By the time this piece is published, another Christmas Eve at the Luckhardts will be over.

All the packages for the grandkids will be saved memories in pictures, and the tree will be down and in the box for next year. But as I write this, I am happy that so many of our family will be able to come, and I also hope that my baked ziti parmigiana is tasty. I guess I will be able to tell when the Tupperware is filled with leftovers as they file out at the end of the night. 

It has been a crazy year with lots of fun times with friends and family, and I am very grateful for each and every moment. Although there have been some tears mixed in with the laughter, I truly have a lot to be thankful for.

The holidays are a really emotional time for people, especially if they are alone or far from loved ones. The hype and build up before Christmas are probably as much fun as the actual date, but after a month of seasonal cheer, it can be a bit of a let down when the last wreath is stored away and the lights come down from outside. I guess the best advice I can give on that note is to smile and remember that in about 350 days, we can do it all again.

Make sure you contact your senior family members who are unable to travel and wish them a joyful holiday. A phone call or a visit is better than any medicine for sure!

I would like to thank my readers for the many emails, calls and posts on Facebook after reading my articles. It does my heart good to think that, in some small way, I have touched you. I get suggestions, questions and lots of hellos, saying, “I liked your article this week.”

It started off over five years ago, and this marks my 400th column. I still get a real kick out of seeing it in print and receiving lots of kind words from so many of you. 

The young man at the local Postal Annex always greets me with a smile and a warm hello. He reads my stories to his grandparents each week, and then asks what the next subject will be. I can’t tell you how much that makes my heart happy. Things like this are better than ice cream or pizza, and that’s saying a lot!

Everyone who reads these articles I am honored to write knows that I was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island in a very small town called Island Park. Within the town of Island Park was a small island of houses called Harbor Isle. The entire community could fit in about a third of Discovery Bay. I post my articles each week on a special Facebook page dedicated to those of us who grew up there, and I am happy to say I have reconnected with many classmates I had not seen in over 50 years!

I really don’t know how that part happened, but it’s my stories that have provoked some wonderful reunions. Grandpa says I am editorially bicoastal – imagine that!

Soon comes the end of another year, and off we go into 2019 with hope and renewed optimism that our state and our country will heal from our wounds of fires and other things we sadly have little or no control over. We have to think positively and use the blank sheet of paper that starts the new year to draw beautiful pictures of better times for all.

To those who lost their homes in the fires, I wish you prosperity and strength to replace what you can and recreate what you cannot. For those who have lost loved ones or are bravely dealing with illness, I wish you comfort and the courage to fight the good fight. I will keep you all in my heart and wish you a brand-new year filled with nothing but joy and gifts of positive energy.

Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with senior care and advocacy groups. Email her at marla2054@aol.com.

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