Laden with Love

Memories of Christmas Past

Not all gifts come wrapped in colorful paper or in gift bags tied with bows.

Every year a dear friend/former writing student steals time from her busy schedule the day after Thanksgiving to help me decorate for Christmas.

A Rudolph, complete with red plush nose and made of tree branches by a neighbor sits in my front yard, along with Merry Christmas and snowman signs. A fragrant swag with a red bow adorns my lamp post, courtesy of another dear friend/former student.

A Nativity plush throw, gift from a neighbor, covers a chair. A collection of angels and stuffed snow people sit on the windowsill behind a small artificial tree with years of ornaments from family and friends. Nativity figures inhabit a rough-hewn stable, courtesy of former neighbors and a niece and her family.

Memories are even more precious than the decorations. Decades of family get-togethers, with many who over the years have gone on ahead.

Singing carols around our second-hand piano by the light of kerosene lamps (we had no electricity until I was out of high school).

 Waiting on snowy days, noses pressed to frosty windows and wondering whether out-of-town relatives would be able to come. Watching Mom stretch pennies and check lists again and again to make sure each of over 30 relatives would have a small gift.

Going with Dad to cut down a Christmas tree that would reach the 10-foot ceiling in our old home that had been a one-room schoolhouse where Mom taught all eight grades.

Decorating with paper chains, popcorn, and a few ornaments from years past. Ironing carefully saved wrapping paper (no ripping into packages back then. We had to make it do or do without.”

Children’s letters to Santa from the early 1900s newspapers reflected a simpler way of life and expectations. Letters usually ended with, “Please remember me.”

  • hair ribbons
  • a picture book for a sister
  • an orange
  • a coat
  • a kettle for Mama

The Perfect Gift

November 1963. Mom, Dad, my younger brother, Randy, my seven-year-old nephew, Jerry, who lived with us, and I gathered around our old-fashioned dining room table for supper. Randy was to leave for Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island the next day.

Randy laid down his fork and said what everyone was thinking. “Looks like it will be a while before we’re all here like this again.”

Dad burst into tears and left the table. It was the first time we had ever seen him cry.

After a moment of stunned silence, Jerry slipped from his chair and into the living room. His voice floated back through the open doorway. “Don’t cry, Grandpa. You’ve still got me.”

Almost sixty years later, the childish voice echoes in my heart and mind. “Don’t cry. You’ve still got me,” followed by the promise from Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (KJV).

Surrounded by precious memories, I will once again celebrate the birth and resurrection of our Lord with joy and gladness.

Baby Jesus Manger Scene Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures

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