Read­ers share Christ­mas me­mories

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Just af­ter Thanks­giv­ing, we asked our read­ers to share some of their Christ­mas me­mories. Here is how they re­sponded.

My tril­ogy of Christ­mas me­mories

As a child, Christ­mas Eve was for ex­tended fam­ily time for me. I come from an Ital­ian back- ground on my fa­ther’s side. We lived in sunny Cal­i­for­nia, had no snow, but we had a lot of fun vis- it­ing rel­a­tives on Christ­mas Eve.

One that sticks out in my mem­ory was when my par­ents, brother and I went over to my sweet Un­cle Frank and Aunt Louise’s house. Un­cle Frank was my dad’s old­est brother. They al­ways had the big­gest Christ­mas tree I had ever seen. It was so high it touched the ceil­ing. All my dad’s sib­lings and their chil­dren came. We sat around, ate home­made pizza, opened Christ­mas presents from rel­a­tives, stayed up and then went to mid­night Mass. I still see Un­cle Frank’s tree in my vi­sion. Un­cle Frank is 94. He lost Aunt Louise sev­eral years ago. My own chil­dren and I have the same tra­di­tion, in that Christ­mas Eve is our spe­cial time as a fami- ly to come to­gether.

An­other Christ­mas mem­ory comes from the first Christ­mas af­ter

my di­vorce, as a sin­gle mom, I didn’t have much money. I can’t re­mem­ber what I got my two sons, but re­mem­ber buy­ing my daugh­ter a small baby doll. I can still see that baby doll. My joy was even though my chil­dren were very young, they loved their gifts.

My last Christ­mas mem­ory is when my brother, Jimmy, came to see me and my chil­dren af­ter many years. He met my two sons as tod­dlers, but had never met my daugh­ter. My chil­dren were all grown and were de­lighted to meet and share Christ- mas with their un­cle. That was the last time we ever saw my brother, but it was a Christ­mas I will nev- er for­get, as my brother com­mit­ted sui­cide right af­ter he left. God gave us a lovely time of the year to share and to re­mem­ber Jimmy be­fore he died. Cassie San­drovich, Brandy­wine

A fun and sim­ply joy­ful Christ­mas

It was Christ­mas Eve 1955. Betty Lee, Johnny and I were off to bed at 8 p.m. in our Loveville home. Mom and Dad were still down­stairs rus- tling about. The smell of stuffed ham filled the house as it cooked on the old Home Com­fort wood stove. The pleas­ant scent of cedar also in­fused our coun­try farm home as we des­per­ately tried to fall asleep. The floor-to-ceil- ing cedar tree that Dad, with our help of course, cut from the woods on the farm stood in the cor­ner of the din­ing room wait- ing for Santa to dec­o­rate.

Betty Lee and I slept in the same sec­ond-floor bed­room on the east end of our green-topped A-framed abode. The moon and stars were shin­ing so brightly that night through the bed­room win­dows. When I was sure Betty Lee was asleep, I got out of bed and knelt at the win­dow, just star­ing at that most beau­ti­ful moon, wait­ing for Santa to fly by in his sleigh and plop down on our roof. I don’t know how long I stayed there in vain, but I got cold and had to re­turn to my bed and slip un­der the cov­ers.

I dozed off and be­fore I knew it, Betty Lee and Johnny were shak­ing me awake. It was 5 a.m. and they were ready to see what Santa had left. We all ran down the en­closed stair­way, bump­ing into each other as we raced to dis­cover Santa’s trea­sures.

Santa was al­ways gener- ous, but I won­dered what time he had de­liv­ered those toys and dec­o­rat- ed the tree that shone so brightly even with­out elec­tric lights. Mom was mak­ing pan­cake bat­ter in the kitchen and Dad, hav­ing al­ready fed the cows and pigs, stoked the em­bers in the stove. Betty Lee was talk­ing a mile a minute de­scrib­ing all the things she wanted Santa to bring her the next year and Lit­tle Johnny’s eyes were wide, round and aglow with hap­pi­ness.

We couldn’t eat our break­fast be­fore church, so off we went to St. Joseph’s Church in Mor- ganza for the 6:30 Mass. We re­turned home to Mom’s break­fast of coun- try sausage links and pan­cakes and waited for our grand­par­ents to ar­rive from Bal­ti­more. A great mid­day meal and con­ver­sa­tions of old times with lots of laugh­ter made our house a most pre­cious home for the hol­i­days. Ruth Coombs, Cal­i­for­nia

A shoe­box Christ­mas

My hus­band, Erik, was born in Fin­land al­most 90 years ago. His mother died on his sec­ond birth­day, and his dad died a few years later. He and his brother had to live in an or­phan­age and they never re­ceived gifts or toys.

He came to Amer­ica in 1951. We met in 1954, fell in love and got mar­ried. When Franklin Gra­ham with Samaritans Purse started Op­er­a­tion Christ­mas Child shoe­boxes in 1993, we loved the idea of filling shoe­boxes with gifts for poor chil­dren that never re­ceived any­thing. It was world­wide. We were over­come with emo­tion see­ing pic­tures of the chil­dren open­ing their boxes.

Last year, Lisa, who is in charge of shoe­boxes at our church, know­ing about his child­hood, asked Erik to say some­thing to the con­gre­ga­tion of how he would have felt re­ceiv­ing a shoe­box. He did, and touched peo­ple’s hearts, es­pe­cially parish­ioners Mike and Lorri Robey. They looked at each other and said, “Well, Mr. Erik is get­ting a shoe­box this year.”

About a week or so later we heard a knock on our door, and there they were with gifts and a big shoe­box with wide, red rib­bon on it. We all sat down as we opened the box filled with lovely gifts. Tears were run­ning down Erik’s face, and our faces, too, as we thought about a lit­tle or­phan boy in Fin­land open­ing his own shoe­box.

It is too late to do a Christ­mas shoe­box this year, but come next Novem­ber why not make a poor lit­tle child happy with their own shoe­box?

Merry Christ­mas and a blessed new year. Alice Lind­strom, Port To­bacco

Chart­ing a Christ­mas course

Read about a snow­storm that took place in the ear- ly 1960s. A Christ­mas story on the Po­tomac River.

My fa­ther, Capt. Shel- don G. Rus­sell, cap­tain of the Win­nie R., a Ches- apeake Bay boat, my sis- ter, Shirley, and I fer­ried Capt. Ge­orge Mil­burn, cap­tain of the Pa­paGuy, a tug­boat, across the river to Vir­ginia.

The threat­en­ing snow clouds on the hori­zon gath- ered, as Dad, Shirley, and I boarded the Win­nie R. The south­west wind be­gan to blow and the snow started to flow, as Capt. Ge­orge came down the pier, with Christ­mas pack­ages for his fam­ily. A right jolly old self, with red cheeks and a lit­tle round belly that shook when he laughed. In the back­ground the tall pines swayed with the wind as waves kissed Piney Point sand. The fra- grant scent of snow was in the air. The melodies of wind and waves played old sea chanties unit­ing sky, sea and ground, adorn­ing the painted can vases of my mind.

Capt. Ge­orge handed Shirley and me his gifts, as the snow and cold turn our cheeks red, but mak­ing our spir­its bright. With a wink of his eye and a laugh he boarded the boat very care­fully, for the snow made the ves­sel slick. He took a seat in one of the chairs Dad had placed on each side of the cabin door, lo­cat­ing them un­der shel­ter from the storm.

Brush­ing snow off the gifts, we placed them in the cabin. Dad fol­lowed us in and gave us orders. Shirley was to keep her hands on the wheel and I was to keep my eyes on the com­pass mag­netic nee­dle that charted our course.

Af­ter we un­tied the stern and bow, we pushed off from the pier. Dad started the en­gine and pointed the boat south­west up the Po­tomac. Sweep­ing snow off, we en­tered the cabin and took our sta­tions, as Capt. Shell set down next to Capt. Ge­orge. Dur­ing the ride, Dad would keep his eyes on the en­gine.

With pipes in hands, the two old souls told tales of the wa­ters. They lived on the edge of time. No fear, just con­cern about the wa- ters. The wa­ters had been their bless­ings. They were of the wa­ters their whole life long. The wa- ters had been their song.

We were on our way over the river to old Vir­ginia, south­west bound through the snow to Coles Point Tav­ern we go. Oh, how the wind blew, sting­ing our toes and bit­ing our noses as over the river we went.

Snow crys­tals cov­ered the win­dows at an ac­cel­er­at­ing rate. Not even our gloved hands against the win­dows helped, but, oh, the boat com­pass knew the way to chart our course through swift-fall­ing snow.

Piney Point Light­house stood with her lu­mi­nous light shin­ing bright in the sky, as a proud bea­con to guide us. Our jour­ney would take an hour and a half to ar­rive at Coles Point.

The Win­nie R. is a strong boat, a wood boat, a work boat, she took to the wa­ters, and in no time we crossed the river. The snow eased off and Ragged Point Light­house’s bea­con came into sight. Dad took the wheel, steered the boat into the har­bor and docked. Shirley and I tied the boat to the pier as Capt. Ge­orge’s fam­ily ran down the dock and jumped into their fa­ther’s arms to take him home for Christ­mas.

We looked for­ward to

Mom’s home-cooked meal and sip­ping hot choco­late un­der the Christ­mas tree. Our day on the riv- er came to an end. It was so much fun for two young nav­i­ga­tors.

My Christ­mas present: The jour­ney in life is just as im­por­tant as the des­ti­na­tion. The love of giv- ing and the ex­cite­ment of liv­ing charts my course to an ad­ven­tur- ous spirit, dur­ing Ad­vent sea­son and all year through. S. Eleanor Strick­land, Great Mills

Pulling Je­sus out of the box

This morn­ing I found Je­sus. I look for him ev­ery year at Christ- mas in the box. I care­fully packed him away the year be­fore.

I look for­ward to the tra­di­tion of put­ting up the manger scene. How­ever it didn’t al­ways have the same sen­ti­ment. I didn’t know or un­der­stand what all of this truly means ex­cept that it hap­pened long be­fore my time.

Be­fore I met Je­sus and learned of the gift of his life for us all, they were just stat­ues. Packed and un- packed at Christ­mas, trea­sured as beau­ti­ful hand­made gifts given for a wed­ding gift was the Holy Fam­ily. The rest were given for birth­days and Christ­mas un­til the set was com­plete.

There was a time when I suf­fered with de­pres­sion. I re­ally strug­gled with the hol­i­days. My coun­selor sug­gested I come up with new tra­di­tions of my own as the old ones were de­pen­dent on peo­ple who were no longer with me. I didn’t know what that looked like re­ally. Tra­di­tions? So I started with a poll of al­most any­one who would lis­ten. Three ques­tions: What’s your fa­vorite Christ­mas song? What’s your fa­vorite Christ­mas movie? What’s your fa­vorite Christ­mas tra­di­tion?

So I came up with a few ideas I thought and started try­ing some new things. Then I was dec­o­rat­ing. It dawned on me that this is a tra­di­tion. I never thought of it that way but it is.

I was put­ting up my Na­tiv­ity scene and as I pulled baby Je­sus out of the box I re­flected on the changes in my life. The gift of him and that know­ing him has changed me in ways I can’t ex­plain. I cried and prayed and thanked him for put­ting on skin and liv­ing so that he could know me and how I feel. So that I could also come to know him, too. The gift that I am his and he is mine.

So while I pack and un­pack this box ev­ery year, the smile that comes when I find Je­sus this year, hope­fully when the sea­son is over I, in my heart, don’t pack Je­sus away. He shines his light in my life for all to see. His gift is not just for me but for all who will ac­cept it. Tracy Gat­ton, Hol­ly­wood

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Erik Lind­strom opens his first Christ­mas shoe­box.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

A San­drovich fam­ily pic­ture at Christ­mas: old­est son Brian, left, Robin, Cassie, brother Jimmy. In front of Cassie, younger son Jeff and in front of him, grand­son Noah.

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