With only three days to go until Christmas, I got to reminiscing about my own childhood Christmases and how many traditions I’ve passed on to my children.  With Em at age 6 and Jay at age 3, I feel like I’m getting a chance to relive the wonder of Christmas as a child again.   One thing that is true for my kids as it was for me, is that every year they get one “Big” gift – something that they really, really want.  The “Big Gift” always comes from Santa.  The one gift that really makes the day.  Here are a few of my own “Big Gifts,” as well as the “Big People” that were so integral to making Christmas such pure magic.

We begin with me, probably two years old, holding Henry – the first Christmas present I remember.  I don’t remember opening Henry that Christmas, but because I kept him until I graduated from high school and he remained a favorite, I count him as my “earliest” Christmas present.

Here is my brother that same year, getting all decked out in his new cowboy suit.  I’m obviously thinking, “It’s, like, a cowboy or Lone Ranger suit – whatever… boooring.  Are there any more pretzel rods?” 

And here is my dainty, elegant and sophisticated Grandmother looking ravishing despite the mustard yellow pleather footstool at her feet and the Pabst Blue Ribbon, still in the can, on the table beside her (I can guarantee it wasn’t hers!).  She really “pops” next to the gold carpet and wood paneling doesn’t she?

When I was five or six, I was thrilled to receive this set of wooden blocks.

But it was yet a few years later when we had the very BEST Christmas EVER because something totally unexpected happened.  We were all lounging by the fire after the frenzy of unwrapping presents on Christmas morning.  I was playing with one of my new stuffed animals in my lime green beanbag, and I thought life couldn’t get any better.  Then Penny, our babysitter from down the street, knocked on our door.  She held the cutest puppy known to mankind in her arms, saying he was a stray and she needed to find a home for him.  We already had two dogs.  My dad said, “No WAY are we getting another dog.”

Penny ignored my father and put the puppy right into my mother’s arms.  He put one paw on each of her shoulders as if he were hugging her.  She looked at my dad and said, “Oh, we’re keeping him!”  That was the day we adopted the lord of all dogs – Charley.  Here is my dad with him later that evening: 

Here he is again – just so precious!  For kid, getting a puppy for Christmas is a miracle.  That dog brought more joy into my life than I could ever express.  I still miss him.

I think it was that same year that I got a “life-size” doll that I really wanted.  I named her Amy, and I looooved her!  The only problem was that shortly after I got her, I decided to give her a (real) bath.  Since she was both plastic and hollow, the water quickly seeped into her “joints.”  From then on, the water always sloshed around in her legs when I played with her, which made her seem a little less life-like.

P.S. Aren’t you loving my Dorothy Hamill ‘do here??

Would you like a saw with your bourbon?By now you’ve probably figured out that my Grandparents visited us for Christmas every year.  My Grandpa was dapper and distinguished, but also a huge practical joker and all-around silly guy.  We gave him a bottle of Jack Daniels for Christmas every single year.  He feigned shock and surprise when he opened the booze-shaped box, and we have many pictures of him with those bottles.  This one caught my eye because of the saw.  I can’t remember what that was all about, but as you can see from the next picture of him in his same perch with a bunch of my stuffed animals, he was always more than willing to strike poses for the camera.

From here we enter into my “crafty” phase, which thankfully for everyone involved didn’t last very long.  I completed this Snoopy Latch Hook, which hung on my wall (I am embarrassed to admit) until I left home.  (I have nothing to say about those glasses, by the way.)

Unfortunately, I also started making gifts for others.  My sweet, glamorous Grandmother with her platinum taste proudly displayed this pillow I made out of two wash cloths and some yarn on her (fancy) living room couch until the day she died.

Last, but certainly not least, I made this “poodle” for my mother by tying balls of yarn onto a wire coat hanger forged into the shape of a dog (or so I thought).  Whoever took this picture had obviously consumed a few Christmas cocktails since my mom’s head is cut clear off.  Either that, or the photographer simply wanted to focus solely on the majesty of my art.

Before too long I reached young adulthood, and mercifully acquired some contact lenses along the way.  These Roffe ski pants are the last present I really remember begging for as my “Big” gift.  They matched my ski jacket, you see.  Hellooooo nineteen eighties!  That year, I left little notes everywhere as “hints” for my mother.  I left them in the silverware drawer, on the milk carton, stuck to her bookmark.  You get the idea.  Luckily, she came through.  She always did.

On that note, no post about Christmas would be complete without a shout-out to my lovely mother, who worked so hard to make these memories for us.  Now that I have kids, I understand and appreciate so much more how hard she worked to make Christmas special.  Here is her beautiful smiling face, circa ???  She may be a few years older now, but her smile is just the same.  Merry Christmas!

Categories: Childhood, Family, Holidays · Tags: , ,



  1. What a great blog! And thank you so much for what you said. Now that you are a Mom, you know that everything I did for Christmas was a pure joy. It actually still is! Thank you again. Love, Mom

  2. Hi Julie!

    It was nostalgic looking back with you – especially seeing your Dad with Charley! You’re blessed to have such special memories.

    It’s also great that we don’t stay in the past and that we go forward to serve the ones we love to give them memories that will be a foundation for them in their adulthood.

    Love to all of you! Have a very Merry Christmas!

    Aunt Sue

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