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Savoring special Christmas memories

Last year I watched “Blown Away,” a glass blowing reality competition show. I believe it was the holiday special. One of the prompts was for the participants to make something inspired by the most meaningful Christmas gift they’d received.

When I tried to think quickly about what I would make in their place, I drew a total blank, unable to recall a single gift I’d ever received.

Over the following days as I kept pondering, memories of special presents slowly came back to me.

This year I asked my family about stand-out Christmas memories.

My sister Lina remembered a year we skipped the traditional Christmas tree. Our parents’ house has a cutout in the second floor, so around the wood stove and sitting on the first floor you can see up to the second floor.

Lina said a favorite memory of hers was “the year we tied bare branches all around the balcony and decorated them with sparkly garlands and other ornaments. The couch was positioned so you could lean back and look up into a fairyland of glittering branches and ornaments.”

Next she shared a childhood memory. “I told my parents I wanted to play the guitar. I held to that until Christmas Eve, when I told them I instead wanted to play the violin,” Lina said. “I came down Christmas morning and was thrilled to find Santa brought a guitar.”

She said a gift that stands out in her adulthood memory was felted wool slippers I made for the whole family seven years ago.

Next, I asked my sister Ana. She said, “well I like to win Christmas. I like to give the most interesting gift, that makes everyone say ‘she won Christmas this year.’”

She reminisced about the year my daughter was born a week before Christmas. “I made something the year Rosie was born, and I was pretty confident I would win. And then here, you made soap that year. How are you going to win Christmas when a nine-month pregnant lady is making soap?”

My recollection of that Christmas differs slightly. The soap I made was not spectacular, and she screen-printed fabulous tea towels and totes for everyone. I felt she won, hands down.

Then she flashed forward: “A new tradition, since I’ve gone out living on my own — every year after Thanksgiving I go back to Cincinnati, get me a nice tree, decorate it, enjoy it for about two weeks, un-decorate it, shove it in the back of my car (pine needles going everywhere), bring it home, set it up again and everyone decorates it again.” She added, “it’s an unusual tradition, but everyone seems to like it.”

Then I asked my daughter for her favorite holiday memories. “I remember giving [my grandfather] the orange pajama pants. That really stands out to me.” This gift was a form of her teasing him, as he doesn’t like the color orange, and they had a good laugh about it.

She also recalled giving a necklace to her grandmother, and getting a crayon maker, and making a ginger bread house, peppermint bark and popcorn cranberry garlands.

Last year’s special gift to all of us from my mother was wooden puzzles with particularly intricate pieces (some shaped like animals, buildings, or other objects). We spent most evenings putting them together, and finished the lot by New Year’s.

We will see if this year goes down in the books or not. Either way, I’m already loving having my family all together.

ALDONA BIRD is a journalist, previously writing for The Dominion Post. She uses experience gained working on organic farms in Europe to help her explore possibilities of local productivity and sustainable living in Preston County. Email