the two silver wheels spun in the dim light, a mosaic of Christmas colors—red, green, orange, yellow, magenta—flickering, fading, flashing, and blinking through the small, slowly dying tree in the living room. reflections on the ceiling looked alive, needles and branches forming snowflake-like shadows. Santa had yet to arrive, so the base of the tree wasn't overflowing yet and my attention wasn't there either.

sensations flooded me, most immediate of all the mini marshmallows melting in hot chocolate in my hands, warmed by the space purple mug my dad had received for free at some software convention. classic holiday songs filled my ears—Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland—clear and voluptuous voices emanating like a bonfire from the spinning wheels of the reel-to-reel. the machine's face looked sleepy, a dim blue screen muted by the spiraling stringed lights on the tree.

sensational as the chocolate and the music and the lights, but also muted, my dad sat content on the couch next to me. sometimes he hummed to the music, sometimes he tapped his feet or quietly murmured a few lyrics, but mostly he twirled a tiny spoon in his cappuccino cup. he took sips, taking his time.