Dear Readers,

This season is one of memories, often reminding that the distance between a smile and a tear is very short. This is such a memory in our family. It has been told before in this column, but bears repeating, especially in this year of challenges.

It was Christmas Eve, a dark and snowy night. The kids were 6 and 10 years old. Grandparents had flown up from Texas, and our mood was festive and adventurous.

We decided we would go to Newburyport to a favorite restaurant. When we arrived, the place was dark and closed as were other eateries in town.

We were returning home on Interstate 495 when a bright sign near a Haverhill exit announced a Chinese place to eat.

As we entered the parking lot, there was only one other car beside our own.

Another car appeared to have plowed into the front of the restaurant and had just been left there. As we entered, we noticed the car had come to rest in the bar area. Someone had draped a tarp over the hood, and business was going on as usual.

Only one other table was occupied. About five men were seated there and had availed themselves of numerous libations.

We sat near them at another round table and ordered a large pu-pu platter. The kids were excited, and we settled back for the entertainment from the other occupied table. They were singing with slurred words, but great joy: “SSSilllver bellsss. SSSilver bellss. It’s Chrisssstmas time in the ccciiityyy.”

We could not resist and we sang along with them. Our two tables glowed with Christmas joy.

A pu-pu platter never tasted better, and we laughed at and with our neighbors.

The night passed, but its memory is often recalled at Christmas dinner as we sing “Silver Bells.” The grandparents have left this earth. Our two kids now have teens of their own.

In this year of COVID-19 may you find inner peace and memories of both a tear and a smile

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, email him at


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