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Top Holiday Memories - Episode 24

This one is from my brother. I've edited it slightly for brevity...

We always waited for dad to get home from work (he always worked late it seemed to me, on Christmas Eve). We always opened gifts on Christmas Eve. One person would pass out the gifts and everyone would pile their gifts up, waiting for all of them to be given out. Then we would rip them open (well I would) as fast as we could, and hold them up for everyone to see. It was over fast but always great.

This one night I went to bed waiting for Santa, sleeping in the PJs I just opened as a gift. The PJs were always too hot for us living at Myrtle Beach, but we put them on and paraded around the room, anyway. I finally did get to sleep that night. Sometime in the early morning I awoke to find the best Santa gift in the world - an electric train set with a black engine that would smoke and a light in the front. The track was already assembled and ready to run. I don't remember any other gifts that year, but I remember the train.

I still have that train.

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 23

It seems that there were a number of years when my siblings and I lived by the adage, “The one who has the most presents wins.”


Several times, in the days that led up to Christmas, we would sort the presents under the tree into piles by name. Then would come the accounting as we tallied up the gifts and announced who had the most gifts. I’m not sure why we did it. Perhaps it was just a way of passing time. Perhaps it came from some innate sibling rivalry. Maybe it was just a way of immersing ourselves in the excitement of Christmas. What I do know, as best I recollect, is that I usually won.


Hey. This is my blog and I can tell it like I want to!

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 22

Continuing on the Homemade Ornament theme, I also remember what you can make with two Dixie cups and a string.

Make a small hole in the bottom of two paper Dixie cups. Thread a piece of colored yarn through the cups to connect them (tie a knot on each end of the yarn to keep it from pulling through). Then, cover each cup with tin-foil and you now have “Silver Bells” to place on the tree – or on your ears while you run around the house singing Christmas songs – not that I have personally done anything like that – I’m just saying, you could.

Top Holiday Memories - Merry Christmas!

Frankly, I don’t remember if it was a gift on Christmas or one that arrived during the Christmas season, but it is a gift that captures much of what Christmas is truly about – simple giving in love.

My son crafted a Christmas coffee mug when he was a very young lad. He drew the picture himself on the side of the mug – a Christmas tree, two wrapped presents, and angel on the tree top - and then presented it to me. Every year when we bring out the Christmas decorations we replace our normal glasses and mugs with Christmas ones. His gift is always among them, and all season long I reach for that mug with great love and care.

The mug sits around reminding me that I am a most fortunate father, step-father and husband. It reminds me that we never know what act of kindness, no matter how small and ‘imperfect’ will remain permanently in someone’s life. It reminds me how quickly life can change and how important it is to enjoy each simple moment. It reminds me that taking time for a quiet cup of coffee and delicate reflection is important in the busy holidays. It causes me to hear the carols of children singing in church.

Mostly, I see that angel, perched atop the tree and hear an ancient voice speak a timeless message softly through thousands of years, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Merry Christmas.

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 21

If you are willing to risk personal injury, you can make these Christmas ornaments.

In both school and at home I remember making ornaments for the holiday. My mother has always been creative (the license plate on the front her car read “Crafty Lib” for years) and when it came to a inexpensive way to occupy our time at Christmas, she would help us with projects.

Take the lids from soup cans. Smear glue on the sides of the lid. Sprinkle colored glitter on lid. Let dry. Make a hole in the edge of the lid and loop a piece of twine through it. Presto! Homemade tree ornaments!

(NOTE: I know the edges of soup can lids are sharp, but I grew up in a time when parents told children to be careful and we quickly learned that NOT being careful when told usually meant we got hurt. It seems like a lesson that needs to be learned.)

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 20

When did you learn that Christmas trees look much smaller at the tree lot, than when you get them home?

For years, every Christmas I would fight the battle of the too tall Christmas tree. No matter how much I tried to reason, explain, and plead, my first wife would insist on having me buy a too-tall-for-the-house tree and we would end up with a tree that looked like it grew into the ceiling.

And every time, she would stand back and proclaim, “It’s perfect.” I guess it was. Why not? If Charlie Brown can conjure sentiment by wrapping a blanket around a twig of a tree, why can’t a tree that encompasses the entire living room and spans across the ceiling be “perfect?”

Christmas perfect is in the eye and heart of the beholder.

Top Holiday Memories - Episode 19

When it comes to the perfect Christmas gift, it seems it is the thought that counts, but the gift matters too.

I took a quick poll of my wife, youngest step-daughter and myself (we were all in the same room so it was a poll of the available) in response to the question, “What was your best Christmas present.”

Wife – the year, as a teenager, when my dad gave me a Christmas card with a note good for contact lenses. It was a time when contacts were new – still hard lenses made from glass – and at a time when, even though I wanted them madly, they were expensive and we didn't have a lot of money. I didn't expect them. It was THE BEST surprise.

Step-Daughter – Mom didn't believe in lots of TV or Video games. She’s like that. But, one year, when it was new – mom broke down and got me a Nintendo 64! My older sister was green with envy (she still hasn't gotten over it) because she was never allowed anything like that. We all played Mario Cart Racing until we knew every turn and jump by heart.

Me – I’m a huge fan of Jimmy Buffet. I've had almost every album (that’s what we had before CDs), tape and CD he ever recorded. A couple of years ago my wife gave me tickets to one of his concerts for Christmas. We never talked about it. I never asked for them or even to go. She just knew that I would enjoy and cherish the experience. She was right - Fins Up!

You – What was your best Christmas gift ever? Feel free to share in the comments…

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.