Better throughout the year

Our friends' children under the Christmas tree at Tammy and JJ's home, December 2009.

Our friends’ children under the Christmas tree at Tammy and JJ’s home, December 2009.

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”Laura Ingalls Wilder

Do you have any favorite childhood memories of Christmas that bring you joy to this day?  I do, and I hope you do too.  Part of the appeal of the holiday season is the chance to put away our older, wiser and grouchier personae for at least a short time, and embrace our inner children.  We eat too much, stay up too late, and “deck the halls” in a variety of ways that make life a bit cheerier, even in the face of oncoming winter months.

Today, I hope you will take a few minutes to do something that you are normally too busy to do.  Write seasonal cards to friends, listen to a favorite Christmas song or two, hang an ornament on your tree or wherever you can find a place to hang it, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, coffee or tea (or if you’re like me, maybe one of each?) and enjoy the gifts of December.

50 Comments

  1. Fortunately all my memories of Christmas are happy ones. So many tragedies seem to befall folks right around the end of the year. Like a lot of folks I have faced layoffs around the holidays including a big one after 13 years with McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis. All of life’s challenges pass with time. Somehow we manage of pick ourselves up and start over. I lost my wife, job, car and home with that layoff I mentioned, yet I’m still here, still happy and now retired without any real worries. It is indeed a time to be grateful.

    • Bob, your story is a great reminder to any of us who are facing times of uncertainty and sorrow. No matter how hopeless things may seem, there are realities we cannot now imagine that await us if we keep the faith and refuse to give up. I am so happy that you have been able to survive what must have seemed a fatal blow to any chance of a rewarding life. Your stamina is a great encouragement this holiday season– which, as you point out, is far from joyful for so many people. Hope the new year is a wonderful one for you.

  2. Memories Cherish.

    • Thank you, lvsrao! I hope you are doing well

  3. Good morning, Julia! Yes, I will!
    And I will combine my hot chocolate with my coffee – and have two cups, anyway!
    Merry Christmas!

    • Susan, you are reading my mind again! In fact, as I write this, I am sipping just such a combination. 😀 Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  4. Anon E. Moose

    “Personae” – Love it! I am one of the few people that realize the plural of a Kleenex are a few Kleeneces. I digress.
    What I really wanted to say is that I know a couple of little boys, in south Texas, whose daily countdown to Christmas has them more excited than I have known them to be in previous Decembers!

    • I’m so happy to think of other people enjoying my little surprises. Though the time it takes to prepare this holiday treat for various people means that my home is covered in wrapping paper, ribbons and boces (get it? heh-heh) it’s probably more fun for me than for the intended recipients. This year I prepared my trademark holiday gesture for eleven different people, which means I’ve already wrapped well over 132 boces this year — but all the years of practice have made me faster at it, and Jeff has grown tolerant of the mess. The best part is having MOST of my holiday work done in time to get the packages to their destinations by December 13! WAX ON, WAX OFF! as Mr. Miyagi might say.

      • December 13th? That’s Today. As Pogo (The cartoon strip – for those under 55) used to say: “Friday the thirteenth came on a Saturday this month.”

        • I can remember Daddy saying that on the 13th of whatever month it was…(not always on Saturday, of course)

  5. Carolyn

    Happy holidays to you all. We are staying put for Christmas, just being lazy. I hope you all will have lots of fun and hope Grady will be with you. Children make the holidays great. Our list has been given to us so shopping has started. Sorry to say but I don’t have the spirit yet. My eyes are doing okay, waiting until next month to see what we will do. Sounds like new glasses with some prisms in the bifocals. Double vision gone except I the reading area. How is Jeff dong? You all take care and hugs to all.

    • Hi Carolyn, I was wondering how your vision is doing, so I appreciate the update. I’ll keep praying for improvements. I hope you will be able to get into the spirit soon. Sometimes it takes awhile. We will get to see Grady; they are coming for a few days beginning next weekend. Jeff is amazing as always. We got home from the hospital at 9 pm Thursday (he had minor surgery for an internal abscess, a side effect of chemo that never healed), and despite wearing another drain around for the next two weeks, he insisted on going back to work for a full day on Friday; he didn’t want to miss the residents’ clinics which go on all day on Fridays. His stamina is a great example to me. I’m still trying to wake up this morning, waiting for the caffeine to kick in! 😀 Lazy Christmas sounds just perfect to me! Santa, are you listening? Ho ho ho! I’ll send you guys a longer update with the usual Christmas card. We love you!

  6. Roger

    Julia, one of my memories that I still have to contend with as an adult is the sleepless/restless night before Christmas. Anticipation would/still gets me worked up thinking about what Santa would leave under the tree…back in the day for me but now for my grandkids. I love Christmas!!!

    • Roger, this is true for me too. When we were kids, the four of us would meet in my older brother’s bedroom at around 3 a.m. and count down until the hour we were allowed to get up (one year it was as early as 4:30 a.m., but usually more like 5 or 6). We would talk about what we hoped for, before storming downstairs to plunder our stockings while Mom and Dad made coffee and woke up before we were allowed to go check out what Santa left. Mama and Daddy were always really into Christmas. We didn’t celebrate birthdays or Easter or anything else in a grand way, so Christmas was a year end festival of fun. But nothing beats that anticipation of Christmas Eve. As you say, we can now re-live that magic through our grandchildren. Anyone who loves Christmas is a kindred spirit! Thanks for being here.

      • And as Tom Smothers observer (speaking of restless Christmas Eves)
        “From out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
        I ran to the window and threw up . . . .” (Yep he stopped with that.)

        • All their old routines are on You Tube now. Carla, George, Daddy and I watched some of them on my computer last time I was home. Still funny after all these years.

  7. Our Christmas was always spent with my Uncle Johnny and Aunty Kathleen and our cousins. I have a few cute pictures from when we were kids, all in front of the tree like this. When we were kids, Aunty K would buy us PJ’s for Christmas. They’d visit Christmas Eve and we got to open their gift. Back in the day, this was the ‘one’ new jammy for the year. So our Christmas pics always looked like we were polished and sparkly new. I also enjoyed the real tree. I’ve done an artificial one for years now because I like to celebrate it much longer. Usually I put it up the first week of Dec and take it down after Ukrainian Christmas. This year, it’s up and partially decorated. I just couldn’t get it finished before leaving. Oh well, something to look forward to when we get home 😀 xo k

    • K, I switched to an artificial tree for the same reason, and because the weight of my HUGE ornament collection would kill any tree, no matter how big. 😀 I didn’t realize you were going to be out of town when I sent you the Christmas package, but maybe it will be *Perfect* to go along with Ukrainian Christmas, because it is meant to stretch out over 12 days anyway. So maybe instead of being late, it will be right on time! When do you get back? Re: the Christmas jammies, I loved reading about you as a child in your fancy new PJ’s. I emailed you a photo of Grady wearing his Christmas jammies on Thanksgiving.

      • I do remember seeing your amazing tree featured here at one time. Have you ever counted your ornaments? I’m thinking of making an inventory. I actually bought two new glass ornaments today at the Del Coronado Hotel and another the other day at a shop on Orange Street. I’m afraid I’m rather obsessed. After I bought two today, I also saw a Pelican which reminded me of the lake. We’d get the white ones all summer. They nested there. But I resisted thinking I might go back before we leave if I haven’t overspent. I’ll kick myself when we get home if it’s not on our tree, LOL.

        I’m heading to email to see my little Grady pal, what a fabulous day this has been. xoxo

        • I just saw the pics of you, Mr. B and Alys – what FUN!!! I’ve never counted my ornaments; I don’t even want to know and I’d be afraid to guess. I did force myself to quit buying them when the tree got to the point that I just couldn’t keep finding room for them. I’m not doing the big York tree (the one that takes a week to decorate) this year – just the 7 ft. one in Alexandria, which has about 1/5 the number of ornaments, maybe less than that. When we first got the Alexandria tree, I was amazed that I brought enough ornaments to fully decorate it from the other collection, and still couldn’t even tell they were gone. That’s how bad it got before I finally quit collecting ornaments. I still get them as gifts, which I treasure. I’ve started giving some of my older ones away to anyone who is interested. I hate to think of the whole collection someday being pitched out after I’m gone so I’d rather start paring it down now.

          • !!! I can’t imagine anyone parting with it!!! But if they’re not your DIL’s thing, there are companies who auction them for you.

            You could maybe arrange for them to be auctioned for a charity (groups of 5 or something) or donate the whole tree to a hospital, or veterans rehab centre maybe.

            I’m still in the process of ‘not resisting’ but only buy very special ones now. One’s that I just MUST have.

            We dropped Alys at the airport about 2 hours ago. It’s a short trip home if the flight was on time. What a day we had. It went by so fast, but I’m trying to relish every little bit for as long as I can. It was wonderful to see her and spend time together xoxox k

            • I’m hoping I will live long enough to give most of it away, eventually. It’s so huge that nobody would want the whole collection.

              I was so excited to see the pics of Alys with you and Mr. B. in San Diego! What a perfect holiday treat. I joined you in a cup of hot mocha, in spirit if not in person. I hope you get home full of excitement to be back while enjoying the memories of your trip and making new ones in this first Christmas at your new place (at least I think it’s the first Christmas? I keep wondering if I have lost track; the past two years are a blur in my mind). I got a message from the postal service that your package was delivered yesterday, so hopefully your kitty-sitter has it. Don’t tell B & P but one of the little packages inside is for them! 😀 When you see it you’ll know immediately why I just HAD to buy it!!

              • Hi Julia, I’m sure our pet sitter, Cindy will have brought it in. She’s more than adorable and very much loved by all, especially Petals and Blossum.

                Thank you in advance for thinking of us all. Petals and Blossum with be very thankful for it.

                We took a few pictures in our room the night b4. I’ve just posted a whole roundup of our trip including Alys’s visit. Can you imagine? What a girl !! Thanks for joining us with Mocha, I feel your presence more than you think xoxo ❤

                • You are so lucky to have a great pet-sitter. Sounds like your new home was just waiting for you, Mr. B and the “girls” to move in! I can’t wait to go see the new photos you have posted. Virtual travel is becoming my favorite kind! Am I getting old or what?? Having said that though, Jeff and I always talked of going to San Diego for a “grown up” visit (minus the kid-centered activities we did there in our earlier years) and I hope we are still able to do that someday.

  8. Amen, Julia. The season to express joy for all the wonderful people in our lives.
    -Alan

    • It has become a cliche to say that we should carry this spirit into the rest of the year, but it’s true. Still, it’s nice to have a time set aside for such remembrance and expression. I hope you are having a season of peace, love and joy!

  9. Sheila

    Julia, a memory from long, long ago was going to a favorite aunt’s house during the holidays and my cousins and I would take turns playing “Heart and Soul” on the piano that was next to the Christmas tree that had bubbling oil candles. 🎄 I also remember getting our wonderful brown paper bags of fruits, nuts, and candies at church, always the Sunday before Christmas. It was simple, such a southern tradition, and anticipated almost like Santa. I listened to 4 hours of Country Christmas on XM Radio coming home. 🎅🎁 Totally happy, Sheila

    • Sheila, my sister and I used to play “Heart and Soul” that way (along with probably every kid in our age group back then). Plus – when you mentioned the bubbling oil candles, I remembered we had friends who had them every year, but now it’s driving me crazy to try to remember whose tree I am remembering. Whoever it was, I saw them enough Christmases that I came to expect them. They can be mesmerizing to watch. When I was very young, we would get fruits and nuts in our stockings. To this day I can only ever remember seeing an almond in the shell at Christmas time. Otherwise I wouldn’t have any idea what they looked like. Your comment set off lots of memories for me too! Thanks for sharing them.

      • Granny Richardson had bubbling oil tree lights in the 1950’s. Sheila, do you like Alabama’s “Christmas in Dixie”?

        • Maybe I am remembering Granny’s old tree, but Jeff reminded me I’m probably thinking of Janet Sawyer’s tree. We spent 5 consecutive Christmas Eves at the Sawyer’s home while we lived in northern California. Precious memories!

        • Sheila

          Eric, no surprise there! I do love that song… and the many You Tube versions. Thank you for reminding me! The group “Alabama” actually got their start in Myrtle Beach at The Bowery (on the Boulevard). They were here last year for a return to their START!
          Merry Christmas to you and your family! 🎄

          • Hey, are they actually from SC, or did they just realize they needed to start on the east coast? I have to assume that the SC Bowery is NOT like the neighborhood in Manhattan for which it may be named. That part of NYC possibly has gentrified in recent years, as I understand much of the rest of it has. But I will never forget the time in 1976, after getting directions from a local for how to get someplace, their instructions took my younger brother, my friend Ellis and me on a stroll RIGHT THROUGH the heart of it. Interesting, to say the least, but not where one would want to start a career. Or end it. I was very glad Al was with us!

  10. Ann

    Julia, I have many wonderful memories of childhood Christmases but they are all tinged with sadness now. Most of the people who figured so strongly in those memories are gone now –
    my grandparents, aunts & uncles, parents and my dear brother who died in October. i know that I am blessed to have had such loving people in my life but it’s hard this time of year.

    Thanks for your uplifting blog.

    Ann

    • Ann, Christmas is a difficult time for many of us, and as we grow older, it becomes more so. I dread facing a Christmas without Mama and Daddy, because they were always the heart and soul of the season for me. Their decorating, entertaining friends, baking treats and festive, generous gifts to us have made the time special for me for so long that I can’t imagine it without them. This beautiful song somehow captures the combination of beauty and sadness I feel at Christmas. There is a somber note beneath the lovely music that perfectly represents the sorrow of losing the magic of childhood. I hope you enjoy the song as much as I do.

  11. Julia, I thought of you today as unpacked my “snowman” gift from you. I used it in an arrangement on my dinning table.
    I enjoy the Christmas season, there is magic in the air, music, lights, decorations. People being kinder…
    Today at Wal-Mart, the Salvation army bell ringer was a mother and her 4 yr daughter, the daughter had a small red bell, ringing it with joy, calling “Merry Christmas”!
    People smiled, coming forward to drop donations in the kettle. Greeting her and her mother.

    • Merry, thanks so much for these thoughts! It brightens my day to think of you enjoying the little snowman, and even more so to think of the bell ringer and her little girl. At the Safeway near our home, there has been a Salvation Army musician playing Christmas carols even in the very coldest weather – a tuba or a trumpet, and their dedication amazes me. I always want to give them a little something. They appear to me to be very young people and I admire them for spreading Christmas joy when others their age might be out partying or (over)indulging their own pleasures. I love how the smiles multiply this season! Thanks for being here and spreading cheer in the comments section.

  12. raynard

    Julia my memories of Days gone By. (yes I know it was the theme song to that 80’s tv show Family matters I digress. My mother would always go out and get a real Christmas tree. It wasnt till the 80’s when she finally did the” color by numbers/NBC Peacock tree. The angel that sat on the tree looked older than me.. there was candy and mixed nuts in small bowls on the glass living room table.There was also a glass tea cart which sat in a corner never used only for large pictures in frames..You were woke Christmas early before the crack of dawn. Maybe thats why Im still a early bird and I dont like worms lol.My mom use to take all the many cards she received and drape them across string and tape the ends to the wall.the phone in our house would be ringing off the hook with well wishes.I think we dressed up to have a big dinner with the younger people eating first, There were these large yellow and black plates you only seen Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners.Side note, something I heard the other day on a Family radio ministry that clunked me on the head like a wet smelly fish.When you first get married and not sharing family traditions.I remember slipping up and telling my x wife, I’m so use to my mother’s cooking. I’m glad the next words were”the opening monolog from The Odd Couple you know was asked to remove himself from his place of residence .. That request came from his wife.. lol. Last night I did try to set a mood and bring some Christmas spirit in my house by playing some Christmas music on my Ipod. My wife’s aunt is coming along better. Had to watch her alittle when we went shopping in Wally World.. errr I mean Walmart..Can you personally tell each of your family members hello and they are in the prayers of me and my family.. Be blessed

    • Thank you Raynard! Our very best to you and your family also. I think you are doing great to get your wife’s aunt into Wally World at all. I try to avoid the Walmart parking lot at all costs. If I can’t walk there, I generally don’t go. BUT sometimes it’s unavoidable. I loved reading your Christmas memories as they sound so like mine in many ways. Also I loved the Odd Couple reference, I remember that scene well, especially the way she handed him the frying pan as he was leaving. I used to love that show. You are right, we need to treasure the old customs while embracing the new ones, and making traditions of our own within the families we put together when we marry. Maybe a bit of both plus some new innovations. Thanks for sharing your memories and adding to the Christmas cheer here! Hope your holidays are wonderful.

  13. Sheila

    Good Saturday morning, Julia. 🎄🎄🎄 I continually think of ya’ll and hope that everything has gone well this week. 🎅🎅🎅

    • Thanks Sheila. Like Old Man River, Jeff just keeps rolling along. We are thankful. I’m so happy to have you here with us. ❤

  14. Sheila

    Julia, I have to share one thing you’ll like…. Bill took Jack for a walk on the beach mid morning only to quickly become the STAR of the surfing contest. Jack, not Bill! Haha😂
    The surfer girls wanted to take pictures of him and with him! Of course, he’d been groomed yesterday and had on a Christmas plaid scarf, so he was looking pretty cute (if I must say so). Only in Garden City! 🏄

    • Oh, how I wish I could be there to take Jack’s photo! I bet he looks absolutely dapper, and I can imagine him being a big hit with the surfer girls. Would-be surfer dudes, take note! It’s not really about you if a dog is along! 😀 😀 😀

      • Sheila

        Julia, sharing again! Today on the beach, horses came trotting by with their riders on back, (offseason you know) and Jack certainly seemed to recognize what they were and cried to join them! 🐴 or 🏇

        • Aww, poor Jack, he must have felt so left out!! I’ll bet it would be great fun to ride a horse on the beach.

  15. I remember getting a toboggan for Christmas and the joy of sailing down the hill in the cold snow. I also remember the way my mom’s kitchen smelled, and the joy of a bright orange tangerine and walnuts in the bottom of our Christmas stocking.

    Yesterday, I turned my Pandora station to Christmas music, and though busy, I tucked my phone into my back pocket and listened while doing chores. Folding laundry to Christmas music is much more enjoyable.

    I received your delightful card this week. You are a Christmas treat.

    • Growing up in the deep south, I used to dream of how fun it would be to go sledding and have lots of snow each year. We rarely saw it at all, and would get very excited about just an inch or two, which would usually melt within a day. So you got fruits and nuts in your Christmas stockings too! That must have been sort of universal in our generation. To this day, tangerines smell and taste like Christmas to me. I need to learn to use Pandora. I’ve really enjoyed my Amazon Prime music, but wish I had time to put together more playlists. You are so right, music (or a good audiobook) transforms our tasks. One of the things I hate most about running the vacuum is that I can’t hear much on my headsets while it’s running. I could wash dishes or pull weeks for hours if I have a good audiobook on. I’m glad you got the card! Loved the photos of you with Mr. and Mrs. B — festive fun!!

      • I’ve never met anyone who shared the fruit and nuts in the stocking before now. I love that!!! You know in Northern Canada in the day, fresh fruit wasn’t nearly as common. Now we have superior refrigeration, super fast trains and planes, etc. but I think it was more of a novelty in the day. Love it though.

        I don’t know much about Amazon Prime. Is it your own music that you put together in play lists?

        Pandora is free (if you don’t mind ads) and I think $25 a year without. Ads drive me nuts, so I pay up each year. YOu pick and artist and they start playing songs in a similar genre. Then you can thumbs up or thumbs down the song. Thumbs down and they never play it again. I think it’s brilliant.

        • Alys, when we lived in Vacaville, we heard that the Nut Tree Center used to be sort of an epicenter of dried fruits and nuts that were processed and shipped out all over the country. I guess back then dried fruits were about the only way they could be sent anywhere; fresh fruits– especially in winter– would indeed have been a novelty in most regions of the USA. I so loved having the San Joaquin Valley “next door” which meant that the produce we had in California was beyond compare.

          Amazon Prime is a package of services through Amazon that cost $99 per year and includes free 2-day shipping plus a HUGE selection of TV, movies, books, music etc. that can be streamed to whatever devices you want. We actually gave it to Matt for his birthday because he wanted to stream a lot of the older TV shows and movies, but of course, the whole family can use it. No ads that I have encountered so far; I HATE them too. I have hand-picked the music selections I’ve had so far, but it may have a means of auto-selecting from a specified genre as Pandora does, and may have a “thumbs up or thumbs down” aspect too. I haven’t had much time to explore it. But I have been delighted to find songs from decades past that I have been unable to find elsewhere. I also like that the songs can be downloaded to Matt’s iPod (or probably other devices) and be available for play even where there is no WiFi. I haven’t even begun to explore all that is available on Prime but I do know I’m hooked. The free 2-day shipping alone might be worth it, but the media offerings have been our main reason for having it.

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