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Share a favorite holiday memory

Members of our staff respond to this week’s talk-back topic

When I was 9 years old, my dad informed me that he wanted to buy my mom a new wedding ring for Christmas. He took me with him to help pick it out. We wrapped it up and eagerly waited for Christmas Eve, when we opened our presents. A few days later my mom told me she was getting my dad a new wedding band for Christmas. I knew I couldn’t tell her what she was getting, or tell Dad what he was now getting, but, oh, was it hard. On Christmas Eve when we finally began to open our presents, I insisted that I wanted both of them to open two particular boxes at the same time and that I also wanted my mom to “walk down the aisle” across our living room before opening her box. Confused and irritated at me for what they each took as almost giving away what the other’s gift was, both told me to keep quiet. As each opened in turn, each joined me in my secret. Keeping that secret was more exciting to me than opening all my presents that year.

— Connie Cross, permissions-information

As a kid, I counted how many presents were under the tree, who had the most and who had the biggest. I tried to figure out how many packages had toys in them compared to how many of them just had clothes. As an adult, I’m more excited about the giving of gifts. I anticipate watching my children open their gifts and seeing their excitement.

One of my best memories revolves around a gift I gave. It was a video for my parents. I secretly went through all of their old slides and pictures — a huge undertaking because my mom is always taking pictures! I selected pictures from every Christmas going back to their first — 38 years worth at the time. After selecting all the pictures, I had a photo company put the pictures on a video with a Christmas music background. I made copies for my sisters, and the entire family enjoyed that gift. We still have fun watching that video and reliving the memories of years gone by. My parents just celebrated their 50th anniversary. That reminds me, I have 12 more years I need to add to that tape!

— Jodi Harmon, advertising coordinator

We had always had a tall Christmas tree. It had to be a Douglas fir and tall enough to almost reach the ceiling. It could be too tall — that was OK because we could saw it down to size — but it could never be too short.

Decorating the tree was a family project and when I married, my wife, Peggy, became a willing participant. I enjoyed everything but the tinsel — I still hate to put on tinsel.

Then one Christmas season we arrived at my parents’ house and there it stood — not the stately Douglas fir that I expected, but a tiny, plastic, store-bought tree, one that could be hidden behind any of a number of the gifts that were supposed to go under it.

I complained some at first. But I realized that tree marked a transition. My folks were aging and my mother’s health was failing. Some things, like a large tree, just wouldn’t be priorities anymore.

We never had a real tree in that house again. That little tree presided over several wonderful Christmases at the end of my parents’ lives. I actually grew quite fond of it.

That was because it didn’t change Christmas. The tree was small, but Christmas stayed big. Jesus stayed at the center.

I thank God for all those extra years He gave me with my parents, the little tree, and a big Christmas.

— Ken Horn, managing editor

What I wanted for Christmas was an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200- shot, range model air rifle. I got my blue steel beauty last Christmas, and both eyes are still intact. But I don’t think that is my favorite Christmas memory … I believe that is still to come. Christmas 2003 will be my first as a grandparent, and I am feeling much anticipation at sharing it with my granddaughter, Jaiden. Grandpadom is really cool, and wearing the title at Christmas is going to be too much fun. Her eyes reflecting a tree loaded with lights … bows pulled from packages and stuck to her bald head … remembering the innocence and frailty of the Baby Jesus … I’m pretty sure this Christmas is going to be the most memorable so far.

— Matt Key, art director

Growing up I wanted a St. Louis Cardinals football helmet. One Christmas Eve, around the age of 10, I dreamed I had gotten that helmet.

Even though the helmet was blue, instead of white as it should have been, I was so proud of it I wore it during a family outing to an unfamiliar lake.

With the helmet still on, I walked to the end of the lake’s pier. I bent over to gaze into the water.

Splash! I had fallen into the lake.

While trying to stay afloat, I peered through the helmet’s facemask and could see my brother and sister on the lakeshore reacting frantically to my predicament.

“Ronnie! Ronnie!” they hollered running toward the pier. Suddenly one of them touched my shoulder.

But they hadn’t come to rescue me. They’d come to wake me up. It was Christmas morning and our gifts waited under the tree.

— Ron Kopczick, promotions coordinator

My whole family was at Grandma’s for Christmas in 1977.

Everyone had finished opening their presents. But I had the present of all presents. I was the king of the wrapping paper hill.

Grandma didn’t buy me a present. She made me a present!

Shazam! White cape with gold glittery flowers and a gold rope securing it to my neck. Red shirt with a gold triple jag lightning bolt down the front.

A costume that looked like the real thing. Not some store-bought piece that falls apart in weeks. This was the real deal. Real cloth. No plastic. Genuine Shazam! Superhero deluxe! I could fly!

I was the envy of my younger sister. As far as I was concerned, I would have a TV appearance in weeks. People would confuse me with the real Shazam! Girls would finally like me.

That was the spirit of Christmas ... to an unsaved thrill-seeking 7-year-old. I’ll never forget it. And neither will my sister.

— Keith Locke, creative director

One of my most memorable holidays was my son, Kevin’s, first Christmas. My wife, daughter and son had come home from St. Louis after spending almost a year there near a pediatric hospital because of my son’s medical problems.

We had been through so much that year. Trying to find out what was actually wrong with him and learning about the seriousness of his problems were devastating to us. I had to stay home and continue to work and visit them in St. Louis on the weekends. After getting some answers from the doctors and giving the situation to God instead of relying on ourselves, we started having some peace about what we were up against. We saw God’s blessings poured out on us time and time again. Financial, spiritual, whatever we needed, God took care of it. Our church lifted us up hourly in prayer and stayed committed throughout the year. Going through that year changed our values and what was important to us.

I remember it was even a white Christmas, with Bing Crosby playing in the background, a beautiful tree, my daughter tearing into her presents and, after finishing hers in record time, helping her brother with his. I remember how blessed I was and feeling that what I thought was important the year before wasn’t really so important. There weren’t a lot of presents for anyone, but that Christmas was priceless in our hearts.

— Marc McBride, production coordinator

I grew up in Taos, N.M., where we always gathered at Christmastime as a family. My mom, Grace, comes from a huge family so we always had cousins, aunts and uncles at my grandparents Eloy and Frances Montoya’s house. Christmas in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico meant there was always plenty of snow and, of course, real Christmas trees.

We would sing Christmas songs in Spanish, with my dad, Danny, playing his guitar. It was especially fun around Christmastime when youth from our church (which consisted mostly of my cousins) would light farolitos in the town plaza — a true New Mexico tradition. Farolitos are little brown paper bags with candles inside that line the rooftops and walls of the adobe and stucco buildings during the winter. I always look back to those wonderful Christmases, and I am thankful that I had an amazing family and surroundings to celebrate Christmas with.

– Isaac Olivarez, staff writer

Clear in my mind is an afternoon nap I took while in elementary school. It had been a long day, and I was tired. I awoke to a winter sun already set, and a soft glow of Christmas tree lights. Mannheim Steamroller, a Christmas must in our family, was playing softly in the background. I don’t remember how old I was or what happened that season. I just remember feeling warm, rested and excited that it was Christmastime.

Seeing candles lit on a mantle, driving through snowy streets looking at the lights on neighbors’ homes, singing carols at church on Christmas Eve surrounded by my spiritual and birth families, and watching the fire crackle and pop in the fireplace while my face got warmer and warmer until I had to give someone else a turn — all combine to form my favorite Christmas memory. Even the stress of the season can’t quench my love for it. Christmas has changed its face since marriage, but its heart leaves much to savor when the calendar turns to December. And savor I will; just like I always have.

— Jena Schaumburg, assistant to the editor

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