We started the new year off with a visit from our Greenville granddaughters, so for a few days we had all our grandchildren in town. And it was delightful.

While Clarke and Pearce were here, we celebrated granddaughter Payton’s 10th birthday. She was born at the end of December, but we try to separate festivities in her honor from the celebration of Christmas, when we can.

One concession my daughter Cat has made goes against my view of Christmas, but I can’t really blame her. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a firm believer in the entire 12 days if Christmas. As a result, our Christmas decorations, including the tree, stay up until Epiphany on Jan. 6. (As I’ve mentioned before, the magi didn’t come bearing gifts until Epiphany. And besides, why should my Jewish friends have all the fun – they have eight days of Hanukkah, and they get a gift on each of the eight days. We ostensibly have 12 days of Christmas, and shouldn’t we do the same? – thanks once again to Brenda for 12 fabulous reminders of the season.)

But, back to Cat – she had adhered to the 12 days of Christmas with regard to the Christmas tree, especially, until Payton came along. Since Payt has been old enough to understand what her own birthday was about, her mom has felt it didn’t seem fair to still have all the accoutrements of Christmas up on her daughter’s birthday. After all, too many kids with birthdays so close to Christmas fall victim to the excuse, “Oh, this is your birthday and Christmas present combined.” I say, not fair.

I have one friend whose birthday is Dec. 24, who told me that growing up her parents ignored her actual birthday and instead celebrated her ”half-birthday” on June 24. That way, her birthday was never in competition with Christmas, she could have a swim party if she wanted, and more of her friends would likely be able to attend a birthday party. After all, she was probably never going to have a birthday party on Christmas Eve anyway. I have a few other friends with Christmas Eve or Christmas Day birthdays – Rebecca Sylvester and Lora Baxley come to mind immediately – and I wonder how their families handled it.

I have another near-Christmas granddaughter, Pearce. While Payton’s birthday is the week after Christmas, Pearce’s is the week before. I do know that often her parents plan a party for Pearce a week or two before her birthday, again so as not to compete with the hustle and bustle of Christmas. This past year, for example, Pearce’s kid party was on Dec. 7.

So as the year 2020 arrived, Clarke and Pearce arrived, as well. Their parents, daughter Liz and son-in-law Vince were headed to Florida for a brief getaway to celebrate a work milestone.

And while they were gone, I realized what a responsible, helpful grandchild the now 10-year-old Payton has become. Her brother, Cade, has always had a way with little kids. He’s kind to his younger cousins, even when he’d rather be playing his video games. But on this trip, I hardly had to do anything. Payton got her younger cousins dressed each morning. She made sure they brushed their teeth and got their hair combed. She read to them at bedtime. And she spent much of the day entertaining them. And when we went to see the other young cousins, Thomas, 5, and Maddie, 3, Payton was right there playing with all of them – swinging them when asked, playing house with them, even playing Star Wars. Much of the time Thomas wanted Cade to play, and even the near-teen was obliging. In fact, 15-year-old granddaughter, Ariah, was agreeable to help out when needed, as well.

It was a very pleasant beginning to the new year.

Then, two days later, we drove Clarke and Pearce back to their house to meet their parents there. We were planning to go from there to Virginia to see Tom’s dad (who is settling into life in assisted living), and we had discovered it was cheaper to fly out of Greenville than Augusta.

Sunday we attended Grace Church with the whole Bartges family and then had brunch at their favorite place, Nose Dive. The girls particularly enjoy putting coins in the mouth of “Il Porcellino,” a replica of a sculpture in Florence, Italy. It is said that rubbing the boar’s head is good luck, and kids enjoy putting a coin in the boar’s mouth to drop into the grate below. (It is said if your coin indeed falls into the grate, your wish will come true.) Near Il Porcellino is Mifflin, one of nine sculptures of mice in the city. Mifflin is part of the “Mice on Main” project – visitors to downtown try to find all nine mice scattered along Main Street.

We stayed in Greenville long enough to be able to take the girls to their first day of school following the holidays. Having spent a week there in November, I was still familiar with the routine, including Clarke’s penchant for cereal and Pearce’s tendency to pepperoni and breakfast bar sandwiches. (This time, Pearce opted for pepperoni broken up in her Cheerios. Yes, it sounds gross, but as slim as this child is, if she’s willing to eat protein – no matter the form it takes – I’m willing to give it to her.)

So within the first week of 2020 we will have seen all our grandchildren, all our children and their spouses, plus most of our extended family in Virginia.

It’s not a bad way to start off a new year.