Readers share Christmas memories
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
Erik Lindstrom opens his first Christmas shoebox.
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.