Grateful for friends this year — I am blessed

My parents made Christmas magical for my siblings and me, generously showering us during our Puerto Rico childhoods with thoughtful gifts, for which I’ll always be appreciative and grateful.

Sometime during my pre-teen period, though, I grew weary of the materialism and issued a good-natured edict to Mom and Dad: If you want to give me something for Christmas, make it a book, just one hardcover book, nothing more.

I treasured my first volume (“Firefox Down,” as I recall), spending Christmas Day engrossed in its pages and feeling lucky for having such a wonderful family. That is really what our Christmas was about.

My impatience with materialism has endured, and grown. My wife feels the same, which is why in recent years we have adhered to a strict no-gift policy during the holidays now that our son is past his Thomas the Tank Engine and LEGO phases.

This year, that policy extended to my December birthday, at my request (though I did insist on cake).

Family and friends — not stuff — are all that really matter.

Making friends has not been always been easy for me given my introverted nature, however; no wonder I’d bury my nose in a book when I was a child.

I’m better at forging relationships now — I’m learning how to human, at last — and I’m eternally grateful for my growing circle of friends, who are the best kind of gift.

I have recently been striving to be more diligent about expressing that gratitude — to explicitly thank those who have touched my wife and me deeply in so many ways.

This is one such thank-you.

A comprehensive accounting of all my friends have done for me would make for an unwieldy post, so I will cherry-pick a few highlights here.

Two of my oldest and dearest friends, Chris and Ann, had us over for a wondrous Thanksgiving dinner this year. We saw a great deal of each other in 2016, and I’m grateful for the chance meeting long ago that set us on this path together. We are a motley band of introverts. We are family.

Chris and Rachel, two of our finest friends and neighbors, have repeatedly honored my wife and me by including us in their Jewish observances (including, this week, Hanukkah).

During our visit, we perused their library of sci-fi books, and Rachel lent me “The Witches of Karres,” a novel she said I had to read. Without realizing it, Rachel had transported me back to my childhood’s single-volume holiday observance. What a lovely gift, my friend.

Chris this year also bestowed upon me the gift of good health. That is, he prodded and inspired me to get seriously into bicycling and into the best shape I’ve been in years.

Rachel and Chris, among other friends, helped us through rough patches this year, as well.

I grew closer this year to Mykl and Jen, two of the nicest and most talented people I know. Mykl, a Web designer, built this site for me. That’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, dude. (You should hire Mykl.)

I was lucky to have Mykl and Jen (among many other friends) over to our house for our summer party, where they availed themselves of the bash’s photo booth:

Some friends inspired me. Lindsi this year launched a special effort, filling Ziploc bags with necessities to give the poor and homeless at street intersections. I found out about this effort from her bursting-with-pride husband Don, who is my South American compay, and I now have several of the bags stashed in my car.

My pal Steve made me the below for my birthday (which is not a first for him). It is, I told him on Facebook, one of the best gifts I can receive because of his effort and thoughtfulness (and also because of my love for “Star Trek,” of which Steve is well aware).

Sahar and Michael, two lovely new friends, bonded with my wife and me over our love for “Star Trek.” We recently attended a performance of “A Klingon Christmas Carol” (Michael is shown with the “A.K.C.C.” cast below), and we later gabbed for hours at Cafe Latte. Guys, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Speaking of Klingons, I marveled, not for the first time, at my friend and neighbor Lana Rosario’s amazing “A.K.C.C.” performances. That Lana would share this with me and so many others is a priceless gift.

During the holidays, not one but two of my lovely neighbors showed up at my door with coquito, the Puerto Rican equivalent of eggnog for holiday celebrations. For a boricua so far from his tropical homeland, nothing can be more touching. Thanks, Anne and Victoria, for your thoughtfulness.

I have amazing neighbors, generally speaking. They have shown my family and me countless kindnesses, as I noted in a Thanksgiving post on our neighborhood Facebook page:

Jeaneth and I have said it before: We have awesome neighbors.

We know some of you better than others — it’s a big neighborhood, after all — but as we become acquainted with more of you fine folks, our gratitude grows.

We are thankful for neighbors who have our backs, help us through difficult times, and inspire us to be better people.

We are grateful for neighbors who welcome us into their homes — or honor us with their presence in our home — on all manner of occasions silly, solemn and sacred.

We are thankful for bread broken, glasses clinked, ramen slurped, bike trips achieved, dance-party moves executed, babies bounced, books swapped, and laughs exchanged with y’all.

On this Thanksgiving, we are thankful to live where we do, and with whom. We are very lucky.

Out best to you and yours during this holiday season.

Here is my wife as Hit-Girl (wowza!!) at a neighborhood Halloween party with our pals (from left) Heather, Powell, Brock (this gathering’s co-host), Don and Colleen.

Again and again, friends welcomed us into their homes this year. Here’s how I felt about that. (The picture below, as well as this post’s header picture, are from Mykl and Jen’s Christmas party.)

I could go on (and on and on) here about my amazing friends, but you get the idea.

I don’t have a lot of money, but I am a rich man. Family, friends and neighbors are the reasons for that. Thanks, all. I am truly blessed.

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