With the chill in the air and the possibility of snow and maybe even ice this season, it serves as a prelude to our anticipation of a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This is the season for warm and generous hearts. A season where one’s well-being will of interest to others and perhaps open the door to extend some joy.

For me, this time of year serves as a reminder of some of the most magical moments, opportunities and memories in my life.  Events that happened as a child remain fresh in my mind. These memories will be with me forever.

I grew up in El Paso, Texas where every year, a huge Christmas Star would light up Mount Franklin. It was a beautiful and magnificent site…especially to a child. This star could be seen 100 miles away in the air. Depending where you lived in the city, most could see it just by walking out of their front door and casting their eyes in the direction of the mountains at night.

I remember being 10 years old, getting in the car for a family outing. We were going to go look at the beautifully decorated houses all over the city. Daddy surprised us by driving “the kids” to Mount Franklin so we could get as close as possible to this huge star that we would look at every night. Talk about a magical moment. Even as an adult when I would return to Texas for the holidays, my heart would begin to race as we neared El Paso in the airplane. I would sit in anticipation for that moment when I would catch that first glimpse of that magical star illuminating the dark night. I would become so very excited. I would know then that I was almost home and the festivities of the family holiday would be on.

The opportunities to share and care for others was magnified at Christmas. My mother seemed to be baking all the time, she was a fantastic cook. Mom would make pans of homemade cinnamon rolls, loaves of her special “melt in your mouth, pass me another” bread and rolls, sweet potato pies and the best tea cakes you ever tasted.

Our job, the children, “her elves” would be to hand deliver the packages on the doorsteps to friends, acquaintances and those who may not have. The gratitude we received from the recipients was by far the best gift one could be given. They joy of seeing people’s faces light up when they received one of mom’s homemade gifts baked with love. Little did I know then, that for some that was the only gift they may receive during the holiday season. It felt good to fed the heart with food.

Along the way, we, the elves, her children had other opportunities to serve. We were always encouraged or volunteered to participate in the Christmas Program(s) at church, singing, reciting poetry and even acting in the “Christmas Play.” We would even go “a wassailing,” singing Christmas songs from house to house in the neighborhood…in the cold, bundled up, spreading joy, knowing that when we got home, mom would have hot chocolate with marshmallows and lots of cookies for anyone who showed up.

These memories are so very sweet, but the fondest memories I have are the times we spent together making decorations and gifts for each other.  Once the Christmas tree was in the house, the popping of lots of popcorn would begin. Alongside my brothers and sisters, we would make strings of popcorn to go on the tree…although we seemed to eat as much popcorn as we would string. When we were finished with that task, we would begin to make popcorn balls. My mother would make the candy coating and caramel for the popcorn and pour into various huge bowls filled with popcorn. We had to form the balls quickly before the candy coating hardened. It became a game to see who could make the roundest balls the fastest. We would enjoy eating the popcorn balls throughout the holidays. For many years this was an ongoing tradition.

We were encouraged to consider making gifts as well as purchase them. Mom said gifts should always be personal and meaningful. I still have a quilt she made me so many years ago. I also “believe” I am the only one she shared one of her secret recipes with. Priceless memories.  

I remember a holiday in my early 20’s when I was strapped for cash so I had to be creative in my giving. I gave my brother-in-law Chuck an IOU for a year supply of homemade cookies. Once a month I delivered a freshly made batch of cookies to him. I would get joy from his just being excited to see what kind of cookies they would be each month I delivered them. I remember good I felt when he told me that this monthly delivery of homemade cookies was one of the best gifts he ever got…my sister, his wife also agreed as she nibbled on a cookie. Good memories that will last forever.

As I sit here writing I realize that most of the Moments, Opportunities and Memories were instigated by my mother…mom. Mom had such a great influence on me and so many others. As a mom, I too, much like you tried to give my child moments, opportunities and memories that will serve him when he is as old and older than I am now.

As you reflect on your past holiday experiences, it will be marked with your own moments, opportunities and memories. Full of love.

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