Friday, December 23, 2011

Making Christmas Memories

With Christmas just two days away, it's time for me to reflect on other Christmas memories.  I realize those memories provide an insight into the kind of writer I will be in the future...

Circa 1971...The Ghosts of Christmas Past

When I was small, Christmas was probably the happiest time of my life.  We were extremely poor, but my mother always managed to make Christmas magical to me.  We had some family traditions back then that laid the foundation of how I celebrate the season today.  There was always the trip out in the country to hand pick our real Christmas tree.  Then came the stringing of popcorn and red berries, along with handmade ornaments to decorate it.  Huge globes of colored lights twinkled in the darkness as we sat looking at our work of art on cold December nights.  Homemade hot cocoa and decorated treats made by my mother are so real to me that I can almost taste it today.  And I can't forget the antique musical church that had a wind up key in the back.  How I used to beg to wind up that church. I would sit for hours as Silent Night played and the doors of the church swung open to display the lighted nativity inside.  That church still holds a place of honor by every Christmas tree I display today.

Circa 1991...The Ghosts of Christmas Present

My son is about 4 years old and wants a baby doll for Christmas.  He is old enough to get caught up in the excitement of the holidays and I am a new single mom on a very tight budget.  We have no money for a Christmas tree so he and I take green poster board and draw a tree.  We tape it up on our wall and color homemade ornaments to tape to it (thanks, Mom, for the memories of homemade ornaments from Christmases past).  I drape the only store bought item I have, gold tinsel, all over the tree and I set a small table under it for our meager presents.  On Christmas Eve we drive around to look at the pretty Christmas lights on other people's houses, and my son is worried Santa will come before we get back.  We arrive back at our small apartment to see the lights of an airplane overhead and my son is SURE this is Santa.  He becomes upset because we are not asleep in bed yet.  I reassure him that Santa has many stops to make before he gets to our place.  We race up the stairs to put out cookies and milk for Santa, carrots and peanut butter/raisin balls for the reindeer and tumble into bed so we can fall asleep before the big guy arrives.  I even promise my son Santa will be able to get into our apartment even though we have no fireplace because we leave the front door unlocked for him this night.  I will never forget the surprise on my son's face when the next morning he discovers grass clippings on the floor leading to the door and all the treats half eaten.  But I will carry with me the wonder of the holidays always as my son unwraps his present from Santa to find the baby doll he names Fred...paid for from many pennies saved over the previous year.

Circa 2012...The Ghosts of Christmas Future

My son is grown up now and lives on his own.  I have tried to teach him about the magic of Christmas and the strength of tradition but he is young and is more tied to the techno world of today than the traditions of the past.  For myself, this past year has been a year of surprises and growth for me as a writer.  I have made new friends, learned new lessons, and set new goals for the upcoming year.  But I have not forgotten what my mother taught me so many years ago.  Traditions create a foundation that families can cling to if the future turns dark.  And I can hold my own holiday traditions close to me, my Christmas Memories, to help flavor all the writing I do in the future.  And who knows?  Maybe one of my stories will help create someone else's Christmas Memories in their future!

Merry Christmas to all my online friends and may the new year be one of fabulous memories for us all...


  1. Lovely. The Ghosts of Christmas Present made tears come to my eyes -- I'm so glad Santa was able to bring your son a baby doll! (Have you read the picture book from the 1970s called "William Wants a Doll" ?

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Merry Christmas!

  2. When I was six, I caught my mother wrapping "Santa's" gifts to us. She said she'd skin me if I told anyone. Her cover was blown but I didn't care.
    My brother was "famous" for unwrapping the gifts and re-wrapping them, then waking us kids up and revealing what was in the wrapped boxes.
    My sister and I would get the lyrics of Christmas songs and sing them together.Now we "make" her son sing them to us.
    Donna, maybe you could write a Christmas themed book next year.Hmmm?

  3. Donna, what a sweet, nostalgic post that brought up so many memories for me. We had many traditions in my family, my favorite being the Christmas stockings hung on the stairs. We'd all creep down early in the morning and bring our stockings back to our beds before our parents woke up. And in my house, even the grown-ups had stockings, something I will continue to do. Last year my mom sent me (I live in another country) my original stocking from the 1960s, the one I grew up --- boy did that bring the tears!

  4. Beth, I don't think I have ever heard of that book but will look for it! I woke up this morning wondering what what I would write about today and came up with this post. I hoped people would enjoy it...Merry Christmas to you!

  5. Janet, those christmas memories are the best I have from my childhood...along with playing with my sister out on the front porch and riding our new bikes together. My story, A Barnyard Christmas, will hopefully one day be found in book form but it still needs some polishing...

  6. Renee, how cool about the stockings! That would have been great to be able to grab then and sneak back upstairs to dig into them before the parents got up. And how sweet of your mother to keep them safe all these years! What great Christmas memories...

  7. These are such beautiful memories, Donna. You described past and present so evocatively that I could picture your childhood tree and you sitting before it with your hot cocoa listening to Silent Night, and the story about your son made me teary. I think you're going to write some wonderful books! Merry Christmas!

  8. Thank you, Susanna, that means so much to me coming from you! I thought for many years that my love of writing was gone forever...covered up by the layers of negative thoughts and actions of others. I feel so blessed to have found special friends such as yourself who understand the love of writing...the NEED to write. I'm really hoping that 2012 will be a year of great treasures unfolding for all of us in the writing arena...

    Merry Christmas!

  9. What a moving post Donna, christmas present reduced me to tears. My memories of Christmas past, have not always been pleasant ones, but these future ones are what I look towards and the friends in the writing community. As Susanna says, you will write some beautiful stories, thankyou for sharing.