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It would be hard to enjoy Christmas present if one didn't reminisce about Christmases past. Everyone has different memories - some happy, some sad.  What is your most memorable Christmas event?

My dad was never one who wanted to go out and buy gifts for people because he said he never knew what to buy, but he did make many special gifts with his own two hands.

My dad was a carpenter by trade, and always seemed to have a hammer and nails in his hands and some ideas in his head. One of the first gifts that he made me for Christmas was a cradle for my baby doll. I rocked many baby dolls to sleep with my cradle. 

A few years later he made me a small kitchen cupboard, which I played “house" with for a number of years. That cupboard also provided some great times many years later for my girls, and now all four of my mother’s great-grandchildren play with that cupboard when they come to her house to visit.

I remember one year that my dad did go to the store to buy my sister and I Christmas presents. He bought new nighties for Kaye and I. Mine was pink and Kaye’s was blue. They were a little large for us at the time but we wore them anyway and we grew into them. I think I still have mine tucked away someplace.

The year we went to visit my sister, Kaye, in Arizona, he made small decorative cactus while we were on vacation out of barbed wire and then painted them with light aqua paint.

The trip to Arizona was always a treat and we marveled at the many houses that were so elaborately covered with Christmas scenes and decorations. In particular there were twin brothers who always tried to out do the other. At one of the brothers' homes we were invited to come inside to see the bears, trains, nativity sets, and Santa jumping into the swimming pool.

To our surprise, while my mother was visiting with their mother, who was also in Arizona for a visit at the time, my mother shared that we were from Minnesota.  The mother exclaimed, "When my husband was alive we used to go to St. Olaf Lake and camp."

Needless to say, it was a great day for all of us. How important is St. Olaf Lake that someone would come a half a continent away to camp there? 

Looking at the many beautiful homes decorated for Christmas this year I remember the year that my dad cut a life size nativity set out of plywood.  I believe that he had ordered a kit which provided life-size pictures/people and animals that he was able to glue on to plywood. Once that had been accomplished he cut around each of the figures and mounted bases on to them so that they would stand. He also made a cradle for the baby Jesus to sleep in. 

When it was time to put the nativity set out each Christmas he would visit one of the local farmers and pick up a few bales of straw that he would put around the nativity set on the front lawn below my sister and my bedroom window. He even cut a star out of wood and placed a light inside of it and placed that above the nativity scene. He also put speakers outside and we played Christmas music that people could listen to as they drove by our home each Christmas. (I really miss my dad.)

When my parents moved to St. Olaf Lake, and Daryl and I and our girls moved into the home that I grew up in, we put the nativity set out on our front lawn for a number of years at Christmas time too.

My mother was also crafty and she made my sister and me special handmade gifts in those early years. She made clothes for our dolls, and made sure each of us a new homemade Christmas dress each year.

I remember the first time that my mother didn't make my sister and I Christmas dresses for our Sunday school program. My grandmother had been in the hospital before Christmas and my mother wasn't able to make us dresses that year, so she brought home Christmas dresses for us that she had bought at Wallace’s in Albert Lea. Kaye and I were thrilled. We thought that would prevent my mother from having to make last minute stitches on our dresses as we were going out the door for our Christmas programs.  

Wait a minute, if memory serves me right the skirts on the dresses were too long and too big, so my mother decided at the last minute that she had better try and shorten them a bit.

The year that Queen Products in Albert Lea was on strike, which I believe was in the mid-1970s, members of the Union gave Christmas gifts to kids of those men who were on strike and weren't bringing home a weekly paycheck. Our daughter, Krista, was fortunate to get the baby doll that she had wished for from one of the members of the union and she thought that she had the best Christmas present ever. Ironically, the person who bought and then gave the doll to Krista was my mother’s cousin, Chuck Lee. He didn't realize at the time who the gift would be given to.

Christmas trees have always been an important part of Christmas for our family too, and we always wanted to make sure that we had the most beautiful tree.  For years we would visit one of the local tree farms so we could pick out the best Christmas tree we could find. If memory serves me right, the last live Christmas tree we had came from our dear friend, Clarice Pence. A tree she had on her lawn was getting too big and interfered with her neighbors’ view when backing out of their driveway. The tree had to go, so we bought it and used it for our Christmas tree that year. Slowly the Christmas needles started to fall off the tree and by the time Christmas arrived our Christmas tree had lost all its needles and we called it our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.

Our family starting baking Christmas cookies back when the kids were young and once we had the cookies all baked, the kids would put them on plates and share them with our neighbors, family and friends. Years later when I got the news that I would have to have my leg amputated the first week in December, we baked our cookies a little bit earlier that year, more or less as a diversion so that we didn't have to think about what was ahead.

I was scared that my kids would think less of me because I wasn't going to be "all there," so to speak. Once the surgery was over, they came into my room at the hospital, climbed up on the bed, asked lots of questions, accepted what had taken place and wondered if I would be home in time for Christmas. Following the surgery, I begged my doctors to let me go home for Christmas, which they did, and our family has continued to have many special Christmases together.

Few of the valuable things in life "just happen." Whoever has a heart full of love always has something to give. Write a letter to your child or grandchild describing all the things you most love and enjoy about them and then present it as a special holiday gift.

I hope over the Christmas holiday you will share some of your Christmas memories with your family. No matter whether you are together or apart, all hearts go home for Christmas because love is always there.

This week’s birthdays and anniversaries include:

• Thursday, December 18th: Mary Torgerson, Catherine Suzanne Olson, Scott Lang, Chris O'Byrne, Margaret (Mugsy) Swearingen, Gavyn Tlamka

• Friday, December 19th: LaJune Hagen, Kathy Peterson, Jerry Thompson, Sheryl Tracy, Loren Haroldson, Cheryl Utpadel, James & Barb Bremmer, Chris & Jennifer Paulson, Jerry & Bev White

• Saturday, December 20th: Corlyn Paulsen, Kyle Johnson, Laurie Swift, Deb Whelan, Odean & Andrea Johnson

• Sunday, December 21st: Audriene Nelson, Nancy Rich, Liz Wangness, Darin Rhodes, Brandon Hagen, Dave & Tammy Peterson, Duane & Cheryl Lembke

• Monday, December 22nd: Destiny Rita Hill, David Arends, Pam Cook, Gary Dobberstein, Tracy Dulas, Julie Jensen Wichman, Ed Nelson, Nikki Toft Schumaker, Barbara Zamora, Bryce Hanson, Jamie Jensen

• Tuesday, December 23rd: Vicki Richards, Jonika Otto Wing, Jess Dunlap, Paitin DuBois, Julie Cornelius, Keith Severson, Carol Schultz, Sophia Swift, Burt & Carla Scripture

• Wednesday, December 24th: Christmas Eve!  Barbara Mrotz, Brooke Reese, Craig Paulsen, Anna Louise Fuerniss, Susan Oolman

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