I love little children. Aside from W.C. Fields, who doesn’t? And I love my grandchildren the most. They still laugh at my jokes, they do what I say (most of the time), and they are fully loaded with an endless amount of energy. Neither one of them understands the meaning of being exhausted.

Let’s face it: they are newcomers, like little space aliens in full-tilt discovery mode. They are still fascinated by everything around them and are engaged in an ongoing learning experience as they inspect every inch of their surroundings with the curiosity of a dedicated scientist. I can see them now, cuddled up with their grandmother, listening intently to her as she reads, helpfully pointing out and naming the animals and objects on every page. The only other moment of real stasis is when they’re asleep; that’s when you get the full measure of their innocence and beauty. It’s at that time and that time only that these two whirling dervishes turn into angels.

There’s no question that our granddaughters—Chloe, 4, and Madelyn, 2 1/2—have made a big difference in our lives, and it was never more apparent than this past holiday season. Until they showed up, I had pretty much given up on the holidays.

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, I was on autopilot. How many times can a person watch It’s A Wonderful Life? Who cares about the ball dropping in the middle of Times Square? (10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ugh.) I really love my family and friends and enjoy being with them, but for me, the holiday season had run out of airspeed. Well, until this past Christmas.

This past holiday season was a different experience because, for the first time, Chloe Grace and Madelyn Marie were both old enough to share in the excitement of Christmas. And right behind them was, you guessed it, Ma and Pa Shuff. This past summer, Grandma had been in and out of children’s stores looking for clothes for the girls. I know this because she meticulously took each dress, bathing suit and shorts set out of her shopping bag and proudly displayed her day’s work to me. She stockpiled these presents for months. But for us, the real gift of Christmas and promise of the New Year was these two little girls who gave us a greater appreciation of what it meant to be a grandparent. Their presence generated a new flow of energy for what had become a very blah and perfunctory time of the year.

The sounds and sights of this past holiday will live forever in my memory. My old jaded cynicism for this time of year took a backseat to the excitement of Christmas as seen through the eyes of Chloe and Madelyn. The centerpiece of our family’s holiday was not the decorations on the dining room table but our grandchildren, two little girls, seated at that table. To witness the joy in their faces as they looked at us­—the people who love them dearly­—made this a very special day for them and for us.

The Grinch can’t wait for Santa’s return.