Editor’s Note — This year, The Times-Gazette asked readers to send in their holiday anecdotes. To celebrate Christmas, we have several stories about others’ Christmas traditions and memories. The Times-Gazette is still looking for New Year’s memories, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The following are Christmas-themed stories written and submitted by readers:
Lesley Lightner, Hillsboro
The Christmas of 1955 was filled with anticipation. My mother had dropped many hints that they had gotten me something very expensive and she didn’t know where they were going to put it. My 13-year-old, horse-loving self naturally assumed they had bought me the horse I’d wanted since I knew what horses were. I wasn’t naive enough to think that there would be a real horse under the tree Christmas morning but rather a clue to its existence—a gift-wrapped picture, a key to the boarding facility (we lived in a city west of Boston in a residential neighborhood) or even a bale of hay with a big red bow on it. My imagination ran wild. On Christmas morning I rushed downstairs ahead of my parents, brother and sister to discover that my “expensive, don’t know where we will put it” gift was a set of Encyclopedia Britannicas! (The first thing I looked up was horse, however!)
Becky Johnson, Hillsboro
Remember the 2004 ice storm? My kids still lived at home. It was the holidays, and the ice storm took out the electricity. Fortunately, we had a wood stove in the back room, so we brought all of our mattresses and bedding in, and the six of us stayed in the room until the electric came back on. Boring it wasn’t. We hadn’t that much fun for a long, long time. My grown-up sons and daughter still remember (aah, memories): we played charades and their pudgy momma rolled up her shirt and rolled down the waist of her pants, and somehow they knew I was acting out Britney Spears! Go figure. What fun! We talk about those days as being one of the holidays that everyone remembers.
McKenzie Caldwell, Leesburg
Growing up, Christmas was a magical, confusing time for me. Once, I very faintly remember telling my mom that I thought I had two birthdays each year. I was very little, and having a grandkid was still new to both sides of my family, so I always received a ton of presents for Christmas and my birthday, which is less than a month after Christmas. Christmas didn’t get any less confusing as I grew up, though. The other kids at school did not believe in Santa. Some of them had caught their parents slipping “Santa” presents under the tree; some of their parents or older siblings had straight up told them Santa wasn’t real. I, however, was very convinced that Santa was real until late middle school, and I swore I’d heard him on my rooftop and then, poof, in my house on Christmas Day when I was about 8 or 9. As a bullied kid, I kept that to myself, even when the popular kids talked crap about Santa on the bus and I was dying to share this little piece of magic.
Santa didn’t just visit my house on Christmas Eve, though, and that’s something I never told those kids on the bus. Every Christmas, when my mom would unpack the decorations, she would had me my Christmas box, a box covered in cats wearing Santa hats. Sometimes, while my family and I were out of the house, Santa would sneak in and leave a small gift in my Christmas box. Whenever we came back to the house, I would immediately go to the Christmas box to see if he’d visited, and usually he had, even if it was just to leave a cat brooch or some candy. For 5-year-old me, this was the most magical thing of all because I never knew when Santa was going to drop by. Getting presents on Christmas is fun, but everyone expects Christmas magic on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. My parents—probably my mom—ensured I had a touch of Christmas magic daily, which is probably why I believed in Santa for as long as I did.
Whenever I think of the efforts my mom went through to make Christmas magical for my brother and me, I’m reminded of what a wonderful person she is. My family has never been wealthy, but it’s those small gifts, the cat keychains and mini Beanie Babies (also cats) and candy, that appeared in my Christmas box so long ago that made Christmas really magical, not just because I liked getting stuff but because “Santa” had seen those things, thought I might like them and taken the time to hand-deliver them before Christmas.
My mom has gone out of her way for as long as I’ve existed to make life magical for me. And even now, a 22-year-old, I still believe that, in a way, magic is real. The way we can care for and be kind to one another, for me, is truly magical. And I think that magic really does come alive this time of year, even though we may sometimes get distracted by all the wrapping paper and Amazon boxes.
When I think of true love, I don’t think of romantic interests—I think of my mom sneaking a knickknack she knew I would love into my Christmas box. And cats.