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Top Holiday Memories - Episode 18

There is much more art to the task of stringing popcorn for the Christmas tree than you might expect.

My mother, brother and I were stringing popcorn. It was my first attempt. Understand, I am the youngest – my sister 6 years my senior and my brother 14 months older than me. My sister had handed out needles and thread.

The process is simple enough. Take a needle and long thread and carefully thread the needle through a piece of popcorn. Repeat the process until you have a nice long string of popcorn and then place it on the Christmas tree for decoration. The problem for me was that every time I tried to push the needle through the popcorn, the darn popcorn would shatter, falling to the floor.

I looked over at my sister. She smiled and threaded another piece of popcorn effortlessly onto the needle. Her strand was almost complete. My brother was moving a little slower, but he was making progress. I had a thread with one piece of broken popcorn on it and a pile of pieces in my lap. This wasn't working. I tried again, and again, the pieces breaking and snapping almost every time and each time the frustration would build – until I shouted, “I can’t DO this!”

My sister snickered. My mother surveyed the situation. “That needle is way too big, Kim,” she said, and began to change the needle and thread for a much smaller one. My sister snickered.

If you asked my OLDER sister today, I’m sure she would still claim that she only gave me the large needle so it would be easier for me to thread it. I still refuse to string popcorn.

Did I mention my sister is much older than me?

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 17

The turn of a phrase, especially in the mouth of a one year old can result in beautiful misunderstandings.

Our Christmas tree, like many family trees, is decorated with ornaments from the past years. There are paper framed Polaroid pictures of our children from elementary school, handmade stars and stockings, painted hand molds, Harry Potter figurines and numerous angels, shepherds, Santas and a baby Jesus or two all hanging, resting and occasionally swinging from the tree.

My one year old granddaughter has taken to touching the ornaments and inspecting them closely. She has learned the names of many of them, but this year’s all time winner is the small Nutcracker figure which she insists on calling … ready for this… Nutcookie.

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 16

The ringing is incessant and then becomes a silent part of the constant din of noise – cars starting and driving off, and people hurrying by, captured in constant conversation about the last or next shopping destination. And there I stand, most of the times in the cold – always ringing the little brass bell.

I volunteer through my Rotary Club to ring the Salvation Army bell each year. Each year I hesitate to sign up for a couple of hours of standing in the cold. Each year I think of hundreds of other things I could be doing instead, and each year I sign-up to ring that little bell.

It happens to me every year. Somehow, as people walk by – a variety of faces, ages, economic classes – I see them acknowledge the bell and the bucket and what it represents: the presence of charity in our world. And as slowly and steadily breath brings life into my lungs, each time I speak to the passersby “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” I feel that elusive spirit of Christmas enter into my spirit and I know that beneath and behind all of the trappings of the holiday, people know , need and seek the blessing of Charity.

The ringing of that bell is when I find Christmas, every year and this year, on December 22nd, I will do it again.

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 15

Years ago I received a Christmas card with the text below. It remains my favorite Christmas message of all time. The card had a simple dove in flight, descending on the front of a navy card. Inside, it read:

“Remembering that once, long ago, heaven reach down and touched earth and Hope was born anew.”


Top Holiday Memories - Episode 14

When my older brother and I were very young, about 8 and 9 respectively, my grandfather gave us guns for Christmas.

They weren't real guns, they were toy shotguns. By pumping an arm on the gun, we could compress air in a chamber that then released a loud ‘puff’ of air from the barrel when fired.

The guns came with targets, stand-up images of wild animals. My favorite was the largest target of a tiger that had a plastic image cut into strips that hung from a small frame. When you ‘shot’ it, the air from the gun would make the tiger disappear until the strips settled back – waiting for the next shot.

My brother and I played for many hours with those guns and targets and anything else we could find to shoot –including neighborhood cats, and dogs. As we grew, both of us turned to hunting different game.

My brother is an avid deer and turkey hunter. I am always hunting for the next story to tell.

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 13

Here is one – just as my mother sent it to me:

“The eve of Christmas 1945 there was a knock at the door and I answered it. To my great joy and surprise it was my Daddy. He had been in World War II in Japan. I had been sick and they sent him home just at Christmas. What a happy time it was for my family.”

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 12

Packed with 10 year old energy and holiday enthusiasm, I went with my mother to buy presents for my brother and sister. I found a simple camera – plastic case, drop-in film (REMEMBER WHEN WE NEEDED FILM?), and a fixed focus lens – that I could afford for my brother. I was BIG TIME excited as we packed it into the bag with the other gifts in the back seat of the car.

I knew my brother (14 months older than me) would NEVER guess what I had bought for him. Christmas was one step closer to fantastic! Later, my brother walked out to the car and climbed into the back seat before my mother and I got to the car. The horror hit me. What if he looked in the bags and saw the camera?!

I rushed to the car, flung open the door and shouted, “Stop! Did you look in that camera?!” My brother just looked at me like I was crazy. Realizing what I had done – I was mortified.

I never have been very good at keeping secrets.

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 11

From this year…

My wife heard a crunching sound coming from the living room and after investigating caught her dog, Sunnie, (note when he is bad he is her dog) making a snack out of one of the ornaments. Sunnie was chewing on a low hanging Gingerbread Man Ornament – now a one legged Ginger Bread Man ornament. My wife recued the ornament and re-hung it higher on the tree – leaving the recent Gingerbread Man amputee for others to see and wonder about.

I guess that Ginger Bread Man didn’t “run, run, run as fast as you can” – fast enough…

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 10

There are so many Christmas songs. We each remember hymns, carols and tunes from year to year. They’re always one or two ‘new’ songs published each year as artists try to share new twists and themes for the season.

I’ll never forget the year I heard “The 12 Redneck Days of Christmas” for the first time.


12 pack of bud, 11 wrestlin' tickets, Tin a' Copenhagen, 9 years probation, 8 table dancers, 7 packs of Redman, 6 cans of spam... 5 flannel shirts..., 4 big mud tires, 3 shot gun shells, 2 huntin dogs, and some parts to a Mustang GT…

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 9

Certain Christmas gifts speak for themselves. It seems my grandmother and grandfather got on a gift theme for a couple of years – gifts that sing.

Two of my favorites were “Billy Bass,” the wall mounted bass that would fold out from the wall and sing “Take Me To the River” and the stuffed reindeer that song “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” when you squeezed its hand. My granddad, then pushing 90+ years old, would get endless joy from introducing each member of the family to the sounds of Bill Bass and Grandma’s Reindeer.”

Some Christmas gifts speak for themselves – literally.