Joseph Avenue Christmas is the story of one man's journey to the true meaning of Christmas. Not just the birth of the babe, but the salvation of the soul. Set on the wintry streets of Rochester, NY it is a visit to the heart of that city and the hearts of some of its best and bravest people. From their good example, and the simple lessons of their own lives and faith, a troubled man finds on a dark Christmas Eve an escape from an increasingly failed life.
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My dearest Robbie,
You started kindergarten today. At half past 7 you were around the corner in a group with your older brother and sister, waiting for the big yellow bus to roll to a stop and open its door. Your red hair was parted on the side and plastered to your head. You had Captain America sneakers on your feet and a Skylanders pack on your back. Your mother had just fed you oatmeal and toast. The older son of Karl and Regina Swanson drove the bus.
You stopped midway up the steps to turn and say goodbye, and I wiped the condensation from the window of the bus to get a picture of your face as you left. Your sister Ellie was sitting beside you, a first-grader herself, she was your guardian and guide.
This is a milestone, and I want you to remember it. Not just this day, but this stage of your life. This little piece of time that will quickly transform and be gone.
While you were at school, your brother Lee was producing a radio show in Utah, helping the father of a murdered policeman tell listeners about his son. Your brother-in-law, Austin, was resting up from the night previous, when he and other paratroopers had been out in the darkness of Fort Bragg practicing their land navigation.
Lee is falling in love with a girl, and she will either be forgotten in your adulthood or she will be the mother of your pals. Right now, he is putting together a proposal that would add television reporter to his work titles.
Austin goes to the war in December.
And your sister Aubrey is apt to go with him.
She’s been in two years and he’s been in one, but they both have orders to the Second Brigade Combat Team and their Army careers will intersect just in time to board the plane for Afghanistan.
Your sister Hannah is an innkeeper and Sophie is an Army wife. They both love you like crazy, though you’ve always had a special bond with Aubrey.
You played soccer this summer, and you have the same teacher Jack and Ellie had. We moved into our new house last Tuesday. You love your new room and being in a house large enough to suit our family. You have a dog named Jimmy and a cat named Kitt. You can read, recite the alphabet and count as high as anybody could care to listen.
You are unusually intelligent and physical. You walked and crawled early and have a stunning physicality. You run and jump and flip and yell at the top of your lungs. You are naturally happy and kind.
You are kindest to your younger brothers Scott and Sam, both of whom you call “Cutie.” You’ve taught them both to laugh and they both light up when they see you. You protect them and remember them and try to make them happy. You have a speech impediment which makes you replace Rs at the ends of words with an “oy” sound. Scott, who is 2, pronounces the same words the same way, pushed not by an impediment but by the example of his hero brother.
You like to play Legos with Jack, and wrestle with Ellie. After dinner tonight, you played Spin Uno with your mom and siblings. We read the scriptures as a family an hour later and you took your turn reading the verses. When we knelt for family prayer you pretended to close your eyes but were mostly playing while I said the prayer.
When I asked you what you enjoyed the most about school, you said duck, duck goose. In the evening, you got calls from Aubrey and Lee, and your mother sat on the couch after you were asleep looking at the picture of you boarding the school bus.
She is a great believer that you are a handsome young man.
We all love you and are very proud of you.
You are a good-hearted, innocent boy who cares about others and obeys his parents.
And today you started school.
May it be one of the first in a lifelong collection of wonderful days.