Dear Joe,

You have asked me a couple of times over the past two weeks what I want for Christmas 2004. I want the impossible. I want Christmas 1986 again, your first Christmas. Then I want Christmas 1987 again; when you were showing Regina how to act at her first, and only Christmas.

We had no clue how pivotal that Christmas would become in the legacy of the Juliano family. Somewhere in this house at 1986 Helena Rd, Oakdale MN are VCR tapes. Those soon to obsolete tools are filled with hours of sights and sounds, shouts and giggles, recorded with the intent of future viewing. We would only learn about Christmas 1987 and how important it was way later in our lives. Wonder why none of us has dared to view those old VCR’s?

They will be viewed someday, but not today. Today I want to try and answer your question (what do you want for Christmas dad) and ask you one in return: ok, maybe two.

Christmas 2004 will be the last BOY Christmas for ‘Joey’ and the first Man Christmas for Joe.

This time next year you will have been away from home, acclimating to college, living in a dorm, meeting and making new friends, meeting new temptations and making hard choices.

Here’s my next impossible Christmas wish. I wish you and I could have known my father, your grandfather, The Joseph Juliano. We are blessed with Bess Juliano, the last of the Great American Grandmothers.

You see son why it’s hard for me to tell you what I want for Christmas, I want the impossible.

A quick review: you asked “what do you want for Christmas dad.” I said a Franklyn Day Planner. Your response was something like, “but that only cost $25 dollars. I mean a real present.”

Thoughtlessly I responded by saying “it’s not about money Joey, it’s not about money.”
That thoughtless statement started a long line of thoughts that have culminated into this, your dad writing to you once again.

We attempt to lavish our loved ones with the best stuff our money can buy. But it’s not about that. Take last Christmas as an example. We had gotten you a computer (which I took over, sorry) early in that December and that was to be your Christmas gift. I then began to feel uncomfortable about not having a big box with something in it that would make you freak out and go “WOW”. That’s what the TV was. It was the WOW factor.

Well WOW this: we just can’t spend enough, or ever give enough ‘stuff’ to show our love to the ones we love because love is made of God and ‘stuff’ is made in China.

Santa goes away; big boxes of WOW become Plastic Gift Cards. Life becomes practical. I hate ‘practical’ when it becomes the way we say ‘thank you for all the stuff you did for me this year that I never said thank you for.’

Not much surprise when Joe asks dad what dad wants for Christmas and on Christmas day he gets a Franklyn Day Planner. “Wow, just what I wanted.”

Okay, where am I going with all these words; what do I want you to see? Am I painting a stale life, stagnant and surprise-less? Am I making you feel that you are no longer our boy? That Pee Wee Herman’s Christmas Special and Jimmy Stewart with Zuzu’s pettles in It’s A Wonderful Life won’t play at our life anymore? That Alaster Simms will no longer be visited by three spirits in the night that will change his days forever more?

If that’s what you’re feeling then I missed the mark; again you read dads word and don’t get it. Again my effort to affirm my love for you is buried in my ego.

For 18 years of giving, you have given me the most priceless gifts, your sincere smile, the profound intensity in your eyes when you are on the playing field. Next, there is our greatest accomplishment, taking our battle of words away from a fight, and turning it into a debate, then a negotiation, and, finally a resolution.

So here is what I really want for Christmas son, just a promise. A promise to hold on to all my stuff, my writings, my recorded music, our family photos and videos until the day you want your Joey or Regina to know how your dad answered a not so simple question: ‘what do you want for Christmas dad.