Holiday Memories Stories
Streetplay is happy to announce Arnold Emerson as the winner of our "Holiday Memories Contest."Arnold will receive a Streetplay 50/50 prize - A $50 American Express Travelers Cheque and $50 donated to a children's charity of his choice.
We received a lot of entries for this contest and were not able to post them all. Below please see Arnold's story and some of the other entries we received as well.
The best memory I have of the Christmas holidays is the year I turned 9. I was living in Maine and Christmas time meant snow reaching to the rooftops, the smell of homemade cookies wafting from the kitchen and warming our frozen feet and hands in front of the old wooden stove with a stern warning from our mother not to get too close which unfortunately we usually did.
That Christmas though looked to be a pretty lean one as my father has just gotten laid off from the mill and each penny had to stretch the mile of a dollar. My brothers and sisters and I had pretty much accepted the fact that it would not be a Christmas filled with presents but we did not feel poor as we had parents who loved us, food on the table and a roof over our heads. I did though feel the loss of a toboggan, something I had wished for all year and knew now I would never get. I had resigned myself to using the lid of our trash can and empty cardboard boxes, which although did the trick was still not the same.
On Christmas morning we rushed to the tree, which had been a family outing to our woods to cut down, to see what might be under it. There were brightly wrapped presents containing socks, scarfs, homemade dresses for my sisters and their dolls as well as mittens and hat for me. Of course there were stockings filled with walnuts, apples, oranges, hard candy and some penny toys. We also received a board game we could all play and crayons and coloring books. We all felt pretty rich and were delighted with our presents.
My dad left the room and in his gentle and unassuming way came back in with a giant red bow. He gave it to me and told me to go outside and look at what it might be for. I ran outside and there in front of the door was a beautifully made homemade toboggan. My dad had worked late into the night for weeks making that for me. Those nights must have been frigid as there was no heat in the shed and with his arthritis I can only imagine the pain he felt in his hands from sawing and sanding. He had painted it red and painstakingly inscribed my initials into the bow. I was a 9 year old boy who thought he was too old to cry, that is until that morning. I remember hugging him tightly and he hugged me back with tears in his eyes.
After breakfast I took my brand new toboggan out for its first downhill
spin and I swear it went faster than any of the other new toboggans on
the hill that day which were store bought. My dad is no longer with us
but that toboggan is, in my mothers basement, where it has taken my children
and grandchildren and even myself today for the smoothest ride down any
winter hill anywhere!
Growing up, my father worked long hours, and so it was always my mother
who saw to getting me a few Christmas presents. Although she certainly
meant well, the things she selected were mostly practical, boring things.
I could always count on flannel pajamas or a wool scarf. And so I remember
very vividly the Christmas morning that my father presented me with a
wrapped package. It was a strange and wonderful thing to realize that
he, himself, had gone shopping and picked something out for me. It was
a copy of "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London. It was a very
special gift that my father gave me that Christmas --an extraordinary
book that awakened my love of reading.
"A Soldier's Wife"
Thirty years ago I was a young wife of a year, we did not have much as my husband was a new Airman in the Air Force and the pay then was low to say the least.. I had married my childhood sweetheart and thought myself the luckiest person in the world. The minute he walked in the door I knew something was wrong as his face was chalk white.
To add to my joy, I had just found out I was pregnant and was on cloud nine. I cooked a special dinner and bought candles to create the perfect evening for myself and the man I so much loved. I watched the clock slowly tick away the minutes till he walked in the door. The minute he walked in the door I knew something was wrong as his face was chalk white. He told me in a voice of tears that he just received orders to Vietnam and would be leaving within a month. To this day, I still remember the way I felt. My heart sank and I felt as if my world had come to an end. I remember we cried in each others arms for hours and when we stopped I told him about the baby. You could see the happiness, pride and fear as heard the words.
I remember taking him to the Airport and him bravely and sadly waving goodbye from the airplane window. I tried to be so brave but after I got in the car, I broke into tears which I thought would never end. We were stationed in Kansas and far from home as our family was in New Hampshire, where we were from. They tried so hard to get me to come home until he came back, but I wanted to show everyone I could be independent, so I stayed.
I wrote him everyday and he wrote back. I stopped watching the news as it also had something about the war. I did not sleep much at night as I feared a knock on the door in the early hours of an already too long day.
I had a little girl with the prettiest red hair and bluest eyes. She looked exactly like her dad and I held her close promising that her dad would come home one day and we could all be a family once again. We were each others comfort and joy and as I rocked her each night, I sang to her and prayed to the Good Lord to watch over my husband and keep him safe. Time slowly went by and before I knew it, it was Christmas. I admit that I just could not get into the Christmas spirit. I always loved this day, as my family celebrated it with such joy when I was growing up. We had all the tree, trimmings, but most of all we celebrated the birth of Jesus. I tried to hand onto that, but when my daughter and I would go out, it seemed like families everywhere were smiling but most of all together. I would quietly return home. I was not going to have a tree, but my mom told me on the phone, that I should at least have a little one for my daughter, and to not forget just what Christmas really was about. I felt so ashamed as I realized that God had given me a husband I cherished and a daughter I adored.
On Christmas Eve, I turned on the tree lights and our daughters eyes shone with glee and amazement. I still felt bad but she made me feel hopeful. Suddenly there was a knock on the door and I held my breath afraid to answer. After a few more knocks, I finally summoned the courage to answer. I opened the door and there was someone dressed as Santa. In front of his face was a big bouquet of flowers and what looked like dozens of balloons. "HO HO HO", he said, "I heard that someone here could use a little cheering up." Just as I admit I was ready to close the door on the person, the flowers came down and there was the most beautiful face I had ever seen. My husband, my best friend and the love of my life. He had been discharged early due to a non life threatening injury. All the other family knew, but he asked them to keep it quiet so he could surprise me. We took each others hand and I introduced him to his daughter. They fell in love with each other.
That was almost 30 years, five children, two daughters in law, one son
in law, and one granddaughter ago. I will never forget that night of miracles
and the Lord who gave me a gift on his birthday.
After a short visit with great aunts and a Christmas eve church service, my whole family always changed into pajamas, crowded around the fireplace, and sang songs. It was our moment of peace in a hectic season, and it became my favorite part of Christmas.
Last year, we had a guest for Christmas eve. Cris is an Kenyan student which my family sponsors. He's an easygoing type, and went along amiably with all the visiting and the church and the singing, but he didn't know the songs.
My mother asked whether Cris would like to sing something he knew, and
he said, quietly and politely, that he would. He sang in Swahili, which
we couldn't understand, but the tune was "I saw three ships a-sailing,"
and we were able to join in humming. I remember that song being especially
"A Fateful Day"
When that cold, freezing rainy snow began to fall on Friday, Decmber 16th, 1960, I thought I could use my first day back to school as a diversion from my dad's illness. A mammoth blizzard had buried Brooklyn and Staten Island with over 20 inches of snow and Friday was the first day for public schools to open again.
At noon I was called to the main office where secretaries did not make eye contact with me but told me that I was wanted at home immediately. My dad had taken a turn for the worse and was dying.
I rushed home only to find a darkened house. As day lapsed into dusk, my mom pulled into the driveway and broke the news that my dad had passed away at 9:25 am.
Also that day, Brooklyn and Staten Island shared another tragedy when two planes had a mid- air collision over the Narrows sending the fuselage of the United jet into Park Slope. All 129 in the air and 5 innocent Brooklynites perished.
The holiday story?? Well,Christmas was coming and my mom was in no mood to celebrate. But my friend Mickey and I made our way to the corner vendor who set up his Christmas trees for sale on an empty lot. Remember- there were empty lots once.
So on Christmas eve when all but a few scraggly tress remained, my buddy and I lugged this mangy forelorn tree that Charlie Brown would reject up my block and into my house.
When my mom saw the tree her first reaction was to send it back out. But upon seeing the look on my sister's and my faces, she paused and realized that in light of the death of our dad and the tragedy of the plane crash in Brooklyn and Staten Island, we were still little kids and a little Christmas would not hurt.
The year that I was about 6 or 7 (1951 or 52). I lived with my parents and 2 older sisters in rural Kansas. Santa always came a few days early to our house because, my parents had explained, he couldn't be every place in one night PLUS we always went to our grandparents' on Christmas Day which was a couple of hours drive away from home. My sisters and I attended a country (one-room) school. On this particular night we had our school play. When we left home our mother had forgotten something and went back in the house to get it while Dad and we girls waited in the car.
We all went to the play, in which each of us had a role. Of course there
was snow on the ground. After the play we drove up our drive way and my
dad said, "Look, are those sleigh tracks across the lawn? I think
Santa has been here." To this day I can still see the tracks across
the lawn. Needless to say, my sisters and I rushed into the house to see
what Santa had brought. There all around the tree were dolls for each
of us and many other toys, etc. This is still my fondest Christmas memory.
One of my favorite holiday memories was going downtown to Herald Square just to see the unveiling of the Christmas windows at Gimbles and Macy's! You would be part of this massive moving mob of people who would just walk around and around for what seemed like hours. Marveling at what was created! After looking at the windows, it was off to see Santa and get our pictures taken! Still have some of them after all these years!
My brother had passed away several years ago and for some reason I lost touch with his son Michael. I tried everything to try to find him thru papers, internet, friends, et
This has been going on for many years until one day just after Thanksgiving, I received a call that there was someone matching that name. Unfortunately it turned out to be false.
Having just about giving up, I received a message over the internet that
someone was looking for me. I contacted this person on the Internet and
I gave him my address. A week passed by when the bell rang and low and
behold there was my Nephew whom I hadn't seen for over 10 years. Needless
to say it was the happiest moment of my life.
Every Christmas and Fourth of July was prompted our ritual migration to South Carolina. One Christmas on the way south, I opened the electric window of my grandfather's Cadillac, and my aunt Daisy's expensive wig flew off of her head and onto I-95. She lost more than her wig, at that moment. She pounded me while screaming for my grandfather to pull over and go back for the wig, on a 3 lane highway. Needless to say, my Grandfather told her she was out of her mind. My brother could not control laughing hysterically, which didn't help me any. Aunt Daisy spent the entire 2 week vacation making me regret ever opening that window. She was Queen Mother of cooking in our family, north or south, and she made sure that I was the dead last person to eat for every meal.
I was not looking forward to a ride back north with her, so I seized the opportunity when my cousins' Horace and Jake were too polluted to drive their custom van back north to their hometown of Phillie, after a holiday night of corn liquor with the down-home folk. I was 17 and had my license, so they convinced my Grandfather to let me drive them up, and I could join his party at the scheduled gathering at his nephew's Phillie home.
I'm still a long ways from wig-age, but I respect them and the old lady's who consider them sacred gear.
"A Jewish Girl Meets Santa"
Flatbush, in those days embodied simplicity, both in architecture and ethnicity. Most houses were two-family with brick stoops, driveways spiked with grass mohawks that dead-ended in garages, and in front, the same privet-hemmed hankies of lawn. Ethnically, just about every residence housed either a Jewish or an Italian family. Only during Christmas could you tell which lived where.
For our family, organized religion was not a "biggie." Only to please Grandma was my brother Bar Mitzvah, tutored at the "twelfth hour" by an ancient Rabbi who slept during Stu's practice recitation, unaware he was actually intoning The Dodger lineup. To me, aged six, Judah Maccabee and his valiant brothers, were total strangers. The closest we ever got to Chanukah was the blue paper that occasionally wrapped gifts we exchanged on Christmas Eve. Our holiday was just a nice excuse for family gift-giving and getting together.
But holidays at the Guardino's, especially Christmas, were as different as their house, one of the few single family's. I was entranced by their decorations: bushes looped with multi-colored lights; privets strung with white, turning them at dusk into a Broadway marquis; and their amazing tree that "winked" at me as I gaped from our sun-parlor across the street. Imagine my delight when Mom told me I was invited to sleep over on Christmas Eve--we would do our own gift-giving earlier.
The Guardino's living-room was a Christmas card. The tree, so icicle-covered it resembled a huge silver-wrapped candy kiss was piled high with packages, surprisingly, some with my name; the banister leaing upstairs, draped with stockings in decreasing sizes, the smallest stitched "Judy."
I don't know how I fell asleep in all the excitement, but I must have, until the banging and thumping, and Nancy, the eight-year-old, pulling me out of bed into the hall. Was this a dream? Because there, in full splendor, fat and boisterously jolly was Santa, really Santa. "Shh, kids, keep it down; you don't want to wake Dad; you know how grumpy he can get." Mrs Guardino warned. Nah, this guy was way, way bigger than Hank!
I received many terrific presents that year: oil paints, ice skates, the entire set of Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, but nothing, nothing came anywhere near this little Jewish girl's breathtaking and once-in-a-lifetime gift from the Guardino's --of Santa Claus.
I had a five year old, and a three year old, and a brand new one month old baby five years ago. We were in a very small one bedroom apartment. The three year old and the five year old slept in the living room, it was very spacious. My new baby and I slept in the living room. My Christmas tree was set up at the very end of my pull out couch that me and the baby slept on. My three year old went to crawl up on my bed and he knocked the christmas tree over. It feel staight into the bathroom. It was the funniest thing to see the tree falling, and my son is eight now, and my daughter is twelve. Every year they still laugh about the tree.
"Holiday in Hard Times"
It was the year of 1990 the year right after my dad took his life. A year when we had no money at all. My mom worked at a grocery store to try to help out. We didn't have much we lived in a trailer my brother, sister and I. We had family that lived near us but they didn't have much to do with my mom, they blamed the death of my father on her. So it was just us no male role model in our lives. We didn't care though as long as we had each other I knew we would be just fine.
It was getting near Christmas and like little children we were we got so excited writing Santa Clause every second we got. My mom new we wouldn't be able to have a real good Christmas and I knew she would cry at night feeling as it was all her fault but, not once did she show us how much she hurt. She was always so strong I never seen her cry when I was little. It was getting closer to Christmas and I noticed my mom was working more I barely even seen her she didn't have enough money so my brother had to baby sit us. (he was only 8 at the time)
Well Christmas came so slowly that year I guess it was because we were
so excited. For my mom I think it came too fast. I remember I couldn't
even go to sleep that night I kept think what would Santa bring me hopefully
a new bridal Barbie that I had my eye on for a while. Christmas morning
finally came me and my sister got up and ran to the tree to see all of
our presents, we looked and there wasn't as much as we had gotten in past
years. We didn't care for some reason we just ran and got our brother
and then got our mom. We all sat around the tree opening up presents my
mom made it so fun that year there might have been as many presents that
year but there was more love then ever around that Christmas tree. For
some reason I remember that Christmas after all these years. now that
I looked back I don't know how she even got the money to buy us anything.
My best holiday memory happens to be a secret annual event my sister and I share every Christmas. For the past eleven years, my sister and I secretly go into one another's room the night before Christmas, stay up late talking and sharing secrets without our parents knowing. We have our seperate bedrooms and I can recall, as a young child, us running into one another's room trying not to let our parents hear us.
I would crawl in bed with my sister and we would cuddle up together in the cold winter and tell stories and laugh all night long. Just before 6 a.m. the following morning, my sister or I would return to our "real" rooms and "pretend" to be asleep. About 6:15, our parents would wake us up and say, "Merry Christmas!" We never wanted them to find out about our "Christmas secret" and hope this annual tradition continues for many years.
"Too Much of a Good Thing"
Coming from a large family as I did, we both bought & received many Christmas presents. One year my brother, Dennis, mentioned he needed pajamas.
On Christmas Eve Dennis opened present #1 - a pair of pajamas & present
#2 - a pair of pajamas & present #3 - a pair of pajamas. By this time
he was starting to lose his sense of humor. Present #4 - a pair of pajamas
(now his face was red as Santa's suit - no more humor) & present #5
- a pair of pajamas & present #6 - a pair of pajamas, which was thrown
into the air out of exasperation & he refused to open the others -
each of which contained - you guessed it - a pair of pajamas!!! Never
again would he give suggestions!!
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