same with Matt in Iraq and Mel in New Zealand. As much fun as the season brings, the soundtrack for December was "I'll be home for Christmas ... if only in my dreams." And so it was, we dreamed of last Christmas when everyone was home, and we dreamed of next Christmas when we all hope to be together again.

Luminaria Night in Tubac
Luminaria Night is one of Cherie and Jamie's holiday traditions. The art colony of Tubac lights its streets and shops with luminarias on the first weekend of December. Santa visits the town on the back of a fire truck. Shopkeepers stay open late and offer bundled-up shoppers holiday snacks and drinks, some of them pretty potent. Cherie buys jewelry at Cloud Dancer, a Native American-owned jewelry store, and Jamie pays off the bills for the next three months. Yes, it brings on holiday cheer and new year debt, making it a traditional American holiday celebration.

The decorated windows and doors open on to antique shops, art gallaries, jewelry shops, cafes, bistros, Southwestern and Mexican hand-crafted goods, bookstores, and other assorted shops.

Crowds of friendly and happy people head for the sleepy town's shops

But the first stop on reaching town is one of the local restaurants. Cherie, Mike, our neighbor Ken and I had an early supper at the Artist's Palate before hitting the Tubac streets and alleyways.

A lot of white-haired Santa and Mrs. Clauses gather from all over Arizona to find presents for their lists of naughty and nice relatives

Mike found a flashing neon "Live Nudes" sign that he just had to have at this cluttered antique shop

And what is Christmas without a table of snacks laid out for Santa as he makes his holiday rounds? This gentleman is working on his Santa physique, no doubt to fill out his red suit by the end of December. Mike, at left, ponders what his sweetie will want under the Christmas tree. Cherie, not really visible in this photo (actually, I can spot her behind the lady in black), raved about the cream-filled puff balls on the right side of the table. The pastry melted in her mouth, and the rum-laced cream exploded upon her tongue. I think she had five of them.

Shopping in the Snow in Tucson

Tucson shoppers can feel the Christmas spirit when the snow starts falling over the La Encantada Mall. Snow-making machines pump the white stuff over the outdoor courtyard at night, and local choral groups sing Christmas songs to complete the effect.

The snow falls above the autumnally colored trees in the courtyard
Kinsey, left, looks up at the snow falling around her

At right, snowflakes accumulate in Cherie's new short hairdo as she gazes at the sky

Jamie, Miranda, Anna, Cherie, Mike, and Kinsey enjoy an evening of shopping under a snow filled sky in Tucson
All that sparkles is not snow. The new Tiffany's store offered lots of glittering sparkles in its showcases, too. Cherie found a nice little bracelet for $1,800 that Santa couldn't quite fit into his bag.

Mike and Anna's First Christmas
Anna and Mike enjoyed their first Christmas as a married couple, decorating their apartment, shopping for family, and preparing for Anna's 21st birthday.

Anna and Mike at Seoul Garden, where they took us for dinner this month. Mike cooked their bulgogi on the table's grill and rolled it in lettuce leaves; I had bibimbap with the rice on the bottom of the bowl hot and sticky; Cherie had pomegranate wine with her dinner; and we all shared a seafood pancake.

The apartment glows in holiday lights, even the fish tank

Shopping in the snow

Christmas Eve Celebrations

Christmas Eve Night at
Mike and Anna's Apartment

We bought some Pizza Hut pizza and wings, and unwrapped gifts at M&A's on Christmas Eve night.

Anna, left, wasn't yawning, she was just surprised at one of the gifts.

Christmas Eve Day With the Neighbors
Jeanne and Cherie, left, share some wine and a laugh while Judeen, right, bakes Christmas cookies

Kinsey, left, and Dawn, right, wait until the last minute to wrap their Christmas presents

Dawn's dogs get into the act too, frolicking in the paper and ribbons

Dawn uses her bow wow to wow the room with a new boa look

A couple of weeks before Christmas Howie's sister Ovidia, right, and brother-in-law Don, left, hosted a Christmas brunch for famiy, friends, and neighbors. Very, very delicious, Ovidia

Matt On Point for Christmas

Matt spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day patrolling the streets of Sadr City in Baghdad with his Stryker vehicle. He was out for five straight days, literally dodging bullets the whole time, getting five meals and five hours sleep over the 5-day period, returning to camp exhausted but in one piece. He doesn't recall what he did on Christmas as it was just one in a long string of dangerous and exhausting days. Methinks it will be a season he'll remember throughout his life, whether he wants to or not.

Mimosa Market in Old Bisbee decorated for the holidays

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