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We’ll See You at the Starbirds’

Every year during the Christmas season, no matter what we plan, sooner or later we end up at the Starbirds’. We’re drawn there like kids to cookies, reindeer to rooftops, shepherds to a star.

I went to school with Mike, the younger son, and we’ve stayed in touch over the years. Since our family and Mike’s return to southern California for the holidays, we meet at the Pasadena home of Mike’s parents, Bill and Mary Ellen Starbird. Those are the facts. But facts aren’t the issue, as any child on Christmas morning can tell you.

The Starbirds’ home is full of fun and full of memories.

There’s Mary Ellen greeting you at the door, wearing a big smile, a Christmas dress, an apron, and tennis shoes shaped like frogs.

There’s the little chuckle Bill gives as he watches his grandkids chase each other around the tree.

There are the riddles that Santa Claus leaves, telling where he’s hidden the gifts.

There’s the way Bill pushes back his chair after dinner and tosses out lighthearted questions such as “What’s your philosophy of education?” and “How do you define energy?”

There are milk mustaches.

There’s the jigsaw puzzle in the den.

There’s Starbird charades, where instead of book titles and quotations, you act out the meaning of individual words, such as quibble and procrastination.

And there’s The Messiah, performed every year by the Starbirds and a group of thirty friends, with Bill at the piano. The notes aren’t perfect, but the spirit is.

What are your plans for the holidays? If you’ll be spending it with friends and family, then, whether you know it or not, you’re going to the same place we always go.

We’ll see you at the Starbirds’.

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