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THE CHRISTMAS TREE – FRIEND OR FOE?

Cindy and Mom at ChristmasHolidays are made of memories – some good. Some challenging!  

When I was a kid I couldn’t wait to travel “over the hills and through the woods” to my Grandmother’s house.  Unfortunately, our journey was over slushy freeways in wind chills below zero, to Grandma’s brick bungalow in Chicago. 

I’d enter her house hoping for the scent of fresh-baked gingerbread cookies. But my grandmother’s kitchen was more likely to smell of blood sausage and sauerkraut than my sugar-coated fantasies! As for my other grandmother who hailed from Sweden – her specialties were pickled herring and fruitcake.

 I was the only kid who lost weight over the holidays! 

Putting up our tree tended to be less of a starry-eyed family bonding experience and more like an episode of 30 Rock. My dad was an engineer, which for some reason meant that stringing lights and hanging ornaments turned into an all-day affair peppered with expletives. It probably didn’t help to have me whining on the sidelines about our stupid smelly tree, as I kept hoping my mother and father would finally “get with it” like the rest of the neighbors. My friends celebrated Christmas in style–with an aluminum tree. I couldn’t understand why my parents wanted a boring Douglas fir when they could have a revolving silver tree complete with a brightly lit color wheel.

 Fortunately, my taste has improved, and I no longer want to rock around a tree that resembles a skinny disco ball. When my children were young, I was determined they would have wonderful memories of their own. We live in Placerville, California, the Christmas tree capital of the world. What better holiday tradition for my kids than wandering through a tree farm or two and chopping down our own tree?

  Chopping down a Christmas tree isn’t quite as romantic as it sounds. Every year we’d tour farm after farm, trudging up hills and sliding down muddy trails. We eliminated giant redwoods and Charley Brown pipsqueaks. Nothing but the best tree would do for us. My son, a “city slicker in training” continually lamented why our family had to slop around in the December rain instead of buying a tree from Safeway like normal folks.

 I kept up the tradition even after I became a single Mom. That first year, the tree fell over daily, strewing broken ornaments everywhere. My daughter attempted to smooth the base of the trunk with the tiny saw from her dollhouse kit but to no avail. Just as I had given up and decided the Samples would celebrate with a horizontal tree, my ex  stopped by and sawed down the trunk. It remains what it should be–a funny holiday memory.

I’m sure you all have great stories of your own. Share a holiday memory by December 21st, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon gift card! Won’t that make a terrific present!

THANKS EVERYONE FOR SHARING YOUR WONDERFUL HOLIDAY STORIES. THE WINNER OF THE AMAZON GIFT CARD IS NORMA HUSS.

70 Comments

  1. Tina Smith on December 12, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Cindy! I loved your Christmas tree story. The image of you daughter sawing the Christmas tree trunk is so cute!

    My favorite memory comes from childhood. My older sister loved to investigate and find all the Christmas gifts. She made it her personal mission. Then she’d lead me and my brothers by the hand and show each of us what we were getting. I hated it, because I liked the surprise and also I’m a rule follower. It was against the rules. My mom got smarter each year, eventually keeping the gifts at my grandma’s house until she’d wrap them and place them under our tree. My sister, not one to be foiled, poked a hole with a pencil for each of her gifts and rearranged them under the tree so the hole would not show. She made a good guess on what each of her gifts were and one she was particularly excited about. A jean jacket!! All the rage in the 80s. That little pencil hole grew and grew, until one day it was the size of a fist and my sister would pull a section of the jean jacket to inspect it, then carefully place it under the tree.

    Well, my mother swore us to secrecy one day and took that gift into her room and carefully unwrapped it, place a new gift inside and re-wrapped it.

    My sister opened the gift that morning to find a pair of my mom’s ripped and torn jeans. My sister burst into tears and my mom waited a while before revealing the true gift. We all had a good laugh over how my mom outsmarted her kids. That’s why we never cross her to this day.

    hope you have a good holiday, Cindy!

    Tina

    • Cindy Sample on December 12, 2013 at 7:44 pm

      You have one smart mother! I remember keeping separate Santa paper for the kids gifts. One year I forgot to switch the paper and the jig was up!

  2. Paisley Kirkpatrick on December 12, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    We live a bit up the road from Placerville and my hubby and one of his friends always go out into the woods and bring home a tree from a ranch way up the mountain. I always suggest they think smaller, but smaller to my husband still is an 18 foot tree. He insists out in the woods they don’t look that tall in comparison. We have the cathedral ceiling, but really???? This one year, the tree was so big that he threatened to tie it to the three corners of the room. Well, the tree broke the tree stand the first time he let go of it. He brought his chainsaw in and it took a couple of tries, but he finally got it small enough to stand in a new stand. I actually need a tall ladder to put ornaments on the higher branches and Santa up on top. I might add, we have memory ornaments, one of which I made in kindergarten a very long time ago and it has been on every one of my trees. We haven’t decorated for Christmas for a few years now, but I am thinking we might again one of these years after our move.

    • Cindy Sample on December 12, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      I have 18 ft. ceilings too, Paisley, and those big trees just call out to me. But big ladders are not my friend, so I’m getting better at sticking with the 8 1/2 foot variety.

  3. Ginni on December 12, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    I loved your story, Cindy. I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle and enjoy. I have no Christmas memories to share so I appreciate the brief moment when I could be a part of your Christmases.

    • Cindy Sample on December 12, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      Ginni, thanks for commenting. It counts! Those memories get funnier as the years go by but I probably wasn’t smiling about them back then.

  4. Liz jasper on December 12, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    This sent me right into Christmas memory-land. Thank you for that!

    • Cindy Sample on December 12, 2013 at 9:48 pm

      Well Liz when you have time I’m going to expect a great story from you. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Joyce Mason on December 12, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    My favorite memories are from Christmas 1968 at my brother’s apartment in Chicago. Instead of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, he baked them in the oven … where they exploded because he didn’t know he should have pierced them first. He also made flat ecalirs because our cousin forgot to give him an essential ingredient in her recipe … but you can’t say he didn’t try … 3 times before he found out it was the recipe, not him. We laughed so hard over all these mishaps.

    Later after Midnight Mass, we drank green grasshopper cocktails and were pleasantly swacked during presents. We found couch and floor space and camped out like a big Christmas Eve PJ party. My mother, brother, one sister and nephew are all gone now, but the memory of that Christmas that was so wacky and fun lingers 45 years later. Merry memories to all, and to all a good night–one as great as my special one in ’68!

  6. Cindy Sample on December 12, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Joyce, you have so many intriguing stories to share with all of us. I’m sorry for your losses but I’m glad you can smile remembering those wonderful times. Some day we need to have a grasshopper cocktail party just like the days of yore!

  7. Kathey Norton on December 12, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    It was Christmas of 1986. I was working at a fast food restaurant at the time and helping support my mother. We couldn’t afford heat let alone a Christmas tree. My first boyfriend, at the time, had suffered through the break up of his parents’ marriage and never got over the fact that they split up, so after they both moved out and left him alone in the house, he never had the desire to change anything about the house or pull out the family tree and vintage ornaments to decorate. I think he felt if he kept everything the same, his mom and dad would come back home and they’d be a family again. He knew how much I loved Christmas and missed not having a tree. He decided to surprise me by donating his family’s tree, lights, and those beautiful ornaments. I will never forget the joy he had helping me decorate the tree and rediscovering all those memories of his childhood. After that he was able to contemplate making changes to his house and starting his own life, and it was all due to that Christmas tree. It made my mom and me feel so loved and special. He passed away unexpectedly in 1990, but I still hang the Santa he made as little boy front and center on one of the four Christmas trees I put up in my house each year.

    • Cindy Sample on December 12, 2013 at 11:24 pm

      Kathey, that is one of the sweetest and also saddest stories I’ve ever heard. Thank you for sharing your special memory with all of us.

  8. Pam Cockrell on December 13, 2013 at 12:38 am

    One of the funniest memories of Christmas was living in Nairobi, Kenya when my kids were really really little. Johnny was probably 3 1/2 and Carrie was 1 1/2. Mom spent a lot of money shipping the kids some great Fischer Price toys for Christmas and the kids played with them for about 2 hours….but for the next week they played with the popcorn peanuts used as packing material. I found that stuff for weeks afterwards. She could have saved a lot of money knowing that in advance. Still makes me smile to think back about it.

    • Cindy Sample on December 13, 2013 at 1:17 am

      Pam, that is so true. I remember my kids spending all their time playing in the boxes their stuff came in! Fun memories.

  9. Louise Pledge on December 13, 2013 at 3:05 am

    Speaking of your subject title question, a live tree is foe to me. The last time I had one, we spent a lot of time, selecting the perfect one. It was the nicest tree I’ve had before or since in shape and size, a real beauty. We put it up in our conservatory, where I, also, gave piano lessons. After a couple of hours in there with my students and the tree, I developed breathing problems. A few hours later, I was rushed to the hospital, unable to breathe. It was determined that I was allergic to my own Christmas tree!

    Since then, it’s been only the artificial kind, but they can, also,be foe! For instance, the one in my living room right this moment only has the bottom part lit up, and this is a pre-lit tree! It’s driving me crazy, trying to get the whole tree to light.

    • Cindy Sample on December 13, 2013 at 11:07 am

      Hi Louise, how awful to be allergic to pine trees. They just did an episode of that on THE MIDDLE. I’ve debated switching to an artificial tree myself, but from what I’ve heard, they aren’t any easier to manage. Enjoy the half that’s lit up!

  10. Jacqueline Seewald on December 13, 2013 at 7:31 am

    Hi, Cindy,

    Congrats on your new website! My New Year’s resolution will be to finally do my own website independent of Author Expressions. I enjoyed reading about your Christmas memories. You’re a fine storyteller. Happy holidays!

    • Cindy Sample on December 13, 2013 at 11:09 am

      Thanks, Jacquie. I didn’t design this website but it’s very user friendly! Happy holidays back to you.

  11. Nancy Means Wright on December 13, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Great website, Cindy, and a delightful blog. After I married an 8th-generation Vermonter, a paragon of civil disobedience, he started a cut-your-own tree farm on our fifteen acres. After that I spent hours trudging through the snow with folks who wanted help choosing and cutting. Of course we were the last ones to choose, so we usually had something that resembled an awkward belly dancer doing her last fling before retirement. And my husband refused to take it down until it was a skeleton–all limbs, no needles, and a few saggy ornaments hanging their sad heads. Now though we’re divorced, and I can be lazy and hang my ornaments on the ficus tree.

    • Cindy Sample on December 13, 2013 at 11:10 am

      LOL Nancy. You always make me laugh. And your description of the belly dancer doing her last fling is now a new Christmas memory for me. Enjoy rocking around your ficus tree!

  12. Helen Henderson on December 13, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Great memories, Cindy, you’re a good storyteller. Once children grow up and move out, the day-long affair of lugging decorations from the attic and setting up tree and garland loses some of its luster. And don’t forget the garland and lights for the fence outside. It always seems mother nature decides to send chilling temperatures just as we have a free moment to decorate. And when it came time to ‘undecorated,’ customers started calling so husband was too busy and the task often fell to me to a lovingly put way each heritage ornament. We haven’t put up the tree for a few years, but he’ll hang a wreath, I’ll dig out a few of the large pinecones we collected on our honeymoon, and unwrap a few of the family decorations. Less fuss, but just as meaningful. One tree moment that will stay treasured. A great-niece unwrapping an illustrated children’s book with her name in it. Created of course, by the writer in the family–me.

    Happy holidays. All. Helen

    • Cindy Sample on December 13, 2013 at 11:14 am

      HI Helen. Thanks for sharing that special memory of your niece discovering your illustrated children’s book. How special that is. I’ve also given up on the outdoor ornaments. One year I was determined to have a herd of lit up deer in my front yard but nature seemed to think that was a bad idea. After they fell over repeatedly, I finally left them sprawled on the ground. I woke up to find them standing tall and strong on Christmas Day. Either a kindly neighbor or Santa came to the rescue!

  13. Peter Green on December 13, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Ah, Christmas back in Chicago. “Winter is icumen in…Cometh bus and sloppeth us, Lhude sing…” You know the rest, from Ogden Nash. My dad, being Jewish, never celebrated Christmas as a boy, He was our best Christmas elf. He had to have the biggest tree in the lot, and would often have to lop off the top of his 20-footer to fit our twelve-foot ceilings, with many structural failures resulting in crashes. I can see him cursing for hours, replacing bulbs in light strings wired in series to find the bad bulbs. In St. Louis now, when our daughters were younger, we traipsed through the snow in a Missouri wooded tree lot and cut our own. The prettiest one grew on a slope, and we never could get it supported right (you have to cut off the crooked part of the trunk at the bottom). When if fell down just as we entered the house one day, we wired it up with fishing line to a couple of door knobs. Memories! All great fun. Merry Christmas, all Congrats on your new website, Cindy! Peter

    • Cindy Sample on December 13, 2013 at 11:21 am

      Peter, you need to do a Christmas blog of your own. You have so many stories to share. I’m happy to learn I’m not the only person to have their tree crash to the floor. Only an architect would think of using fishing line to tie the tree to the door!

  14. Patricia on December 13, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    The revolving silver aluminum tree – what an awesome picture that paints in my mind. Can you say yikes? I remember those but never had one. Growing up in a religious cult family, we didn’t celebrate any holidays so my first ever Christmas tree experience was amazing. I’ve only resorted to “buying a tree from Safeway,” one time and it was actually Home Depot. My husband and I had taken our nieces and nephew on a cruise about a week before Christmas (long story as to why) and had decided before the trip not to decorate the house that year. But when we returned home from Mexico the house just didn’t seem right without some Christmas cheer (which we needed that year) so we picked up a straggler from The Home Depot and put a few ornaments and lights on to add a sense of the holiday magic to our house.

    Otherwise, we too go traipsing over hill and date for just the right tree and usually end up making a fine selection. I love that tradition.

    And I have to know, are you still losing weight over the holidays? If you need some inspiration to do so I’ll forward a fruitcake that’s been in my pantry for 3 years. That ought to do the trick.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Cindy Sample on December 14, 2013 at 1:57 am

      Patricia. You live in the Christmas Tree capitol of the world. I think you only have to drive a mile to chop down a tree. I might just take you up on that fruitcake. That could be the perfect way to diet for me!

  15. Betty Gordon on December 13, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Merry Christmas, Cindy. Thanks for sharing the wonderful memories. Congrats on your new website — looks good.

  16. Cindy Schellenberg on December 13, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    There are lots of fond memories growing up, but one of my earliest ones was when we lived in Mill Valley. I was about 4 years old and even at that age the love of animals, especially horses, was firmly established. Santa brought me an amazing fancy sulky – that’s with the horse and the cart like the racers – you pedal with your feet and move all the horse’s legs. I made that horse go so fast; it was my vision of freedom and horsepower. He had a metal body and was white with grey spots and a real mane and tail.
    Our Christmas tree was really tall and stood in the center of the room, with a miniature train track around the base – perfect for making my racetrack next to. Faster and faster we raced, mane and tail flying until, somehow, the whole Christmas tree ended up falling on top of us. There was tinsel everywhere and fortunately no casualties, but me and my racehorse were banned to the outdoors.
    That sulky made the trip through later generations with the same enthusiasm – wish I still had it !

    • Cindy Sample on December 14, 2013 at 1:59 am

      Cindy, that sulky had to be the best children’s gift ever. I can just visualize you with your hair flying and legs churning! Feel free to share any photos of that memory:-)

  17. Rae on December 14, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    This memory involves my grandmother, who brought home a family of five on Christmas Eve.

    “These are your cousins, move over and make room for them.” She bellowed.

    Our cousins lived with my grandmother in her small converted basement. The father was going to med school, and the mother was a teacher at a community college. The three boys went to school with us. Eventually, the father became a doctor, and the mother—a professor at the university.
    Over the years we shared our meals, joys and sorrows. We spent several Christmases together at Grandma’s, until my cousins moved to a beautiful house in the city and we started to spend our Christmases with them.

    Years later at my grandmother’s funeral, the eldest of my cousins took the lectern. With tears in his eyes he told the story of how his family had left Louisiana on the bus headed for California and how on a chill Christmas Eve night, they’d been mugged and all their money and jewelry stolen. He told how my grandmother, waiting at a local bus stop, noticed them huddled on a bench outside the Greyhound station. My grandmother came over, heard their plight and in a way that she had about her, went over to a taxi waiting for fares and talked him into giving them all a free ride to her home.
    We all looked around in the church at each other in amazement.

    Now, we knew why the taxi driver came to dinner on that long ago Christmas day, and why you don’t have to be blood relations to be family.

    • Cindy Sample on December 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      Rae, thanks so much for sharing. That is just the holiday story we love to hear about. It made me tear up and smile simultaneously. Your grandmother was a very special woman. Kind of reminds me of her granddaughter!

  18. Gemma Juliana on December 14, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Cindy, Reading about your childhood Christmas memories had me chuckling big time. When we are young things always seem like they’d be better if they were different. I grew up in the Caribbean and a typical Christmas day was spent water skiing and barbequing on the beach. One of my funniest memories was the year a total stranger approached the beach from the sea on water skis all dressed up as Santa in his red suit. He angled himself close to the beach ho, ho, ho-ing all the way along with Reggae music blaring from his speed boat. It’s as vivid in my mind’s eye today as it was forty years ago!

  19. Cindy Sample on December 14, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    Gemma, I would love to see your water skiing Reggae-music-loving Santa Claus. What a picture! Last year my kids and I spent Christmas in Hawaii. It was so special to sit through the Christmas Eve service with the waves crashing next to us, dancers performing to beautiful Hawaiian melodies and 1,000 people holding candles, singing and swaying in unison. A wonderful new memory for us.

  20. Kay Lenhart on December 14, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Hi Cindy! Lucky us to live the Christmas tree capital! My family started this tradition when I was young. We would travel from San Jose to Diamond Springs for Thanksgiving at the Patterson Ranch, and go home with our own Christmas tree, chopped from their property. Many years later, after we moved to Placerville, we started going to the tree farms. It became our tradition, and continued with my own family. I hooked up with my parents (My dad had a truck, but not enough seats for me and my girls), therefore, we went in two cars. We drove the 20 or so miles, parked the cars, and I noticed one of the twins wasn’t there. Where is Ashley? Didn’t she go with you? NO! Me either! Holy Moly……..we left my 8 year old at HOME!!!! I jumped back in the car, FLEW down Hwy 50, got back to my folks house, to find a sobbing child…..boy did I feel ROTTEN! We had just watched “Home Alone”, and I did the same thing! We laugh about it now, but I will NEVER forget my crying daughter, and how awful she must have felt, poor baby!

    • Cindy Sample on December 14, 2013 at 10:43 pm

      Sorry, Kay, but I had to chuckle at that one. One time I was supposed to get the Kentucky Fried chicken dinner and Ron was supposed to get the kids. He got confused and we almost ended up with two buckets of chicken and zero kids!

  21. Jeannette on December 15, 2013 at 12:32 am

    My favorite Christmas memory was the year I was in 4th grade. I desperately wanted two things, a watch and a journal. Christmas morning rolled around and I opened the usual clothing gifts. Then my dad handed me a small package. I was so happy I had gotten my journal that I didn’t realize that it wasn’t my last gift. Dad told me to go talk to my mother who had hidden my last gift in the branches of the tree. It was a beautiful watch! I had asked for one of two things and I was thrilled that I had gotten both. Little did I realize that the most beautiful gift had been given to me in the two wonderful parents that I was privileged to call my own. Dad is celebrating his 81st Christmas and Mom is celebrating her 76th, this Christmas is going to be special!

    • Cindy Sample on December 15, 2013 at 12:35 am

      Thanks for sharing your 4th grade Christmas memory. I see an early writer in the making with one of your wishes. Congratulations on celebrating with your very thoughtful parents. My 87 year old mother is flying from Chicago to spend Christmas with my kids and me. We can’t wait to create new memories. She also offered to clean my pantry as a Christmas present.

      Now that’s a special gift!

  22. Elke Schlosser on December 15, 2013 at 5:36 am

    I wrote a little story about Christmas in the Gold Rush Country that I wanted t share,
    http://enchantedaprilinn.blogspot.com/p/a-gold-rush-country-christmas.html

    Elke

    • Cindy Sample on December 15, 2013 at 11:20 am

      Hi Elke, thanks for sharing your story. It really captures the essence of our wonderful gold country. Aren’t we lucky to have found this beautiful area?

  23. jennymilch on December 15, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Grandma’s brick bungalow and blood sausage. Ah, the stuff of holiday cheer. And possibly the source of one very funny mystery writer 🙂

    My own funny Christmas memory involves me and my brother spotting the colored toilet paper they used to sell back in the 70s. Remember that pastel stuff–pale yellow, pink, green, and blue? Well, we thought it would look just wonderful wound around and around our tree, like garlands. My mother, to her credit, didn’t discourage us (or laugh). Instead she wisely suggested how nice it would be to have a second tree! Up by our bedrooms! And we could decorate it any way we wanted.

    Happy holidays!

    • Cindy Sample on December 15, 2013 at 11:28 am

      Happy holidays to you, Jenny. What a great story and what a wonderful mother you have. That sounds like a very creative and economical way to decorate a tree to me! Have a lovely Christmas with your beautiful family. Mom and I are looking forward to your next book with anxious anticipation:-)

  24. Amy Brantley on December 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    My favorite Christmas memory from my childhood was my Granny reading me Twas the Night Before Christmas each Christmas Eve. It was something I continued to have her do for me long past the point of believing. Heck, if I lived in my hometown I’d probably still ask her to do it LOL

    • Cindy Sample on December 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      That’s such a nice tradition. Can you get your Granny to Skype with you? The modern version of curling up with Granny.

  25. Kristina Mathews on December 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    The only thing that I absolutely have to have is a Christmas tree. A real one. When I was in college I’d planned to go home to Tahoe for my first Christmas away but a storm came right after finals and I was stuck in Reno. On Christmas Eve I selected a tree from whatever the Rite Aid was back then, threw it in the back of my friend’s convertible and decorated it that night. I still have the Little Mermaid ornament I made from a Happy Meal toy.

    This year we got to cut down our Christmas tree in the snow. It was beautiful. We go to the same place every year and it is the one tradition I won’t cut back on.

    • Cindy Sample on December 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      This has been the most beautiful white Christmas season ever in Placerville and Apple Hill. I even had a few flakes at my house. I love that you still have that Little Mermaid ornament. One side of my tree is comprised of the ornaments my kids created through the years. Considering that some are 30 years old, they are remarkably sturdy!

  26. Lois Winston on December 15, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    My childhood was anything but happy, so I was determined that my kids would have wonderful holiday memories. We, too, went to a Christmas tree farm each year. Our family tradition was to head to the farm Thanksgiving weekend. We’d pick out and tag our tree, then return two weeks before Christmas to pick it up. The tree farm would cut it for us, which was a huge plus. On the way home we’d stop for lunch next door to a Christmas shop. While the kids ate lunch, I’d duck into the shop and pick out a new nutcracker each year. I’d always try to find themed nutcrackers that had some meaning to my kids. When they grew up and moved out, we divided the nutcrackers between them.

    • Cindy Sample on December 15, 2013 at 5:31 pm

      That’s a great story, Lois. I love collecting nutcrackers although my collection is on the small side. I have a few from my travels in Europe and they bring back wonderful memories.

  27. Sherry Joyce on December 15, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Great Christmas story, Cindy. We have really weird things in common. Hailing from Milwaukee, we had blood sausage often (I thought it was delicious because I was sure it was not real blood, after all)–couldn’t get friends in California to try it, ha ha. My fondest Christmas memories were of my mother ironing tinsel and hanging it strand by strand on the tinfoil tree. No smell. I thought all trees were metal of some kind until we celebrated Christmas at my cousin’s home and there was this huge green tree with unbelievable pine scent. I tried to convince my parents to get a real tree, but as they aged, the tree got smaller and smaller, less tinsel etc. until it was about 3′ tall sitting on a coffee table.
    The nativity set was my favorite–setting up the little figurines, the manger and baby Jesus. I liked the animals the best. When I was around five year’s old, I made a little playhouse between the sofa and the Christmas tree, directly under one of the large branches and twinkling lights, so I could enjoy my new pretty doll (Linda) and my new metal stove and sink. Music was playing in the background as I hugged my doll in my little “corner of the world.” It was magical then and the memory still remains. Worst part of Christmas was helping my mom take all the strands of tinsel off the tree and desperately try to lay them flat in a box to be ironed the next year! Let’s have some blood sausage (secretly) in 2014!

  28. Cindy Sample on December 15, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Sherry, I’m glad someone else remembers those shiny silver trees! Was it a Midwest thing? We too had to carefully take off the tinsel to save it for the following year. One would think it was made of precious metal instead of costing about a dime a box. But I think we went with the non-ironed crinkled look:-) Thanks for sharing your little corner of Christmas with us.

  29. Linda Lovely on December 15, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Hey, Cindy–I can relate to your Christmas tree story. When we lived in Durham, NC, a friend who owned a farm invited us to cut down a Christmas tree on his property. We wandered around a bit, picked a nice bushy specimen, and were done in no time. It wasn’t until we got home that we discovered a good part of the “bushy” came courtesy of the neighboring tree. There were holes–bare spots–a plenty. Plus it wasn’t straight and it was too tall. No problem. Bring out the saw. Did I mention my husband’s an engineer. Several hours, okay maybe several days later. We had a perfect tree, if you didn’t look too closely. Tom took limbs he chopped off the bottom and wired them in place. (We did have your aluminum tree and a fresh cut rolled into one.) Tom also had the tree wired to a doorknob to make it stand straight. We had company that year. My sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephew. The nieces and nephew, now in their 40s, still laugh about that tree. A great memory.

    • Cindy Sample on December 15, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      Great story, Linda. Maybe I should write my next blog about engineers – friend or foe! Your re-engineered tree sounds quite interesting. Attaching a tree to a doorknob also seems to be very popular with those engineer hubbies. Happy holidays to you!

    • Patricia on December 16, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      I just have to say – Linda Lovely – what an absolutely perfect name.

      Patricia Rickrode
      w/a Jansen Schmidt

      • Cindy Sample on December 16, 2013 at 5:27 pm

        And Linda is as lovely as her name. Plus one of my favorite romantic mystery authors!

  30. Elaine L. Orr on December 16, 2013 at 8:52 am

    I had to laugh at Pam’s story of her kids playing with the peanuts in the box. I have a great picture of my two-year old nephew sitting in a box after opening what was probably 20 presents from his parents, aunts, and uncles. One year our parents talked to us about how Santa had more children to give to that year, so there might not be as much for us. But, we should be happy because lots of children were getting presents. However, while there were some new presents, my father had scoured a couple of thrift stores and there were as many presents as other years. One of them was a three-foot doll for my sister. It had a sign that said, “I walk when you hold my left hand.” We assured our parents it was the best Christmas ever. A few days later my mom (age 42!) had a stroke. She began to recover, but when she came home from the hospital she could not walk down the hall to the bathroom without someone helping her. My father pinned that sign (which was a ribbon, as I remember) above her bed. For a bunch of little kids, that sign took the terror out of seeing our mom like that. And we would not have had those laughs if it had not been what my parents believed was a lean Christmas.

    • Cindy Sample on December 16, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Elaine, thanks for sharing your story, another tale that brought both tears and a smile to my face. These memories that everyone has shared have really touched me. Happy holidays to you and your family.

  31. Margaret Rhodes on December 16, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Cindy, you had me laughing out loud with your Christmas stories. One of my favorite Christmas memories was from a few years back. A man I was dating at the time knew how much I was hooked on Riverdance and Lord of the Dance–that should tell you about how long ago it was:) Anyway, he got tickets for my son Hunter and me to go see Lord of the Dance. Here I was, jumping up and down and almost screaming in excitement, at the age of almost 30–quite a picture, I promise you. Hunter and I had a fantastic time at that show:)

    • Cindy Sample on December 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm

      I don’t care how old you are or how many performances of Riverdance I’ve seen, those dancers always make me kick up my heels! To my hips regret:-( Sounds like a terrific memory. Thanks for sharing with us.

      • Susan King on December 16, 2013 at 2:14 pm

        Love your story, Cindy! And all your friends too! My childhood was very nice and I laughed as we had an aluminum tree for a few years too! With the spot light that had colors turn! My story is 26 years ago when my husband and I first married. His birthday is Dec 7 and his mother never put up the tree till after they celebrated his birthday (I think he was probably a spoiled brat!). That wouldn’t work for me and I had to have a very large “real” tree for our first home. We must have gone to 10 church lots and he complained all the while that his mother never did the tree the day after Thanksgiving. Then we had to get it home off the top of the car, cut the bottom, drag it in, decorate, etc. And being newly weds I wanted the perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas so I was playing the Christmas tunes and trying to give Michael egg nog which I found out he hates. By the time it was all over, we were mad at each other the rest of the night! So we agreed that I can start Christmas decorating any time I want as long as I agree to an artificial tree. We are probably on our 10th tree, but they look so real that I’m happy! He’s still kind of a Grinch, but I still love him after 26 years! Cheers to you and Merry Christmas, Cindy! (and friends!)

        • Cindy Sample on December 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm

          Susan, congratulations on 26 years together, despite Michael’s occasional Grinch moment. Those first Christmases together are always a test but you’ve survived it well! Happy holidays to you and Michael.

  32. Dana Fredsti on December 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Awww, what a great post, Cindy!

    My childhood memories always seem to involve food: bowls of foil-wrapped chocolates in red, green, silver and gold, usually shaped like bells or balls, and boxes of chocolate covered cherries (which I didn’t really like as much as I thought I should…). We would always bake Christmas cookies, the kind made with cream cheese and lots of butter that require the use of a cookie press with different “nozzles” through which the dough was squeezed and would come out in different shapes. We’d sprinkle some with colored sugar, add chocolate chips or Hershey’s kisses to others, and the smell/taste of those is Christmas to me.

    • Cindy Sample on December 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      Dana, remind me not to read your comments until after I’ve eaten breakfast. I may skip the oatmeal and go directly to chocolate. I’ve just discovered the best 20 second dessert – chocolate whipped cream, chocolate chips & toffee bits. To die for! Thanks for sharing your tasty memories.

  33. Norma Huss on December 17, 2013 at 11:01 am

    I’d just started working and, with my (minuscule) new income, bought gifts for the family. Great gift for mom! Something new and hugely advertised – A Lazy Susan. Cue to Christmas Eve, before the unwrapping, Mom said, “I hope you didn’t get me a Lazy Susan.” Well, yes, I did. She gulped and thanked me nicely. She may even have used it once or twice.

    Much better memory. One daughter was expecting so immanently, the whole family traveled to her house on Christmas Eve. Next day, as the rest of us sat around the dinner table, son-in-law called. They were at the hospital and our first grandchild was on the way. We assured him we’d be there, after we finished the meal. We made it just after our grandson was born. (Daughter, true to the Huss tradition, delivered in quite a short time. (That particular “tradition” is why, a few years later, our daughter-in-law wished her husband could give birth instead of her.)

    • Cindy Sample on December 17, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      Hi Norma, thanks for sharing your Christmas story. And congratulations on what sounds like many wonderful grandchildren for you!

  34. Sarah Scott on December 17, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks for triggering a favorite Christmas memory, the one about mixed-up presents. My sister and I, as children, swapped presents with our cousins and friends. One year, two name tags went on the wrong presents. Our friend Judy liked her holster, but imagine the look on our 5-year-old boy cousin’s face when he opened his…ruffled panties.

    • Cindy Sample on December 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm

      Oh, Sarah, I can’t stop laughing at how I’m imagining your boy cousin’s face. I recall mixing up my children’s presents a time or two. It’s really tough when Santa screws them up though!

  35. Kathy McIntosh on December 17, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Loved your tales of Christmas past!
    Our first Christmas in Idaho, we went into the woods to find a tree. It was dry and relatively warm in Boise. I had lived here before but my husband and teenaged daughter had not. They scoffed at my warning that it would be colder in the hills.We all were chilled to the bone after trudging through knee deep snow to find the “perfect” tree. Trust me, it was not perfect, but, teeth chattering, shivering, and exhausted, we all declared the scruffy specimen the best ever. We dragged it back to the car and shared the hot cider I’d brought along while we dried out on the way back to Boise.

    • Cindy Sample on December 17, 2013 at 7:32 pm

      Kathy, great Christmas tree tale. I’ve noticed that the longer you trek through the mud and snow, how much better all those early rejects begin to look!

  36. Nina Romano on December 18, 2013 at 10:15 am

    No time to write a story…too many beautiful memories. But I thank you for these–you gave me a little bit of the old feelings on this difficult Christmas. My brother, best friend, confidant, and link to sanity when my world is besieged by chaos, is terminally ill. This may be his last. We’re just blessed he made it to his son’s wedding in November. Sorry, if I made anyone sad–but please know I’m blessed to have have him NOW!!! and will always cherish the kewpie doll and BB riffle Christmases of past.
    Enjoy every moment with your loved ones. I wish you all great joy and much health and many blessings in the New Year!

    • Cindy Sample on December 18, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Oh, Nina. I was so sad to hear your news about your brother. Please enjoy your time with him now. I’ll be thinking of you and your family through this difficult time. Sending hugs across the miles.

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