Archives for posts with tag: Christmas

A friend once commented that the only thing we can really give our children is memories. That’s a pretty important statement because it covers a lot of ground. Memories can be of lessons learned, like my mother teaching me manners or how to make a bed, or they can be painful, like hurt feelings or physical injuries or loss of loved ones. He was referring to the good ones, the fun ones, the special ones.

Watching my four year old granddaughter, who has already lost her Daddy and her other grandmother in her short life, I am amazed once again at how much little ones observe and remember. She’s at the age where she says “remember when…” a lot, already placing her memories in her ever so short past. But they are definitely stored there and who knows when she will bring them back into a conversation or how they will ultimately affect her life.

For Christmas, I gave my family a trip, a long weekend together, to Austin and San Antonio. The weekend after Christmas was the first time we could find that their schedules weren’t bogged down with sports or school or work, almost an impossibility to bring four families, 16 people together. But we did it. We spent four days traveling in four cars to two cities with eight adults and eight kids ranging from 12-16 with one four year old.

The gift for me was watching them all together, enjoying each other. We all live in the same city but it’s hard to find time to just relax and enjoy each other. The bigger kids go to school together and are close friends, so there was no teenage drama, no teen rolling his or her eyes at the parents. The little one was silly and the older ones were amused and helped with her antics. The parents all parented all the kids. I just got to sit and watch. And love them all.

Looking back at my own life, I have every kind of memory, good, bad, sad, funny. In all our lives, there are things that can’t be avoided, things that hurt, events and people we would like to forget. At best, we can learn and grow from them and put them in perspective. But, it’s important to have good memories, sweet memories, funny memories, to help balance it all out. My obsession with photos helps me with that. Not every memory has to be as elaborate as the trip we took, but it was great. We have many memories that cost us nothing and happened right at home. And, when we gather, whether it’s all of us or with some absent, all those memories are part of the conversation.

The gift for me is that my family has grown into a loud, laughing, loving bunch where there are no awkward silences, no sulking members, no hateful scenes and lots of the very best kind of memories. My resolution for 2014 is to make more of the good kind for everyone I know, family or friend. Happy New Year!


While being snowed in for a couple of days, I’ve been decorating the house. This is no small deal as I have a vast collection of Santas and other Christmas objects. It takes me about three days to get it all out and that’s if I don’t get distracted. Part of the time is spent cleaning and clearing away everyday items to make room. It takes three steps: get everything out, make a huge mess, bring it all together.

This year, the emotions of it struck me harder than usual. Each piece I bring out has a story or brings a memory with it. There are ornaments and Santas from vacations that bring a flash of fun. There are Santas given to me by dear friends, long gone. There are ornaments from projects I worked on through the years. There’s the Santa my son gave me when he was 13, a hand made one he bought from an artist. There’s the Waterford Santa my husband bought me the year our first three grandsons were born, a Santa with a child on his lap. Little did we know that would be our last Christmas together. There are Santas and reindeer and bells brought to me by my precious little daughters. There’s a lovely snowman snow globe my daughter-in-law to be brought me when she and my son first started dating. There are some from my childhood and Santas and trees from my mother, purchased at Neiman Marcus so very many years ago.

As each of my children moved out of the house into their own, I gave them their box of ornaments. That left me with fewer, so I started using a little half tree that goes on the wall. It’s kind of my Charlie Brown Christmas tree, but it works. I have the same Santa on top I’ve had since the first year we had a tree, back in 1967. We actually married on December 23, 1966, but were on our honeymoon that year. I’ve added ornaments I found a few years ago that are picture frames with images of my family and some dear friends, even my pets. I decided these are the treasures of my life.

It’s tempting not to decorate. I don’t have the big parties I used to and it’s mostly for me, but it’s still special and fun. I usually hum while I’m working, all the beautiful and fun holiday music of our lives.

The emotions run through every day during the holidays as we celebrate with friends and family. We’re hurried to get what we want for our gift list and we’re bombarded with requests for donations from so many deserving charities. The joy is tempered by the guilt as we see one more image of a family who will have nothing when we have so much. We give canned goods and adopt families and drop coins in the Salvation Army buckets, knowing we can never do enough because the needs are so great. Some of us have someone close to us who is as needy as the people on the lists, but would never let us know. The joy of the season is tempered by the sorrow of those in pain and need.

The holidays are for sharing, sharing with all the joy in your heart. We pay it back and pay it forward and we reach out of ourselves. It’s a wonderful thing, this season of hope that brings out the best in all of us. A very wonderful time of year.


This weekend, the weekend before Thanksgiving, I did some shopping here and there, getting ready for the holidays. Everywhere I went I left with a smile on my face because of how friendly and nice everyone was. The clerks were friendly and smiling. In the grocery store, people laughed when we bumped carts and made light conversation with strangers as we picked out or favorites for the upcoming feast. One lady and I almost collided as I left an aisle and she joked that she shouldn’t be texting while driving.

At one store, some lovely people were handing out papers asking shoppers to purchase goods on the list to help with Thanksgiving dinner for men at a shelter in town. I gladly did so and was greeted with smiles and genuine gratitude from the volunteers. People were talking to strangers about the big game that night and laughing about the cold outside while they went about their shopping. The people handing out samples of food were laughing with the customers. It was the same everywhere I went. When I picked up a prescription, the lady commented that our birthdays are both coming up in a week or so. We talked about that.

It shouldn’t seem strange or unusual, but it really kind of was. Nobody seemed in a hurry or annoyed or frustrated. Everything was moving smoothly in all places. People pointed to their cars so I could follow them to get a place, people thanked clerks, clerks thanked customers. It was nice out there, running routine errands.

I hope everyone stays this sane, this relaxed during the coming weeks. I’m going to try and do my part and make sure I shop with a smile on my face. Aren’t we supposed to enjoy the holidays? Aren’t we supposed to be shopping for people we care about and doing extra things for people who need us? Isn’t this season supposed to be fun?

Remember during the coming weeks, when you feel rushed or pressured, to slow down, relax, hum a holiday song, smile, and do what you can to make this season, no matter what holidays you celebrate, what it’s supposed to be. . .the nicest time of the year!


I believe in Santa.  This is evident as I unpack the 100s of Santas I have in my house today.  As I look at each one, a memory snaps into my mind and I am taken back 10 years, 30 years, 50 or 60  years…

I only have one photo of me as a child with Santa.  My brother and I are visiting him and it’s hard to say what I’m thinking.  I was five years old. But, I do know that I was a little girl who believed all the fairy tales and Santa stories I read.  My friend, Hal Balch, gave me a copy of The Night Before Christmas for my 6th birthday and I still have it.  It was an oversized pop-up book and I saw it (in better condition than mine) on eBay for $350 one time.  I read it to my four kids every year on Christmas Eve.


My birthday is in December and I got married on December 23, so December is a month for me to celebrate.  I bought a funny little Santa on sale before I got married and put him on the top of our first Christmas tree, which was right around our first anniversary.  I still put him on my Christmas tree.  I don’t know why I put Santa rather than a star or an angel, but he seemed to fit up there with his funny little smile.


One year, as a young mother, I read a ladies magazine article on decorating for the holidays and it said to group your collections.  I looked around and saw that I had accumulated a lot of Santas and so it began.  I was a Santa collector.  I know lots of Santa collectors and every one of us has a unique collection.  Some like hand crafted Santas, some collect vintage Santas.  I am beyond eclectic.  I have Santas from everywhere and every price.  Some of my favorites cost a couple of dollars, some are flea market finds, some were created by Santa artists.

The thing about having a lot of Santas, for better or worse, is that people start giving you Santas, especially when your birthday is in December. Some of my favorites are from dear friends and I remember those friendships every Christmas as I pass each funky little guy.

Santas were a fun thing to look for when I traveled.  I have Santa matchbooks from a department store in Paris, and this crazy Santa in a car that I got for $5 on a street in Hong Kong.  What a fun way to remember special trips.


I found the Santa on the left in a flea market in Vienna and the troll Santa is from Denmark.  I have Lego Santas I got in Switzerland.  I learned how universal my beloved guy is.


I have Santas from my childhood, with the earliest being the tall skinny one here behind the cow Santa we found in New Orleans.


When my mother died, I brought these funny little Santas home with me.  I think she got the trees at Neiman Marcus and the Santas probably held candy at one time.  All I know is that they remind me of Christmas at home.


There are Santas I made…these are needlepoint.



There are Santas with stories.  One summer, times were rough as they sometimes are in families.  My oldest daughter, my son and I were at the flea market, killing time on a Saturday morning.  We spotted the big vintage lighted Santa face.  I think it was $30 and we had $32.  I asked them what they thought and they both said to get it.  You know what?  Everything got better after we got that Santa.  He is a bright light to remind me that we can always get through life’s ups and downs with love and hope.


My kids gave me Santas through the years.  I love this one that my son gave me for my birthday the year he was 13.  I always picture him finding it in a craft booth.  Sweet memory.


My husband gave me Santas.  In 1997, our three daughters each had a son, making us grandparents.  That year, Alan was battling cancer.  He brought me a Waterford Santa for my birthday, a Santa with a little boy in his lap.

My Santas are grouped around the house, all over the house.  There are bathing Santas in the bathroom, Santa bears, Santa rabbits, Santa’s workshops, Santa boxes, sleeping Santas, Santa bells…each with his own story.



DSC_0019If you have forgotten or never knew the magic of finding presents from Santa, you may not understand.  Even when I knew better, even when I should have been too old to get that excited, I would lie in bed and listen for my parents’ steps as they put out the gifts.  I would lie in bed and wait until all was silent again and sneak to the fireplace to see the Christmas lights and marvel at the gifts.  It didn’t matter what they were – there was something magical about it.  I would go back to bed, lying there basking in the wonder of it all, waiting until my brother and sister got up and we would all go in together.

You can understand when I say I never did have the “Santa discussion” with my kids.  What difference would that have made?  Santa was always going to come to our house.  I may have told them it was up to them whether they wanted to believe or not.  One of my favorite memories was the year my son got a special bike – he may have been 10 or 11.  The kids woke us, way too early, and we all came downstairs together.  I remember him saying, in the most excited voice, “Did you see what I got?  Look at this?”  I was struck with the magic that he was thinking his father and I were as surprised as he was that the bike was there,  I just smiled at him.

It was a shock when I found myself alone on Christmas mornings, but it’s ok and the way the world is supposed to be.  We still have Grand Santa at my house with stockings for everyone.   We’re up to 16 stockings now for my children, their spouses and the grandkids.

When I was in my 20s, I volunteered with a group called Junior Philharmonic and our fundraiser was Santa House.  I worked at it for several years and often dressed as an elf, where I discovered the magic of children who really believed I was an elf!  There’s nothing like looking into the eyes of an innocent two or three year old who thinks you work for the man himself.

1973Years later, I went to work for Philbrook Museum of Art as the Fundraising Events Manager and part of my job was to make sure Santa was at the annual Festival of Trees.  I thought I’d come full circle – back to Santa.  I can truly say that I am a close associate of Santa.  I retired, but it was fun to see my three year old granddaughter trying to take in the fact that Santa was hugging her Mimi.  We’re old friends, I told her.

Eliza, Whitney, Karen & Santa - Version 2

So, I sit amongst my collection and drink in the special vibes that the Santas (and other holiday characters and my nativity sets) bring to my holidays.  I remember childhood, friendships, trips and experiences from every decade of my life.  When it’s time to pack them away, I’m always ready because I’ve got to go on to the new year and live it before I bring them out again.

The stories of my Santas are the story of my life.  They represent friendships, groups I’ve worked with, jobs I’ve had, and my family.  When the Santas are packed away, there are other things with other memories that I keep around me.  It’s the clutter of my life that I wade through, knowing that I am lucky to have so much to cherish.

May you celebrate your life this season surrounded by all you love.