Even though we got to see Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose over the holidays, home is still a very special place in this world.

My gifts for the holidays took many forms as they have evolved over the years from "things" to experiences. When I was a boy, I used to dream of having this or that new toy or piece of sporting equipment. For months I would be hinting at my secret desire. It was not until Christmas morning that I realized the anticipation was part of my gift at Christmas.

When Deb and I had our family, it was about getting them things and making them happy. Buying gifts for each other took a back seat to the specialness of seeing our children's faces light up on Christmas morning.

With our children now grown, the gifts are the memories that we experience as we go through this stage of our lives. As we all enjoy the specialness of living in a Pac-12 city, we followed the opportunity to share a sporting event as we experienced some of the cities in the West on the way to the Dec. 29 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which pitted Navy against Arizona State University in San Francisco.

Phoenix brought discussions of how the airport reflects the ever-changing position of that city in the national focus. The airport is continuously expanding and adding the latest in technology.

Staying overnight in Los Angeles gave me an opportunity to spend time with an old buddy from my Guadalajara days, attending dentistry school. That experience changed our lives so greatly that only a handful could share the memories and lessons of those magical days.

San Francisco's stopover allowed us to watch the sun rise on Lombard Street. As the sun emerged over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, we were like two schoolkids running up and down the landmark's sidewalk like it was a playground.

The highlight of the gifts came in an unexpected form as we went to the football game. The calm and serenity there were totally unexpected. The Naval Academy and its graduates and alumni were heavily represented in the crowd.

As the national anthem played and we stood among these heroes, the game took a distant second to the realization that these folks protect us so we can enjoy our football games.

As the sun rose over Pusch Ridge on New Year's Day, Deb and I recounted our Christmas trip and the lessons and memories that we gathered.

As she read the comics and I the sports page, I couldn't describe the comfort level. We both felt the warmth of the new day in our faces and turned to each other with the knowing look of 33 years.

This is home and a new year and another new beginning.

Enjoy the journey,


On StarNet: Read Bob Oro's recent columns at azstarnet.com/boboro

E-mail Bob Oro at northwest@azstarnet.com