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Earlier this month I put out the call to our readers to help spread holiday cheer by sharing some memories or family traditions. Below are some of the responses.

From Loreen Schnakenberg, Colorado Springs:

“The Tree”

Some years ago, one of my sisters and I made several emergency trips to our parents’ home in West Texas. On one particular trip, our mother had been admitted to a hospital and our father was at a total loss alone in their house.

His issues with Alzheimer’s exasperated the situation. That trip was right before Christmas.

My sister and I spent the days taking Dad to visit Mom, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, cooking and handling various errands. Days were busy, very busy.

On one particular day, my sister and I decided to make some sense of the growing pile of unopened mail, overdue bills, old letters and just plain junk mail. Before we knew it, we realized it was past 11 p.m. We were mentally and physically exhausted. With both of us being in our 70s, we were no longer blessed with youthful energy.

We can’t explain how, but both of us suddenly had the idea to put up their Christmas tree. Perhaps it was influenced by the glasses of wine we had enjoyed or sparked by some mischievous angel, but the idea turned into action. Why, because Dad so loved Christmas trees, and if we didn’t do it, Christmas would come and go as just another, ordinary day for him.

Dad had fallen asleep in his chair in the family room, but the tree always went up in the ‘formal’ living room. Sister and I hauled the pre-lit, store bought, 7-foot, bent branched, sort-of-OK looking thing from the guest bedroom. A couple of door frames may need repainting. We planted it squarely in front of the large picture window. We inserted the plug into outlet, crossed our fingers and Hallelujah there as light. Next we found several boxes of ornaments, but we weren’t prepared for what was inside. The Christmas elves and angels had suffered multiple amputations of arms, legs and wings. Red and green balls were cracked like egg shells. Somehow we managed assembly line surgeries and came up with a presentable mixture of, let’s say unique, decorations for the tree.

Once done, we turned off all the lights except for those on the tree. Got Dad out of his slumber, but then told him to close his eyes as we led him into the ‘formal’ room. When we allowed him to look, his mouth dropped open and tears slowly crept down his cheeks. “A tree! A beautiful tree!” With his simple words, his happiness poured out of his soul. Soon we were all crying.

Dad is no longer with us, but seeing his reaction that night was and still is one of the best Christmas present we ever received. The joy a simple, or even not so simple, act of kindness can bring to another emphasizes those often forgotten words: ’Tis better to give than to receive.

From Rodney Noel Saunders of Florissant:

As a young child I, remember a neighbor once played Santa Claus and I was totally insistent in going outside to see the reindeer and sleigh. Somehow, they convinced me that wasn’t possible. We always got to open one present on Christmas Eve, then to bed, always waking up much earlier than usual — by at least an hour — to rush to the Christmas tree and start opening the other packages, or simply saying “Wow!” over and over at the special gifts Santa brought that were never wrapped.

Our tree was always “flocked” by my mother using a reverse air flow of a vacuum cleaner to virtually cover the tree in some sort of thick soapy-like whiteness, then decorated with multi-colored lights, balls, and silver colored metallic “icicles” — which you can’t find anymore. Then a breakfast of highly salted pork tenderloin, sausage, bacon, eggs, biscuits, gravy and OJ.

We would repeat many of these traditions over the years with our own three. As an adult traditions were added, most especially special Christmas music of Mannheim Steamroller, most especially their version of “Silent Night” that ends with the recorded sound of wind blowing across the prairie and that beautifully haunting gong, and their version of “Still, Still, Still.” George Winston’s “Peace.”

Then later the music of Celtic Women, whose voices are as pure as any on the planet. And also some of the newer, more unusual music, which, for me, spoke to what I experience as the truer spirit of the meaning of Christmas: The Jackson 5’s “Give Love on Christmas Day” and “Someday At Christmas”; David Foster’s “Grown Up Christmas List”; Melissa Etheridge’s “Ring the Bells” and “Light a Light”; and Idina Mendel’s “At This Table.”

All this music reminds me that it is loved ones and dear friends that matter most at Christmas and every other time of year. That we cannot be as together as in the past makes that reality all the more precious and missed. Not having a holiday party as we have for decades, with the best punch in the known universe, and all the special homemade goodies will make this year even more sad — but next year will be better and shared with more happiness and joy than ever!

From JoAnne Egolf of Monument:

We had several special holidays at Christmas when both kids were teenagers. We would go skiing for several days right around Christmas. One year we went to Vail and stayed in a Westin that had a small movie theater inside the hotel. The kids recall walking out of the room in their bedroom slippers and going to see the Santa Claus movie starring Tim Allen.

Another time we went to Snowmass for Christmas and went to a Christmas Eve service in a beautiful little church. It was snowing and there were two solos by Jimmy Ibbotson from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He sang “Colorado Christmas” and “Oh Holy Night.” Those were special times. The kids are now in their 40s!

Many thanks to JoAnne, Rodney and Loreen for sharing these holiday memories — and some needed holiday cheer! It’s not too late to share your own. Just send them to me at the email address below and I’ll share them next week in this space.

Editor of the four Pikes Peak Newspapers weeklies, Michelle Karas has called the Pikes Peak region home for more than five years. Contact her at michelle.karas@pikespeaknewspapers.com.

Editor, Pikes Peak Newspapers

Michelle has been editor of Pikes Peak Newspapers (Pikes Peak Courier and Tri-Lakes Tribune) since June 2019. A Pennsylvania native and Penn State journalism graduate, she joined The Gazette's staff in 2015.

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