Two Short Stories: A Touch of Christmas Nostalgia & The Best Gift Ever Given

By: Marianna Boyce

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My childhood home was situated on a dead end street just outside the town of Lexington. Sixteen modest houses lined each side of the road. Ours was the eighth on the left, placing it directly in the middle of the neighborhood. My entire family is quite fond of this old home place—one that created  countless cherished memories.

I’m the baby of five children. Having two older brothers and two older sisters assured there was never a dull moment in the Caldwell household.

Tommy, Beverly, and Lewis are Baby Boomers, while Cindy and I are from Generation X. We didn’t allow a little generation gap divide our relationships with one another. We’ve always kept close family ties—even to this day. For that, I am truly thankful.

Financially speaking, we weren’t rich, but always had everything we needed. None of us received the constant stream of new toys throughout the year like many kids get nowadays. The only toys we possessed were from the previous Christmas, which is exactly what made each holiday so special.

Of course, we all grew up knowing the true meaning behind this sacred season, but mom and daddy also allowed our vivid imaginations run wild about Santa as well. It was those particular years I remember the most. For me, the early 1970s were simply magical.

At the beginning of each holiday season, mom would hang three silver bells directly in the center of our living room ceiling. These simple glittery ornaments brought me much joy and excitement. I knew once she hung those silver bells, Christmas was right around the corner.

After the ceiling centerpiece was in place, she’d also scatter glass Christmas balls around the bells using white thread and thumbtacks. These brightly-colored ornaments were beautiful, fragile, and quite unique. I wish we had possession of them today.

Mom would decorate the outside of the house with as much pride as the inside. I loved the velvety red striping wrapped around each of the four posts on the front porch. It made them look like peppermint candy sticks. She even made the ol’ mailbox look festive with red ribbon and artificial poinsettias.

She always saved the best ‘til last—her masterpiece—the Christmas tree.

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The old-fashioned multi-colored glass bulbs were particularly hot to touch. No one had miniature lights yet. I’m unsure if they’d even been introduced to the world yet. Mom and Beverly constantly warned us younger kids to handle the hot lights with care, but as we grew older, Lewis, Cindy, and I often had contests to determine who could hold one in our hand the longest. Lewis mostly won. This stands to reason since he was the most rambunctious, stubborn child.

No one’s tree was complete until silver tinsel covered it. Mom always had a keen eye for the perfect balance. The tinsel was strategically placed so it wouldn’t melt onto those hot bulbs. My siblings and I often nonchalantly tossed it on, but Beverly—the motherly sister, cleaned up our mess and helped mom finish decorating the perfect tree.

When the much anticipated Sears and Roebuck catalog was delivered to our house, excitement filled the air. We all laid in the living room floor flipping through the pages seeing what toys would be available from Santa’s workshop that year. It wasn’t uncommon for us to peruse through the thick catalog daily to add to our ever-growing list.

On nights Christmas specials aired on TV, mom encouraged us to bathe early. After the quickest baths known to mankind, we hurriedly put on our flannel pajamas. Since there were no presents under the tree yet, we laid underneath the Christmas tree mesmerized by the colorful array of lights.

Mom usually served popcorn and hot chocolate, both of which were prepared on the stove-top in covered pots. Daddy popped the corn, while mom tended to the chocolate beverage so it wouldn’t scorch. We didn’t have a microwave back then. No one did. They’d been introduced, but were too expensive for most anyone on our street to afford at that time.

Since there was no such thing as a television remote, Tommy and Lewis were typically in charge of changing the channel and adjusting the volume. There were only four stations to choose from. Who remembers having only channels 10 (NBC,) 19 (CBS,) 25 (ABC,) and 35. WACH-Fox Channel-57 didn’t come on the scene until the mid-1980s. Rich or poor, that’s all anyone had. We didn’t have hundreds of channels like we do now.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, were my favorite TV specials. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Frosty the Snowman, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, all tied for close seconds.

I love how several make mention of the birth of Jesus Christ. I know it’s only a quick “honorable mention,” but Linus went above and beyond at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas as he quoted scripture from the Bible.

When Christmas morning finally arrived, our living room floor was covered from wall to wall. Of course, my sisters and I received all the girlie toys we’d wished for. There were baby dolls, strollers, and Barbies galore. Lincoln Logs and TinkerToys were also favorites. I probably played with them as much as anything else. They may have been Tommy and Lewis’s toys.  Who knows? In my mind, they were mine for being extra good that year.

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Tommy and Lewis received the traditional boy toys—walkie talkies, trucks, wagons, and balls. When Lewis was old enough, he even got a BB gun. He didn’t shoot his eye out, but probably came close a time or two. My sisters and I wisely steered clear when he and Tommy were outside shooting aimlessly into the woods behind our house. Daddy probably took the gun away more than Lewis shot it, but that’s one of two things that happened when rules were broken…

I remember one Christmas, we all received new bicycles the same year. Tommy’s was red, Beverly’s was green, Lewis’s was gold, and Cindy’s was pink—I think, but I know mine was purple.

Later, we learned daddy stayed up all night assembling them before five wide-eyed kiddos climbed out of bed on Christmas morning. Nowadays, bicycles are purchased already assembled. (Daddy—I’m so sorry you didn’t get any sleep that night.)

We eventually grew out of the Santa Clause phase, but cherish the few tender years when this enchanting world existed. I’m thankful the older kids never ruined it for the younger ones.

It seems cliche to mention how fast time passes. Each year zips by more quickly than the last. Living in a day and age where children don’t know what the Great American Wish Book is, or the joy of sitting through an entire episode of a Christmas classic without looking at an electronic device, I’d say, they’re truly missing out.

What a difference a generation or two makes.

The magic of Christmas was always alive and well in our little house on that dead end street in Lexington, South Carolina. What I’d give to experience another Christmas from my past.

What are some of your favorite childhood Christmas memories? What was the best gift you ever received?


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Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

The Best Gift Ever Given

Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

8)And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9)And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10)And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11)For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12)And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13)And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14)Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” (Linus Van Pelt – From A Charlie Brown Christmas – December 9, 1965)

May God bless you and your families this holiday season. Merry Christmas everyone.

The Great Santa Debate

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

Yes, you guessed it, I have uncovered yet another article that has led me to a blog posting that I really think almost any of my Every Woman blogger cohorts could write. Even if you don’t have kids, you have an opinion about whether little kids should believe in Santa Claus or not.

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t even remember how old I was when I realized that Santa Claus’ boots were really filled by my mom and dad. There was the year that I got a bicycle: I remember sneaking to the den only to find the doors closed and voices coming from behind. I think that “Santa” was probably saying some choice words over that Strawberry Shortcake bicycle that night! As we got older, my brother and I would actually go on hunts to find our Christmas gifts after we knew our parents had gone shopping. Instead of disappointment, it almost became a game; to see if we could find them, and to (secretly) make fun of their lame hiding places. The big, huge, flat box under my parent’s bed was a dead giveaway that a ping pong table would be standing beside the Christmas tree. There were the oddly shaped items covered with quilts in my parent’s closet. Surely, they didn’t think that we honestly believed that the quilts and afghans stood up by themselves. Then there was the year I asked for a telephone for my bedroom. Ah, yes, then came the day my mom asked me to clean up the living room where she had been wrapping Christmas gifts. And there, on the floor, was the receipt for a telephone, and we certainly didn’t have any new ones in the house at that point. The gig was definitely up at that point. When questioned, my mama said I shouldn’t have been so nosey. Really? She left the receipt on the floor!

Those are actually fond, fun memories for me- not earth shattering news that has me in therapy in my mid-thirties! It actually meant the world to me that my parents always paid attention to what I truly wanted and that most of the time it was there, under the tree. Although, I’m still a little scarred over never having gotten that pony. In all seriousness, I learned some valuable lessons watching my parents on those Christmas mornings of my childhood. My dad, who is the least outright affectionate man on the earth, always, gave my mom some beautiful piece of jewelry or beautiful outfits that he knew she would love. And it went beyond just the gift itself; often the fun part was watching her receive the gift. There was the year he wrapped a ring in a microwave box (please remember this was the 80’s, so this box was enormous), and there were magazines and even a brick or two inside the box. There were multiple wrapped boxes inside each other until she got down to the tiny ring box. From those early Christmas mornings, I learned to pay attention to what people liked and disliked and I learned how special it made them feel to receive something that so much careful consideration had been given to.

My point in writing this is that there are so many who think that allowing children to believe in Santa Claus is harmful, in some way, to them. I wholeheartedly disagree. I will not take the credit for the following, as it was something I found on Pinterest, that fully echoes the sentiment of those of us who truly believe that children can learn valuable lessons from Santa, not just selfishness and greed.

“Dear Ryan, You asked a really good question, “Are Mom and Dad really Santa?” We know that you want to know the answer, and we had to give it careful thought to know just what to say. The answer is No. We are not Santa. There is no single Santa. We are the people who fill you stocking and choose and wrap the presents under the tree – just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them, and you will do for your kids someday. This could never make any of us Santa, though. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the Spirit of Christmas alive. He lives in our hearts – not at the North Pole. Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they cannot see or touch. Throughout your life you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your family, in your friends, and in God.”

This explains perfectly why the belief in Santa is not necessarily bad and why my children will continue to believe for a while yet, I do hope anyway. I am not ready to see an end to the magic.