Merry Christmas.

The hustle and bustle of the season is about to slow down as we gather to celebrate.

Looking back on my childhood, it seemed like there was snow on the ground every Christmas, and I was bursting with excitement by the time the big day came.

My mom baked cookies and candies for weeks leading up to Christmas, and they were stored away, and it was almost as hard not to sneak them as it was to wait until Christmas. Mom always knew if there was fudge missing, so as hard as it was, I usually left it alone ó usually.

We opened presents on Christmas morning. I woke up everyone way too early for their liking, and the living room became a whirlwind of flying wrapping paper.

Mom made a big meal, and my sisters brought more goodies.

There was an excitement to the day, and as a kid you think itís about Santa Claus and gifts. As you get older that you realize the material things donít really matter nearly as much.

As Iíve grown older, gotten married and had children, my feelings have begun to change.

Itís always nice to get a heart-felt gift, but being with your family, creating your own memories is the best part of the day.

As you get older and have your own family, Christmas has to be spread out.

This year there are three Christmases, one with my wifeís family, one with our small family, and the last one with my family.

My parents have been gone for some time now, and this year we lost a sister, so when my family gathers it always seems like it should be bigger group.

That is how life works. We welcome new members and say good-bye to others.

What matters is the time we have, how we spend it and with whom we spend it.

Thanksgiving isnít the only time to say thanks.

We can be thankful every day for our time on earth and for the family and friends we have.

If we spend too much time in the past we miss the time we have now.

Nothing stays the same. The Christmases of my childhood are great memories, and we get the chance every day to make new ones.

Every Christmas we have this year will be filled with fun and laughter, good food and good times.

I hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy the holiday season with family and friends.

Merry Christmas.

Patrick Murphy, of Humphrey, Neb., is a former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.