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By Charlene Rashkow

One thing my family has always credited me with was my genuine appreciation for some of the simpler things in life. They often laugh and say I would be happy if someone gave me a tissue. It is in fact a truth that I am a fairly grateful person who seems to recognize the less exciting things that often go unnoticed by others.

But on this particular Christmas the event I am about to share with you, wouldn't by any stretch of the imagination be considered inconsequential, for the feelings it evoked in me made it special and unique.

You see, I moved to California to be nearer my family but found it a bit difficult to adjust to the West Coast. Working as a writer, I spend a lot of time by myself, therefore establishing a sense of belonging had been lacking. I wasn't feeling very happy but little did I know that on this particular evening, that was about to change!

A few days before Christmas my daughter invited me to witness the fireworks presented on the pier in Manhattan Beach, California. I didn't even know that fireworks were displayed at the beach so I was delighted when she asked me along. Realizing that parking would be impossible, we set out on foot to take the two-mile walk to the pier. It was a chilly night but the fast paced walk kept us warm. After a while our feet were beginning to hurt, but the closer we got to the actual event, the less we noticed our aching feet. What I personally began noticing were the large crowds forming and the hoards of mothers, fathers, children, grandparents all traipsing along the strand beside us, behind us and in front of us all moving in the direction of the fireworks.

Please understand that I have witnessed fireworks countless times in my life so it wasn't the experience of seeing fireworks that got me excited. What thrilled me most of all was that I had never seen such a breathtaking splash of color glittering over the ocean. I was like a little kid experiencing something with awe and wonder for the very first time. I love lights over water but this was something beyond description.

As I sat upon the wall of the strand next to the thousands of individuals that had gathered, I was struck by the many bodies that were spread out on the sand while others lined up upon the streets as far as the eye could see.

I was inspired.

This had to be one of the most spectacular displays of fireworks ever presented and for sure far more people gathered than I had ever seen in such a small community. The thought of those involved in making this happen and the effort and collaboration it took to coordinate it without a hitch was amazing to me.

Sitting there observing the magnificent fireworks and watching both my daughter and all the other spectators oohing and aahing at such splendor, I felt intense emotion. I wasn't sure exactly what it was at first I was feeling but suddenly I realized that I felt something I hadn't sensed for a long while.

I actually felt happy.

My heart swelled as I realized that since living in California I hadn't felt joy. For the first time in a long time, I felt connected, spiritual and most of all, I felt at home.

That event took place a number of years ago but the experience has never left me. Whenever I need a little boost of energy or feel a slight bit of depression, I think of that night and the beautiful lights and I remember the good feelings. It was and still is the reason I consider that night the best Christmas I ever had.
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