Christmas past brings gift of memories

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Margaret Plevak | December 21, 2014

In December, memories come out along with the ornaments, wreath and the carols on the radio. Seeing neighborhood decorations brings up the image of your dad hanging lights on the evergreen tree in the front yard. Watching kids line up in front of the department store Santa Claus reminds you of your daughter's first nervous visit to the man in red. Funny, sentimental, even bittersweet memories — Christmas brings them all back.    

We asked area residents to share their favorite Christmases. We think you'll enjoy hearing their stories.
One of the best gifts that the Rev. Laura McLeod, senior minister at the Delavan United Church of Christ Congregational, received was a lesson from her grandfather:

“Christmas has so many fond memories for me. I was blessed to grow up in the same city as both sets of grandparents as well as extended family. That's a rarity these days. One of my grandfathers was particularly fond of Christmas. He grew up poor, having to leave school in the eighth grade to support his family after his father developed tuberculosis. Because of that he delighted in making Christmas special for his daughters and their children. He also lived out that generosity by ringing the Salvation Army bell each year, too.

“On Christmas morning my sisters and I were not allowed to even look at the tree until my grandfather arrived. He wanted to see the expression on our faces when we saw the tree surrounded with presents. We all know how excited kids are on Christmas morning and how early they get up. As kids we worried that we would have to wait until my grandparents got the phone call that we were up and then took the time to drive over, even though they lived less than a mile away. Yet, most Christmases it was my grandfather who woke us up, arriving at dawn to knock on our window. Even when we became teenagers, more interested in sleeping than seeing what Santa brought, he would still be there, bright and early, waiting to see our faces as we saw the tree.  

“My grandfather taught me a great deal about generosity and love, but the greatest gift he gave us was joy. In church each year as we light the Advent Candle of Joy and sing carols like 'Joy to the World' I can't help but think of the look on his face — watching us and our excitement. He approached Christmas with the giddy anticipation of a child. It wasn't about the presents or their value; it was just about joy — the joy of generosity and the joy of being together. I try to approach Christmas with the same sense of wonder and delight. My grandfather's legacy is joy and I am so very grateful for that gift and reminder.”

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