Leader Times readers share Christmas memories
I am 89 years old now. Here is a Christmas memory I will never forget.
One year, I was a small child and my sister, one year older, wanted beautiful dolls.
Well, Christmas Eve came and Santa Claus was putting toys under the tree — two of the most beautiful dolls I had ever seen or wanted, and two Raggedy Ann dolls.
We got excited, and my sister and I made noises.
Well, Santa Claus heard and sent us back to bed. We did not get the pretty dolls, for peeking — they were given to our older sisters.
We never peeked again, but I never got a beautiful doll. I told my little ones about it when they were small. That is a hard story to tell.
What is Christmas?
Christmas is filled with all the things that we love most.
Trimming the tree with treasured ornaments and twinkling lights. The perfectly wrapped packages that entice us to guess their contents. Children sending their last-minute requests to Santa Claus, and the sweet smells of holiday cooking and baking.
Our hearts fill with gladness as people everywhere come together to share the joy of the season. The spirit of love encourages us to put a little of ourselves into every aspect of the holiday. The excitement of gathering, the pleasure of planning, the thrill of discovering — all these things help us share the Christmas message with friends and loved ones.
Time-honored traditions are passed from one generation to the next, strengthening our families and enriching our lives. That's how it has been for the past 62 Christmases for me.
My siblings and I have been blessed with parents and grandparents that unselfishly sacrificed to give to us the most perfect Christmas possible, year after year. No matter how much, or more often, how little money was spent on the presents, the true gift was always and foremost the love of family.
The glorious memories of Christmases past still flourish in my mind and will remain some of the best memories of all time for the remainder of my time on this earth. Both of my parents and the grandparents have parted this world, mother being the last, back in September, but the magic they created will live on through the legacy of their love.
My gift to all of you is borrowed from the collection of poems written by my late mother, Dolores, who gave so much joy to so many, especially over the holiday seasons.
It is titled “So There.”
Is there anyone more fussy,
Than a mother in December?
She running here and running there,
With so much to remember.
Now the house must be cleaned just right,
So she stays up half the night;
Therefore, when the morning comes,
She's ready for a fight.
The shopping's next; but what to buy?
For Sam and Sally and dear old dad.
And noisy toys for all the kids,
That they won't get if they are bad.
Now the baking and cooking's next,
For a week before the big day,
By Christmas day she's all worn out,
So what's the sense anyway?
So this year this old lady
Is not in any rushy.
She's going to just sit back
All the young mothers
May you and your family experience all the wonders of Christmas this year and always.
As a new bride, I was brought in 1975 to my first Christmas in West Kittanning. I was helping to prepare the special dinner.
Being a Southern gal, I was kind of shocked that my new family didn't use corn bread in their “dressing” for the turkey but used white store-bought bread, torn in chunks, and left out to dry a bit before mixing with celery, onions and sage.
Helping Grandma Gould prepare the dinner, I couldn't help but noticing her big roasting pan … a heavy aluminum Kelvinator. She told me this was the secret to a successful bird — using that roasting pan. She was 87 when she went to Heaven and I inherited that pan in 1982. Thirty-one years later, I am now home in Kentucky with my 88-year-old mother 10 minutes away…bragging about how delicious my turkey is and “corn bread stuffing.” The magic roasting pan and the love of cooking bring back those good memories of Garfield Street, Keith, Barney, and Minnie Gould. I even found a brand-new Kelvinator pan, which I gave to my niece for her to start a new family tradition. Let's hope the spirit of Christmas and time with family will help everyone have a wonderful holiday season.
Through the years
A beautiful girl, just turned 3, was bubbling with life and youthful glee.
What a touching sight to see, as she sat and laughed on Santa's knee.
Ten years later, as an active teen, she was both athlete and beauty queen.
She liked sports, music, boys and school, and thought Christmas “very cool.”
In 10 more years, as a loving young mom, she tenderly held her newborn son.
On his first Christmas, this mother and wife sincerely thanked God for this precious new life.
Years went by and on each Christmas Day, she and her family found a way
To help the forgotten and those in need; they helped to comfort, to love, serve and feed.
Many years later, as Christmas grew near, a doctor advised her family, so dear: “Tell her you love her, and tell her today; she won't be with us on this Christmas Day.”
Heaven's gates opened and an angel went home; with new eyes she saw our earth as a globe.
She saw all the people — a beautiful site; around many she saw a bright light.
With new ears she heard a voice say, “These are the people you helped on their way,
“They're now helping others; your good travels on, well done dear daughter, and welcome home.”
On each Christmas Day and for all the year through, there's a sacred importance to all that you do.
Hold fast to all that is honest and true; those you love from above might be watching you.
Virginia Beach, Va., formerly of Fairmount City
About 65 years ago, our families were not able to buy gifts for everyone, so we decided to draw names and set a price.
My brother-in-law, Fred, kept telling me that he had my name and was going to give me Evelyn's old black coat, which was badly worn. Evelyn is his wife and my sister.
All was forgotten for a while.
The big day finally arrived and we gathered at my other sister's for our Christmas dinner and gift exchange. I was sitting on the floor and someone passed a beautifully wrapped, big box as my gift. I tore into it and when I took the lid off of the box, there was Evelyn's old black coat.
I was half crying and half laughing, and everyone else was laughing.
In among the folds of the coat was another gift, my exchange gift, a beautiful yellow slip.
What a Christmas and a good memory.
A miracle: Walking
In November 1998, our daughter gave birth to our first grandchild — a beautiful, healthy baby boy, so we thought.
The holidays were coming, and how excited we all were about having a baby to share Christmas with, even though he didn't realize what was going on. Our excitement was short-lived because his first Christmas was spent in Children's Hospital. Our precious grandson had been diagnosed with a very rare blood disorder, and the future looked very bleak for Jami. He was in the hospital on and off for the next couple of months.
In February 1999, Jami was home, and visiting nurses came almost every day to care for him.
He seemed to be doing well until Feb. 7, 1999. Jami woke-up and couldn't breathe. His parents rushed him to Armstrong County Memorial Hospital, where he was life-flighted to Children's Hospital.
We were all scared, but we had to believe all would be well with this little guy. Unbeknownst to us, Jami's heart stopped while in the helicopter. Thank goodness they got him back, and again on Valentine's Day, when his heart stopped again. It was a roller coaster ride, daily, for all of us.
After all the time on a ventilator, the doctor decided Jami would have to have a trach put in his throat to breathe.
He seemed to get stronger every day, and finally in April 1999, Jami was home. But the doctors told his parents he would never be able to do anything — no sitting up, no crawling, no walking. Basically, he would be a vegetable.
My daughter would not accept this, so she, the visiting nurses and therapists worked with him every day until, miracle of miracles, he was soon able to do almost everything. As his first birthday came near, we were so surprised to see him take his first steps.
When Christmas arrived, I can still see that small baby boy came running to greet us when we knocked on the door.
If ever there was a Christmas miracle — here it was. He was walking! That was the best Christmas ever.
Jami is now a 15-year-old young man. The trach was removed 10 years ago, and his blood disorder seems to be gone. He's truly a miracle, and we are thankful everyday for him.
Merry Christmas, and always remember there are miracles.
The real Santa
I have many Christmas memories, one for every Christmas.
The Christmas of 1960 is the one that stands out, because it defines the way I have seen the season ever since.
I was 6 years old and had just realized that Santa Claus was really my parents. When I told my mother that I wasn't going to write Santa, my poor mother broke into tears. Her last child (of six) had grown up a little; no longer a baby. I had never seen her cry until that day. I immediately said I would make a list anyway, just in case. Smiling again, she told me that she would always believe in Santa Claus.
I'm 59 now, and to this day I believe in Santa, too. At 27, I had my first child and, lo and behold, I understood what she'd been telling me. Santa is love, expressed through giving. It's that simple. Like mother, like daughter.
Thank you, mum.
Love you forever.
Through a child's eyes
Being the mother of four wonderful children, and the grandmother of 10 beautiful grandchildren, I have many, many precious memories. I would like to share this one with you.
This memory is of our first-born child, Paula, who has been at home with our Lord since she was 13 years old.
Paula was in first grade at the time, and Christmas was drawing near. One morning, as we were starting our daily devotions, she said to me, “Mommy, we need to pray for my little friend at school, she was crying yesterday.”
I asked, “Was she sick?”
Paula replied, “No, Mommy, she wasn't sick, she was really, really sad. They can't pay their bills and she isn't getting anything for Christmas. But, Mommy, I told her not to cry anymore because my Daddy would pay all their bills.”
I was ready to explain to this little one that her own Daddy was working two jobs to pay our own bills and, how could she be thinking such a thing?
As I was taking my breath to explain, Paula looked up at me with the most beautiful smile and said, “Mommy, I know we are rich because we are so happy.”
As I thanked God for our many blessings, I held her in a big bear hug and whole-heartedly agreed with her, knowing that it was all because of the Christ of Christmas.
And Paula's little friend did get something for Christmas.
I'm now 65, and one of my fondest memories was “Tradition.”
Tradition was a name I had given to a string of garland that always hung on my parent's Christmas tree.
I was only a toddler when my mother purchased it. It was probably a new style of garland for the 1950s. It was red and made of cellophane; shiny, bright and bristly, and very stunning on the tree.
Every year, we hung Tradition on the Christmas tree, always beginning at the top, and zig-zagging across the branches until it reached the bottom.
It began as one large string, but over the years, it became brittle and fragile until it ended up as several smaller ones that we had to handle it very gingerly.
Tradition saw the demise of leaded icicles and the strings of electric lights, that when one bulb went out, the tree would go dark. Tradition saw Christmas balls come and go, and the disappearance of spray-on snow, and other decorations that became broken or obsolete.
It was just a few years ago, after my father passed, that my mother moved to an apartment. The next Christmas, when my family was decorating her tree we discovered that we couldn't find Tradition.
“Mother, where is Tradition?” I asked.
“Oh, it looked pretty tattered, I threw it out,” Mother replied.
My mother is now gone, and so is Tradition.
There isn't a Christmas that passes that I don't think of Mom and Dad, and the family times we had decorating the tree with “Tradition.”
We have our own Tradition, one purchased at an antiques shop. It's not quite the same.
My Christmas family
I enjoy all of the holidays during the year, but my favorite time of year is Christmas.
Christmas has always meant so much to me. I especially enjoy attending worship and Christmas Eve services with my church family.
It is a homey feeling being gathered all together in the beautifully decorated sanctuary, singing, hearing the scripture readings, and message of God's son, Jesus, who came to save us all.
The candlelight service is so peaceful and it gives everyone hope. Some of the familiar faces are now gone, but their kindness and memory will always live on in my heart.
Leader Times editorial clerk