There's Uncle Carl, pulling you into his stories of genealogy and history and politics. There's Uncle Hoyt, playing his acoustic guitar and singing "North To Alaska."
There's Aunt Sara, with her delicious, made-from-scratch homemade rolls. There's Uncle Hubert, so proud of his colorful holiday socks. There's classy Aunt Jewel and her husband Uncle Jack, a Chicago transplant who loves to talk about Flatt and Scruggs.
There's Dad, among all his brothers and sisters, looking as happy as I've ever seen him. There's Aunt Martha Jean, giving me a hug and a slipping a $5 bill into my hand because I made the Honor Roll. There's Uncle Gober, regaling me with Navy stories of the Galapagos Islands and the Middle East.
There's Aunt Mabel, leading everyone in the singing of the Christmas carols. And there's Uncle Ernest, visiting from out in Texas, with his stories of pot smugglers who didn't quite make it across the border.
From outside the Old Elliott House as I slip into the distance, I can see the tree, and the lights; I can hear the happy voices and the Christmas carols.
There goes a world. And a worldview. And a childhood.
I'm in a room full of ghosts.