Christmas memories: Holiday means family
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.
Ann Marie Ames, a Janesville resident and a communications specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, recalls an unconventional but special holiday:
“For the most part, my Christmas memories are like the bin in which I keep wrapping supplies. In it are a snarl of ribbons, wrapping paper and plastic holly leaves mixed with used Easter cards and rolls of Zebra-striped duct tape. I don't put Scotch tape in the bin. That would be too logical. Instead I keep it in the silverware drawer.
“My Christmas memories are similarly jumbled. Most of the memories include the standard trappings: fresh-cut pine, piles of wrapping paper and a long-treasured note from Santa written by an uncle. Some memories are without those standard trappings, such as the year it was mild enough I could ride my new three-speed bike outside. Or the sight of my dad at Christmas mass (one of the only times he joined us at church) using the white caps from my brother's baby bottle to make googly eyes.
“My favorite Christmas memory has almost no traditional holiday sights and smells. It was the year I was almost 16, and my brothers, Rob and Andy, were 7 and 3. Andy had been admitted to UW Children's Hospital with respiratory inflammation. Hospital stays were common for him, but that didn't mean we found anything appealing about spending Christmas Eve at the hospital.
“The three of us opened our stockings in Andrew's hospital room, and the staff gave Andy presents. Other than that, I can't remember anything else “Christmas-y” about that night. I remember trying to occupy energetic little Andy so he wouldn't pull the IV's out of his arm or the oxygen mask off his face. I remember he wore a tiny hospital gown and was as cheerful in that room as he would have been anywhere else. (Which was very cheerful, to say the least.) We ate Burger King and watched “The Jungle Book.”
“That movie is about as far from Christmas as one can get, but to this day, hearing or seeing it gives me an instant feeling of coziness. It takes me back to that tiny room filled with my family. That sense of togetherness made me feel like all was right in my world, although I wouldn't have been able to explain it at the time.
“These days, even with that memory in my bank, it's easy to get caught up in the shopping and gift wrapping of the season. Like many of us, I feel the need to spend, spend, spend. Luckily, I have that Christmas memory that looks so unlike Christmas. It reminds me that the best gift I can give is to be myself in the moment with those who love me and whom I love. The bare necessities, as Baloo would say.”