My grandparents lived in a house that seemed very much like a castle to me. When I was much younger, our whole family would gather there to celebrate Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, the occasional birthday, and of course Christmas Day. The house was painted white and it sat tall on a hill with a winding stairway that led up to a cement ledge or porch where you could knock on the majestic wooden front door. The roof-line was quite unlike the flat raised-ranch house I lived in. There were two separate windows with their own eaves at the highest point on the house, and these seemed to pass in the imagination of this Kansas boy as castle spirals or turrets of some kind. I remember the windows being ancient with handles you twisted to make the glass open out, vertically, and then wind back shut. In the winter my grandpa kept a roaring fire that my grandma loved to stoke, sending up a sudden shower of orange sparks that turned white as paper, then sifted back down to the flames. My uncle Milton always insisted on a real Christmas tree, so my grandparents obliged and it filled the room with an oddly fresh pine smell of that clashed with the scent of the worn furniture and cracking walls. We had so many children in the family then, there were always a hundred or more presents set out in shiny packaging and ribbons waiting to be torn off. And every member of the family, young or old, got their time to sit in a chair in the middle of the room, and open their presents. About 2 o’clock we all sat down to dinner. My grandparents set up a long dining room table to seat as many people as they could. And me, being one of the youngest, never ever found a place there. I was always plopped down at the children’s table—a lowly little plastic square sat some 30 feet from the main table with paper-plate place settings and plastic spoons. I sat at this table from my earliest memories until I was well into my teenage years. While my older relatives shared stories from previous Christmases, discussed the major events of the year, and occasionally argued, I sat next to the insanity of my cousins who threw their food, stuck forks in their eyes (or other places), or refused to stay in their chairs at all, drawing the ire of their parents who shouted threats from their places at the better table. Ah, Christmas. To this day when I’m in business meetings or conference calls with groups of other adults who are sharing in serious, meaningful conversations, I feel somehow removed from it all. I go back to a boy seated at the children’s table, my mind on a completely different level—full of imagination, and yet somehow separated or divorced entirely from grown-up speak. I grow antsy, like my cousins, and all I can think about is being set free—let loose to leave the chaos of that place and get on with playing somewhere else in the house. In all my years growing up, it didn’t occur to until recently that the only way to get a spot at the table would have been to marry into the family (not a possibility for me) or hope for one of my older relatives to die. Oh goodness … what dark thoughts family Christmases can bring!