When the children were little and we lived in Chicago, we had two Christmas traditions. Drew and I would bundle them up and take them to State Street to see the amazing Christmas windows displayed by the department stores.

We were thrilled...awed even by the detail and beautiful presentation of the theme that was chosen by their designers for that year. We would then head inside for lunch at the Walnut Room in Marshall Field's where our joy was multiplied by the amazing decorations and spectacle of the biggest Christmas tree the kids had ever seen; again each year decorated differently and magnificently. As a side note, the most breathtaking tree was decorated entirely in Sworvski Crystal ornaments and reflected beautifully the giggling pleasure our children were experiencing!

Taking them to see the Nutcracker ballet each year was the other tradition. With booster seats in hand, so they would miss not one "pas de deux," the children, my mother and I made our way to the theater and were transported into another place and time. Now that my mom has passed away, both children remember those sumptuous ballets in their fond memories of her.

I have a short story to tell you. More than two decades ago we met the premiere ballet dancer in Columbia. He was young and ambitious, extremely talented...and gay. To be gay was a death sentence in Columbia at that time so he came to New York to become an international star. He had a visitor's visa and was sure that when one of the major ballet companies in New York recognized his talent, they would hire him and then be able to handle his immigration status. Almost a year later he had to admit that he was not going to make it dancing in a major company so he applied for political asylum. He went through all of the correct channels, paid his taxes, worked odd jobs while going back to school and of course kept dancing but lived in fear each day of being deported. There were delays, bureaucratic glitches and numerous court hearings in the subsequent years.

We had never seen him dance.

When he was 38 years old we got a call telling us that he had landed the lead in the Nutcracker in the Clearwater, Florida annual Christmas celebration and if we ever wanted to see him dance, this would probably be the last time he would be able to perform at his best...he would be "aged out" of the profession.

We went down for the performance a bit anxious and regretful that we had not seen him perform before. What if he had waited too long for his final show? As the lights dimmed and the curtain raised I confess to saying a silent prayer for our friend to do well.

We were totally blown away. When he was on stage you could not take your eyes off of him. He was magnificent. Not only did he receive a "standing O," the audience hooted and hollered when he finally left the stage.

And the end of the story in true Christmas tale tradition...he finally received resolution to his citizenship status this year. And though he will never dance professionally again, he is secure, unafraid for the first time in decades and happy.

It truly "tis the season" for our friend, for us and I hope for you and your loved ones as well.

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