The past couple of weeks have been kinda wacky. My social calendar — usually a barren wasteland — has been crammed chock full o’ gatherings:

A Cincinnati Public Library writer-in-residence event – because who wouldn’t want to hear Manuel Iris read beautiful poems like this one?

Then the monthly “Hoppy Hour” with my Xavier besties. We’ve gathered each month for the past three and a half years. Always a good time.

Then meeting up with an old radio buddy at the home of another music head.

Happy hour with my friend Mark, with whom I worked for 17 years until he retired last month.

A holiday party with some pickleball pals.

A Xavier basketball game with neighbors and two of my sons.

A pub crawl organized by one of my best friends from work. Because who wouldn’t want to hang out at a bar with this guy?

(True story: at the end of the evening, the Uber driver who came to take him home wasn’t familiar with Christmas Vacation characters and was a bit hesitant to give “Cousin Eddie” a ride.)

A “planning session” (read: happy hour) for a New Year’s Eve party with friends I met when our kids were in grade school together. (I can’t make the NYE party, but I can “plan” with the best of them!)

Last night was happy hour with a couple of ad agency pals.

Today is lunch with pickleballers, and happy hour with neighbors and friends.

My liver is going to go on strike (actually I didn’t drink at a few of these gatherings). And honestly there were days were I was tempted to skip out on the festivities. But I’d rather err on the side of going. Most of the folks I’m meeting up with are friends I haven’t seen in weeks or months. It’s crazy that everything gets crammed into the two-week window before Christmas, but seeing old friends (and meeting new co-workers on a pub crawl) is good for the soul.

I don’t need stuff. I just want connection. That’s the gift that keeps on giving. Keep your presents… and thanks a million for your presence.