Advent, My Way #23


In my month-long pondering of the winter holidays, one of the things that has pleased me is how many random, but really strong, memories I have of Christmases past.

I have a lot of vague and amorphous, warm and fuzzy memories of posing for pictures with family members who were only together once a year and of opening Barbie dolls in that yellow and blue parlor at the farm.

But clearer moments stand out, too, like the Christmas pageants and the making of the caramels I’ve already written about.

And there’s so much more . . .

I remember a weird toy called Odd Ogg, “half turtle and half frog,” and pale blue moccasins lined with real rabbit fur. And a trike.


I remember the Christmas cards my parents always sent, with two little girls dressed in PJs and posed in front of a tree or a mantle, with a dog or kittens.


I remember parental discord over the proper hanging of “icicles” on the Christmas tree. One parent thought the icicles should be carefully and individually placed on the boughs. The other parent thought large handfuls should be flung at the tree.

I remember all kinds of handmade ornaments but the ones I remember most fondly were pure 1960s. My mother made little atomic/Sputnik ornaments out of marshmallows, toothpicks, and silver spray paint. I know there’s a photo around here somewhere . . .

I remember the people. My mother’s father was a quiet man, with a wry sense of humor. One year he got a tall stepladder as a Christmas gift and spent the rest of the day sitting at the very top of it in the living room.

My other grandfather was a Justice of the Peace and one year he put a man in jail on Christmas Eve. That might seem harsh except the man’s offense was that, very drunk, he lit a fire on the floor in the middle of his living room, thinking to keep his family warm. My grandfather felt they were all safer if he was in jail.

That same grandfather, a quiet, unsentimental guy, gave my grandmother a $100 bill as a gift one Christmas. I had never seen a $100 bill and was SO impressed so I woke my sister up from a nap, to show it to her. She opened one eye, said, “Is it for me?,” and learning it wasn’t, went back to sleep.

We lived on a farm, so every year the Christmas tree came from our land. When my sister and I were very small, we took my mother’s red scarf and went into the woods to find the perfect tree. We did, and we tied the scarf around it, and then told my father to go find it. He didn’t. How we expected him to find one tree with one red scarf in acres of land, I don’t know. My mother never saw her scarf again.

We weren’t allowed to awaken grownups early on Christmas morning but we were allowed to go get our Christmas stockings and explore those. I was awake first, went and grabbed my stocking and my sister’s, and came back to our room with them. To wake her up, I bopped her over the head with the stuffed stocking . . . whack.

I remember a Christmas when I was a pre-teen and we went to my uncle’s house, several states away. I had an abscessed tooth and spent the entire visit in hideous pain. Well, I remember the pain and the really cute outfit I got for Christmas, with the pleated plaid skirt . . .

At some point we all decided that traveling at Christmas was a good idea so I have a lot of memories of driving the East Coast, searching for restaurants that were open on Christmas Day.

Many years, we left the snow behind and walked the beaches in Florida. One year we saw a gorgeous sunset and then had to settle for dinner at a really creepy Mexican restaurant. How creepy? The following week, we heard that someone had been shot dead in the parking lot.


New York City, Charleston, the beach at the Outer Banks, watching people fly kites at Kiawah.

I remember the parlors and farms, the relatives’ houses and the motels. I remember the holidays when my niece was small, re-experiencing the magic through her eyes. I remember teaching my new husband how to string popcorn for our first Christmas tree and I remember absolute blowout Christmas parties we used to throw!

So many locales, so many beloved people, so many Christmases, so many memories. In recent years, we’ve chosen to stay close to home. We enjoy our immediate family, or just each other, a few very special friends, our pets, our warm hearth, our simple and satisfactory world.

What will I remember from Christmas this year?

Well, honestly, I think I’ll remember writing these advent blog posts and sharing so much of Christmas and holiday talk with you. When you’ve written comments about your own memories and traditions at the holidays, you’ve triggered more of my own and shown me how much we all have in common, how the holidays are packed with special meaning for each of us.

Here’s hoping that you have many memories of the holiday season and that the fond memories far, far outweigh the unpleasant memories that may inevitably be associated with the season as well. Take some quiet time to savor those wonderful memories and share them.

And I hope you spend the next few days creating special moments that will give you much to reminisce about in years to come!

53 thoughts on “Advent, My Way #23

  1. Kerry, thanks for sharing all these wonderful memories and pictures. Thanks also for taking such trouble with your advent posts – it has been such a joy to read them. Wishing you & your family a wonderful Christmas 🙂 xxx

    • Thanks, Liz–the advent posts have given me what I wanted–the luxury of thinking about Christmas and what it means to me. I’m so happy to have had you here, reading along and adding your thoughts!

  2. I’ve enjoyed reading about your Christmas memories. Hoping this one will add much to the list. I will have to sit and have a serious think to see if I can come up with some memories of my own. I’ve had many Christmas’s but memories at my age are a bit of a blur. 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and yours. Marlene

  3. Aww, these are some really sweet memories. I actually find the emphasis on spending and presents can be really disheartening at this time of year. Presents are lovely, but I much prefer to give and receive something home baked or handmade or one special thing. I like the idea of Christmas’ past with snow and traditional decorations and handmade presents! My fond Christmas memories are of my Mum, brother and I choosing and decorating our tree every year, walking around the village to look at the lights, and watching the Tailor of Gloucester, which is still my very favorite Christmas film!

    The 60s inspired ornaments sound divine, I would love to see a picture. I think gathering with eccentric family members is also one of my favorite things about Christmas, and your memory of your grandfathers is lovely!

    • I’m always impressed, Jess, with how much you focus on your family when you write–you’re always making great memories with them! I will be on the lookout for that photo of the 1960s ornaments–you could make some just like them!

  4. At a certain age, we have more memories than adventures. Our Christmas celebrations become local and quiet, but our memories are loud and clear and still bring a smile and a chuckle. I remember Christmas holidays at my grandparents small NH dairy farm. There were a few presents but what stands out were the family dinners and the sugar on snow. My grandfather would get a pan of fresh snow while my grandmother boiled some maple syrup. She would drizzle it on the snow, and then we’d pick it off with a fork. We would taste and enjoy that warm sweetness while our teeth stuck together. 🙂 Have a wonderful holiday weekend with your family and friends. 🙂

    • Oh, sugar on snow–such bliss! We didn’t have it at Christmas but it was a huge treat and I remember it SO fondly! I love your point about our current Christmases being quiet but the memories being loud–it’s certainly true here!

    • Thanks, Andrea–and thanks for being so consistently supportive! The advent series really did accomplish what I set out to do–I’m in a better mood for Christmas than I have been in a few years!

    • I have to admit I feel like I’ve been over-sharing–I mean, really, who cares about some of these oddball memories?! But my mother and sister loved the post and that makes me really happy! Thanks for being such a consistent and kind presence here, Kathy!

  5. I so enjoyed reading some of your memories. There is one memory of Christmas,I will never forget. My mom was a person who taught manners ,to be nosy was a real no no in her book. You did not snoop in someone else’s business. Well, her room had this lovely closet that always stored gifts that she would pick up though the year. She had gotten my brother and I our gifts ,and stored them in that closet. My brother got this brainy idea to found out what we were to get for Christmas. That plan didn’t work out so good,for Mom found out, marched those toys ,in which was a wonderful doll, back to the store. We received a small gifted that year. Trust me,we never ever snooped in mom’s closet again!!

    • That is a wonderful story! Your mom sure knew how to make a lesson stick! I have a similar story–every year my grandmother would send my sister and me money for our birthdays, in a card. One year, we got the money but didn’t send a thank you note . . . and never got that birthday cash again! I’m pretty careful about thank you notes now . . .

  6. Kerry I love all the details that make a good blog great. You’re an amazing storyteller, with so much to share. I love the image of you bonking your sister with a stocking (my sister and I are only 13 months apart…I remember those days). What a treat to grow up on a farm! Nothing says 1960s like icicles on a tree. They were all the rage at the time and only 99 cents a package. Enjoy your quiet celebration. Perhaps you’ll consider gathering these posts and all the comments and printing them into a scrapbook. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your Advent My Way posts.

  7. I think that debate over hanging the icicles on the tree or throwing them at the tree happened in every household 🙂 Kerry, thank you for these posts during Advent. I have really enjoyed them and they have brought a nice daily bit of Christmas cheer. All the best to you and your family for the holidays.

    • And was it always the men who did the flinging of the icicles and the women who did the artful placement? Or was that just my house? 😉 Thanks for reading along with all this, Fiona–the whole process has been fun because I knew you all were out there, having your own memories of Christmas, while I rambled on about mine!

  8. I wanted to tell you how much I loved reading your blog (devouring it) with it’s “countdown” to the holiday. I looked forward to the variety of fascinating subjects….which made me feel quite nostalgic (longing for the Christmas-es of our childhood). Kerry, thanks so much for taking the time to share your memories, opinions and of course, creations with all of us.

    • Awww, Carol–I love knowing you were out there, reminiscing, too! I spent a LOT of time feeling nostalgic and misty as I wrote some of those posts. I haven’t written a word since Christmas, though–25 days in a row tapped me out! I hope 2017 is a great year for you and your family!

  9. Sweet memories, those pictures are adorable! I am intrigued by Odd Ogg. I remember we always had orange marmelade, only at Christmas. No idea why we only had it then, because it’s available all year round, and nothing fancy. I must admit I buy it now not just around Christmas, but I occassionally indulge in some throughout, together with some very old goat’s cheese!

  10. I love this post! I wish I would have found your blog at the beginning of the Advent posts, but I’ll go back and read them. Your grandpa on the stepladder reminds me of my dad and his sense of humor. He once quietly wrapped himself in Christmas lights and plugged himself in. He expected my 4 year-old stepdaughter to laugh, but she just cocked her head and stared at him while the rest of us laughed.

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