I finally returned to New York, driving straight from mom's house to work. Whiskey Joe, one of my brother Vincenzo's old army buddies, a guy who was a fixture at our house when he had a precious bit of leavetime (to the extent that he knew where the spare housekey was hidden- when there are five kids in a family, what's a dozen, or a hundred more?) stopped by around 1PM in order to hang out for a bit, and we had a good laugh and some catching up. I had to leave after a half hour, and it was a bit melancholy bidding farewell to the kids, Vin and his wife, mom and Joe, but I'll see everybody again around Christmas.
When I got to work, I called mom to tell her that I got home, and there was the sound of kids laughing in the background. Slade, another of my brother's old army buddies, had come over with his kids. One of my brother's eight-year old twins had been daunted by the prospect of a bunch of boys, including (horrors!) a teenager, coming over, but judging from the general aura of hilarity audible on the other end of the connection, she was holding her own rather well.
In retrospect, the one thing that I'm most thankful for is the fact that my mom raised us in a tradition of hospitality, so that we have an extended family of thousands of people who have found a place to stay and a decent meal over the years. Many of them are still coming by. Who needs a Black Friday doorbuster, when there's a place with an open door?