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I’m writing these words at nine a.m. on Christmas Eve. Not a creature is stirring, not even Mrs. T, who isn’t a morning person, or my mother, who went to bed gratefully last night and with any luck will sleep a little while longer. The sun is shining in Smalltown, U.S.A., something it evidently felt no need to do last week. I showed up on Thursday after a more than usually tedious eleven-hour journey and plunged myself into the complicated routine of taking care of my seventy-eight-year-old mother, who broke her pelvis two months ago. Mrs. T flew out to Smalltown to look after her while I wrapped up my remaining deadlines for 2007, and now I’m here, too, making coffee, running errands, and exuding all the good cheer I have in me….