by Liz Flaherty
I had in mind to write about something non-Christmas. That hasn’t worked out well, because I’ve been sitting here looking at a blank page for a couple of days now and nothing has come to mind. A few minutes ago, I got up to take a break and instead wrapped a couple of Christmas presents. Just now, I got up to get a cup of tea. It made me remember drinking tea at my grandparents’ house. That was where I learned about dropping a piece of peppermint candy into piping hot tea and not only enjoying the taste but the scent as well. It smelled like…Christmas. Tasted like it, too, and I can remember sitting there at the dining room table surrounded by people I loved and the clutter that comes with the holidays. Steeped in the memory and the warm scent of Earl Grey, I can feel it, too.
We’ll have Christmas Eve service at church at 10 PM. Little ones will be sleepy, their older siblings more enthralled by the Christmas Story and the candlelight than they’ll care to admit. We will all remember at one time what is for us the “reason for the season.” And we'll remember other Christmas Eves. The one when we couldn't find the wax shields for the candles. Another when we couldn't find the candles themselves. One when a guest pastor held us in that thrall I mentioned up there, telling the Story without the first note in his hands and putting us all there in that stable as certainly as if it were 2000 years ago.
I remember the year I was six, when my brother Joe bought me two Little Golden Books for Christmas. When I was older and a friend bought me Freckles. And later, when another friend gave me Trixie Belden’s latest mystery. And for years of our marriage, while there was still a local bookstore, my favorite gift from my husband would be a gift card from Walden Books.
Back to when I was a kid again, I remember when some of my gifts would be packages of loose-leaf note paper and clear-barreled BIC pens. I drove my mom nuts by wanting to do little other than read or write. My siblings just thought I was on the strange side—we didn’t use the words nerd or geek then. But they all enabled the both the reading and the writing.
I’ve written about Christmas so many times that I’ve reached a point of not knowing what to say. I’ve written about favorite gifts, songs, movies, and so on, and mostly, I must admit, about favorite memories. They are, for me, the greatest gift of the season.
Merry Christmas and Good Memories to you.
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by Helen DePrima
Until I left for college, I spent every Christmas surrounded by family – my father, my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. Because of the rail passes my father’s job made available, I was still able to come home for the holidays from the University of Colorado and then from the University of Rochester.
All that changed after I married. My new husband and I had moved to Denver because he hoped to gain entrance to the vet school at Colorado State University. We were living on my income as an OR nurse while he worked without pay for veterinarians in the area to gain experience with large animals and to earn good recommendations for the admissions committee. We certainly didn’t have the spare cash to fly East for Christmas.
I missed being with my family, but we made our own traditions that first year. For ten bucks, we cut a Christmas tree in the National Forest, somehow managing to tote it home on the back of our VW beetle. I still have the decorations I made from pine cones and dried flower seed pods gathered in the mountains -- no one thinks to give Christmas ornaments for wedding gifts. We splurged on one box of glass balls on sale at Woolworth’s, colors no one else wanted. Christmas gifts were bought with Gold Bond stamps we faithfully collected at the local Safeway, and my husband spent ten dollars to buy me a kitten, my good buddy for the next eighteen years.
During the last 51 years, we’ve gone on to add kids, in-laws, and assorted friends to our Christmas celebrations, but now we’re down to the two of us plus our globe-trotting daughter whose career takes her to places like China and Peru. We still go to the mountains to cut our tree, and I’ll cook a turkey for the three of us, using my mother-in-law’s good basic stuffing recipe. Who knows where next Christmas will find us, but for now, Merry Christmas!