2016 Holiday Essays

Growing up in Joliet, Illinois, my two sisters and I celebrated three Christmases in a small duplex on Richards Street. Mom and Dad always worked to make the holiday memorable. They purchased a cardboard replica of a fireplace with a hidden spinner; it gave off the impression that the light bulb beneath was a flickering fire. It was sturdy enough to tape our stockings to while they remained empty, but Christmas morning when they were bulging, we would find them lying beneath the tree with the other gifts. Some of our gifts would be “sharing” gifts, such as a Mr. Potato Head set, Play-Dough, coloring books and crayons. The summer before I attended fourth grade, we moved to a “new” big farmhouse, across from Lewis College/Airport in Lockport, Illinois where Dad worked. There was a bay window in the living room, just down from a REAL fireplace! It was the perfect spot for the tree that Christmas! Dad took my younger sister, Lana and I to the cut-tree stand to pick out our tree. Dozens and dozens of rows, two boards nailed into “X”s held up the trees for display. As we ran between the rows, it began to snow huge white flakes against the black sky, with carols playing in the background from a speaker on a pole. On the way home, Dad stopped at a little store and bought mound-shaped chocolate drops (his favorite), whole walnuts for the nutcracker, chocolate stars, hard ribbon candy, and a bag of tangerines. The truck smelled strongly of orangey-pine. That night we watched ‘The Flintstones’ Christmas Special’ on our new “family gift” – a COLOR television, while snacking on those treats. I think that was the year of my happiest Christmas memory.

JennaBev Purkaple
SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative, Inc.

Way back around 1949, on a humble central Illinois farm, it was Christmas Eve day with a beautiful snow falling. My parents took my two brothers and me for a ride in the car. When we returned home and came into the house, something was different. There were Christmas presents that had not been there before! My dad went to the window and said “Look. See the tracks where Santa Clause came in through the window!” Sure enough, when I went over to the window sill – which was right at eye level for me – I saw Santa’s tracks in the snow, coming up to the window and even ON the window sill! I was a wide-eyed, drop-mouthed believer! I don’t remember what the presents were, but the image of that snow-tracked window sill is still imprinted in my memory.

Mary Youngblood
Clay Electric Co-operative, Inc.

Christmas Eve 1983. A blizzard was blasting Champaign County. Travel was slow and treacherous. My brother and I were home in Pesotum. Luckily our semester at EIU ended several days before or we could have missed the special Christmas that awaited us.
Looked like the winter storm could close nearby Interstate 57. As the afternoon went on nervous drivers were halting their travels, exiting I-57 into Pesotum. Where to stay? No hotels in this small town of about 600. The volunteer fire department members, including Dad, were helping travelers to safety and warmth in the community building. Afternoon moved to Christmas Eve evening; the unexpected guests needed something to eat and a place to sleep.
Pesotum was and still is a friendly town, so doors opened and stranded guests found a place or two added at tables for Christmas Eve dinner. Ours was no exception. We welcomed a couple from Texas who were heading to Chicago for Christmas with family. Dinner and a toast or two of Christmas Cheer, then we settled in with a warm fire to wait out the storm with our guests. Before long another couple joined us, from Iowa heading to Florida and a Hawkeyes bowl game.
Christmas morning dawned bright, the blizzard passed, roads were cleared, dozens of appreciative guests resumed their journeys, and normal Christmas activities resumed at Pesotum’s homes.
I still think back to that Christmas more than 30 years ago as our little town found food and shelter for weary travelers. It always reminds me of that Christmas 2000 years ago, when certain weary travelers were also looking for food and shelter in Bethlehem.
“Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” – Hebrews 13:2

Dennis Cler
Corn Belt Energy Corporation

When my doctor told me my due date, I groaned. December 25th–not convenient for anyone, and even less for my husband. He was a seminary student and would be expected to preach on Christmas Day. “Don’t worry,” said my doctor. “They never come on their due dates.” Months later, I was awakened at 1 o’clock on Christmas morning by what could only be a contraction. My husband and I drove past our church right when he should have been stepping into the pulpit. That was the hardest Christmas we ever had. We had no idea how scary the birth of a baby is, even with all our preparation and the world’s most advanced medical technology. But at the end of it, we were holding the best Christmas present we could have received besides Baby Jesus himself. She was perfect, and her birth helped us become the grownups we thought we already were. We still can’t think of a more fitting Christmas present than a baby. Our memories from that day always put us in mind of the greatest gift: God come down to earth, human and helpless, to save us from our sins. Our own baby is now a beautiful 13-year-old who makes our Christmas wonderfully complicated every year. We wrap the birthday presents in paper that isn’t red and green, and we tell her Merry Birthday and Happy Christmas!

Rebekah Curtis
SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative, Inc.

My Most Memorable Holiday Season, during the Korean War I was in the Army stationed in Japan at a hospital as a Medical Records Specialist. After 26 months I was due to rotate back to the states and receive my discharge. On Dec 18, 1954 I was aboard a troop ship & set sail for the states crossing the International Date Line on Christmas Day so had 2 Christmas Days that year. We only got to celebrate breakfast which consisted of SOS. On the 14th day of our voyage we went under the golden Gate Bridge but saw none of it because of thick fog. We docked at Fort mason on Dec 30 around 4PM. We were to be transported to Oakland Army Base but lodging was not available so we spent the night in Oakland at a skid row hotel which was in a rough area. We were not to leave the building but more than a few did. Early the next morning we caught a charter flight to O’Hara Field & then a bust to Fort Sheridan arriving about 8PM on New Years Eve. Several of the GI’s missed the flight but the rest of us spent New Years Eve in the barracks. The next day we were given a 3 day pass. Upon returning to Ft. Sheridan I was discharged on Jan 5, 1955. As I look back on that 1954 Holiday Season, not only was it my most unusual but also a very happy one because all the events led up to my being discharged from the Army.

Paul Brunner
Jo-Carroll Energy, Inc. (NFP)

I wake up, the window is slightly cracked and and it is 7:15 in the morning. A cool breeze blows through the window and I can smell a warm baked pumpkin pie with a little spice. When I smelt it I got up and put on my slippers. I look out the window and its a beautiful morning with sprinkling snow and a soft fluffy layers of snow on the ground. I creep down stairs and no one’s up, though the smell of the pumpkin pie was stronger. I walk into the kitchen and my mom is in the kitchen with all the seasonings out. when I walk in I now know she was also making a apple berry cream filled pie. As i watch her my both pie’s my mouth tingles the taste on my tongue. When i see her pull out the pumpkin pie I watch her slowly cut it into ten pieces. while she cuts it I can hear the slow crunch of the bread being cut. She then gets milk from the fridge and poor’s it into eight glasses. I help her take a piece of pumpkin and apple berry cream filled pie with a glass of milk to my dad and my seven siblings. They all ate theirs peacefully in bed. When I took the bite out of my pumpkin pie it was so warm and the crunch of the crust sounded so good it was the most tasteful piece of pumpkin pie I have ever had. Then when I took a bite out of the apple berry cream filled pie it was different. The cream started to slowly melt in my mouth with the mix of warmed cut apple slices with a taste of cinnamon. I will always remember that peaceful Christmas morning.

Noah Zachary Burgess
Corn Belt Energy Corporation

“Who doesn’t like Christmas?”
From the smells of X-mas cookies baking to sharing gifts with family and friends but my
favorite part of Christmas is when it is time for our “White Elephant Christmas”. Everyone brings something wrapped up that they no longer want. It goes into a big pile on the living room floor.
The wrapping paper could be newspaper,brown bags, old towels, or of course Christmas wrapping paper.
The grandchildren enjoy this just as much as the adults do.
So the gifts could consist of an almost empty can of coffee, a bunch of mismatched socks, ball of tangled X-mas lights to an assortment of knick-knacks. You can also steal one of these treasured items.
It brings lots of laughter. Love making MEMORIES.

Doris Ryan
Jo-Carroll Energy, Inc. (NFP)

For years as long as I can remember my Grandma Gertrude Dunning of Brownfield would always tape all her Christmas cards to the molding between her dining living room. She said it always gave her and Grandpa (James) something to talk about and just loved looking at them. When Grandma get the cards in the mail she would open them look at the front of the card but never open them. She said “why the person who sent it name is on the envelope.” Well when I would visit her my job was to tape the cards up, so I did they looked beautiful. Well later that night one of the cards fell to the floor and began to play music. Well my grandparents never have had or heard of a singing card and since she never opens them she had no ideal it played music. Well anyway it scared them thinking someone was outside thier house so Grandpa gets his shot gun goes out yells, well no one answers so he shoots a warning shot goes back into the house. Well as they set quitly another card falls to the floor and plays music. So the look at each other open the 2 cards and realize it was the card they woke them up. Needless to say I got call from them and the neighbors. I lived at Crainville IL at the time. Nonething like walking into the house at mid night after work to hear this story and explaining to thier neighbors not to worry it was all due to musical christmas cards.

Glennda Smith
SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative, Inc.

Dad died that July; Mom, 65, still driving, kept her home of 47 married years. Sister, Helen, lived 2 miles away. Christmas is with Helen’s family; her husband is a dairyman with milk-hours. No problem. Except-Snow came before Christmas Eve. Christmas dawned, cold and sunny. With gifts & casseroles, Ross, I & sons: Tom (25), Joe (24), Phil (23) navigated 15 miles of clear roads to Helen’s. Mom called. Snowbound, no way she could make her steep hill or drifted private-lane to the main road. Disappointed, Helen & I lamented. But grandsons schemed. Unthinkable, Grandma being 2 miles away, alone, THIS day. “Uncle, can we use tractor to get Grandma?” “Sure, but how can you get her with the tractor?” “WITH THE SCOOP!”, they grinned. Quickly, Grandma was called.” Be ready! We’re coming! Dress warm!” Tractor fueled, scoop cleaned, blankets borrowed, coveralls donned, off they were on a mission-rescue Grandma! With one driving, one in scoop, one gripping finders, their tractor battled the white stuff. Soon Grandma spied them, descending the hill. They arrived, laughing at Grandma’s wide eyes. They nested Grandma safely in arms of one in the scoop; up scoop; up hill; down road, right to aunt’s door, where two daughters gladly greeted adventurous Mom. After dining, opening gifts, its time to get Grandma home before dark. With gifts & goodies, she was bundled with grandson in scoop. They got her home, stoked the stove, reluctantly left. Though tired, she had an astonishing tale to tell friends.
Every Christmas, one says, “Remember when…?” Then we tell the young’uns what Daddy/Uncle/Grandpa did long ago for their own Grandma.

Shirley M. Reiman
Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association

Every Christmas spent with family is always special, but there will always be the year of the “union suits” that my cousins and I will never forget! Every Christmas my mom’s nine younger siblings and their families would gather at my grandma’s house. At that time I was about nine and the oldest of seven cousins who were anxiously awaiting the chance to open our Christmas gifts. Finally after some of the adults started opening their gifts, we were given the green light to open our gift from “Namie,” our grandma. Being curious and wondering what could be in this 9 x 13 box, we started to shake it, but it only made a swishing noise. We furiously ripped through the cute holiday gift wrap and shreds of paper flew across the room. I had my box open first and quickly shut it, hoping no one would want to see what was inside! I’m sure my face started to glow red like Rudolph’s nose because the surprise inside wasn’t the surprise we were expecting. Instead, we were facing bright red onesies, or long underwear with a drop seat, soon to be called our “union suits.” Of course we were speechless and wanted to run! Are you kidding me? Now we have to actually take this out of the box and show everyone? The roars of laughter were heard in the surrounding houses! Oh, it gets better, we had to put them on for a picture and luckily the youngest cousins had the short end of the stick and had to “drop” their drop seat for the picture! As embarrassing as this moment was, I still hang our picture of my brother, sister and me wearing our bright red “union suits” on the Christmas tree every year. Thank you Namie!

Lori A. Russ
Western Illinois Electrical Coop.

Our family had just participated in the Christmas Eve program at church. It was snowing fat, fluffy flakes, there was no wind, the temperature was mild, and the night air was beautifully quiet. We decided to walk to my grandma’s house for our traditional meal and gift-opening. The blanket of snow dampened the sound of our voices, creating a cozy space in the prairie openness. We turned our faces upward, feeling soft flakes land on our warm skin, even managing to catch a few on outstretched tongues. I wore new pink, mohair-type mittens and hat, knitted by an aunt. We were walking streets that had been trodden by four generations before us, passing by the house my great-great grandfather built shortly after arriving from Germany in the 1880s. We were eagerly anticipating Grandma’s delicious dinner, served on special china, and stabbing tiny gherkin pickles and fat, black olives with a delicate seafood fork. The dishes had to be washed, dried, and put away before we could open our gifts – an agonizing ritual at which we chafed mightily. The gifts under the tree had been poked, prodded, and shaken immediately upon arrival until we were shooed away. Finally, it was time to open, one at a time, admiring each treasure, carefully unwrapping Grandma’s beautifully-trimmed packages. We played with our gifts, and then had dessert, consisting of Grandma’s fabulous homemade cookies and ice cream cut into meticulous rectangles. We began watching “A Christmas Carol”, heads nodding in short order, and then were awakened to go home. We made use of the opportunity to slide down Grandma’s hardwood stairs in our heavy snow pants, getting several exhilarating trips down the stairs before it was time for good-bye kisses.

Lisa Krall
Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative

Prince, our family’s Shetland Sheep Dog of ten years is the subject of this Christmas 2001 favorite holiday memory.

‘Twas the night after Christmas and down by the tree, a puppy was lying, his eyes filled with glee. Popcorn and cranberries were carefully strung, up on the pine boughs in reach of his tongue. With a flash of his teeth he went right to his work and carefully the feast was removed with a jerk. Tender white kernels his belly did fill but that picky fellow of berries he ate nil. When Ma in her robe came down from upstairs, she looked and she saw the popcorn not there. With a wag of her finger and a shake of her head, she let the poor dog know what he soon had to dread. But Christmas if for giving and for forgiving, too, so that’s what she did for Prince, wouldn’t you? ‘Cause puppies like Prince are a very rare breed, and this Christmas story we’ll remember indeed.

Karen Davis
Jo-Carroll Energy, Inc. (NFP)

When we lived in the country years ago, I wanted to try to relive a Christmas Eve memory from my childhood through my 8 year old daughter.

The snow was deep and glistening in the yard. The sky was bright and clear. The house smelled of evergreen and cinnamon spices. It was a perfect Christmas Eve! Around 8:00 that night, my oldest son asked his little sister if she would like to go with him to get a newspaper for her Pop. She quickly agreed and I decided that I was going to join them. I wanted to relive those rides with my older brother from my childhood!

We took a ride uptown only to find that all of the stores were closed. (What a sly one my brother was!) There are no newspapers to be found anywhere on Christmas Eve! While we were driving home, my daughter screamed from the back seat, “Mommy, there is!!” My other son looked out the window and yelled, “Mom! He really IS there!!”

I joined my children in looking out of the window and as I looked heavenward, I saw it! Small white twinkling lights in a cluster with one large red light in front shining brightly, heading slowly Northwest across the velvet black night sky. As we drove into the driveway, my husband yelled, “Did you see it? You just missed him!” The excitement in the air is something none of us will ever forget!

As my daughter ran into the house to see the many delights that jolly old man had brought her, my oldest son put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Mom, do you REALLY think that was an airplane?” I chuckled, smiled up at my handsome son and said, “I love you Honey. Merry Christmas!”

Diana West
Jo-Carroll Energy, Inc. (NFP)

One year when my two children were very young I was certain that our Christmas had gone to the dogs! It began when my husband stepped out the door to send a neighborhood dog on its way. However, my husband slipped on the ice and broke his wrist in several places. The emergency room visit indicated that surgery was necessary. So the following day I packed up my two children and husband, put our Boxer pup in the garage, and headed to the hospital.

Upon arriving home I found that my Boxer pup had chewed a large part of the vinyl top on our second car. With two young children and an injured husband, we decided that the Boxer must go.

So on Christmas Eve her previous owners came to take her back home. My children were not happy–to them the Boxer, who had grown quite large, was entertaining. To soften the blow we decided to open Christmas presents that evening instead of Christmas morning. Ironically, the first gift opened was a plastic Fisher Price record player that played the first of several songs. The song was none other than, “Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone!” My husband and I looked at each other and immediate laughter ensued.

That Christmas season did not go as planned. But there is nothing like unexpected humor to lighten the day and make family memories!

Janet Terry
Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative

My favorite Christmas to date is the the Christmas of 2014, right before that, we found out we were expecting our twins, Emma and Gracie. We did not find out we were having twins until 20 weeks at a routine ultrasound and I would have to be admitted at the hospital in Saint Louis a few weeks later, giving us little time to prepare and leave my husband home with two other kids for months without me. We were thankfully able to get things squared away quickly, and the kids were able to go to daycare on his way to work during the week and they were all able to make the one hour trip to visit me on the weekends. Even though it was definitely a hardship on our family, through the grace of God, we survived and were brought closer during that time. We spent our Holidays in the hospital at St. Marys that year and welcomed our twins shortly after the New Year. It is certainly a Christmas I will not forget any time soon!

Nicolette Woodrum
Clinton County Electric Cooperative, Inc.

My Christmas Memory —- That New Baby Sister

Only four years old, I sensed something different that December morning in 1955. Grandmother had come and was performing my mother’s chores as older siblings murmured excitedly.

After lunch, I was hurriedly sent for a nap despite my protests. This was a ploy to get my parents out of the house unnoticed by their younger children. I fell asleep and, after waking, my father returned alone announcing that we had a new baby sister! What fun that would be! He asked me to ride along as he took grandmother home. “Well, that is even more fun!” ….. or so I thought.

There I was again distracted for him to make an exit. I was immediately upset because Christmas was coming , and how would Santa find me at my grandparents? No amount of consoling helped. I didn’t care about that new baby sister. Each day I grew unhappier. Those are not my toys! That is not my bed! You are not my mom! Santa was coming and no one seemed to care if he would find me!

By week’s end, grandmother announced a return home to meet that new baby sister. By now, I didn’t care. I needed to be home for Santa to find me, she had ruined everything!

Arriving home, the tree was decorated, stockings hung, and oh, yes, there was that new baby sister. I barely gave her a glance as I followed the delicious smells from the kitchen. Neighbors and relatives began arriving with gifts and food. Knowing the baby made ten children, they wanted to help our busy family.

Much to my relief, Santa found me. That new baby sister, Alice, hadn’t ruined Christmas after all. With an adult perspective, I now realize that she was a wonderful gift for our family.

Carol Knisley Bishop
Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative

Christmas Tradition:
In our house, the Christmas stocking is a tradition but not so much what is in the inside of the stocking but what is on the outside. Each year “Santa” sews a pin or charm that is relevant to something important that happened that year. My oldest is 22 years old and still goes to the stocking first to see what Santa felt took top honors to represent that year. From tiny silver blocks that spell out braces, to a bass fish when my son set the record in the IHSA Bass Fishing tournament to sport charms and musical instruments, all of these bring back a memory. Hopefully “Santa” will be ready with needle and thread when the Grandkids come to keep the family tradition going.

Mary Ann Griffin
Norris Electric Cooperative

In our family, we do several things to celebrate Christmas, but my two favorites are when we make Christmas Cookies and Christmas Eve. These two traditions are very special to me because we are spending time together as a family. Every year we get together at my Great Aunt’s house a week or two before Christmas and make Christmas Cookies and other desserts. Sometimes we invite close family friends to come help. We make all kinds of cookies but our favorite kind to make is sugar cookies. These are no ordinary sugar cookies. Christmas trees, snowmen, stars, candy canes and stockings become unique creations as we ice them and add sprinkles. Our favorite part is licking the spoons and eating all of the “accidentally” broken cookies. The men visit and eat our mess-ups while we visit and bake. Usually, it is an all day affair and when we are done we are wore out but no one minds because we have had so much fun! I’m sure you’re wondering what we do with all those cookies. That is another exciting part of our tradition. My Grandpa is Santa, real whiskers and all, and my Grandma is Mrs. Claus. Santa delivers the packaged cookies and a candy cane to inner city children. I love seeing their faces light up when Santa comes to their house and brings them cookies. Grown-ups and kids alike are eager to take pictures with Santa. The other family tradition is Christmas Eve. Our family gets together at my Grandparent’s house where we have a big Christmas meal, open presents, laugh, tell stories, sing Christmas Carols, have snowball fights and play with cousins. Spending quality family time together is what makes Christmas so special to me. These are the memories that I cherish and will remember always!

Lauren Waldon
Monroe County Electric Co-Operative, Inc.

Imagine the excitement of a seven year old thinking she had solved the age-old mystery of how Santa managed to deliver toys in just one magical night. The year was 1954. I lived with my parents and a little sister in a big, old farm house. Christmas Eve was just two nights away. Mother had been baking cookies and making all kinds of candy and fudge. She was an expert in the field of Christmas goodies. For no particular reason, I wandered into the back part of the house where Dad kept the big milk cooler. That part of the house was not heated. I decided to climb up the old, cold stairway. After just three steps, I found a large brown grocery bag. Surprising, the bag was filled with oranges and hard store bought Christmas candies. But that was not the biggest surprise! Just a few more steps, sitting on the landing was a shiny, new, red Schwinn bike. I was so excited! With a pounding heart, I ran down the steps to tell my dad. But he was far from happy with my discovery! Tearfully, I tried to explain, but he did not understand my naive imagination. In my mind, Santa had delivered the toys early to make his Christmas Eve journey easier. After all, he had to travel all over the world! Dad thought the Christmas Eve surprise had been ruined. I did not see it that way, because I had solved the age-old mystery.

Kathy Pflaum Slankard
Norris Electric Cooperative

I had started a new job in September, 1976, and while there was a Christmas tree in the recreation area for the residents, there didn’t appear there would be one in the administrative offices. Since my Dad had a farm he always kept an eye out for the perfect tree for the house and I asked him if he could also find me a much smaller one for my office. Of course, as often happens here, the rather steep hills were covered in a blanket of ice and snow when it came time to cut down the trees. Naturally the perfect one was on top of the hill instead of in the valley so using the heels of our boots to dig in, we made it to the top (though not without some falls and lost ground), found the trees, cut them down and trudged back to the point where the hill sloped downward. After a few steps it became apparent that “walking” down that hill was not going to be an option. So what’s a determined father and daughter to do? Sit down, grab hold of the tree trunks behind our backs and slide all the way to the bottom! I’ll never forget how we laughed and bumped our way down that hill and how it makes me smile to remember that wonderful, cold December afternoon with my Dad.

Sharon Aden
Wabash Telephone Cooperative, Inc.

Excitement overwhelms me and I can only think of one thing. Today is Christmas day! My family and I are in the car driving to my aunt’s house to celebrate. We arrive and step up to the door. My youngest sister cheerfully rings the doorbell and we are greeted by many smiling faces. Countless hugs and kisses later, we are now able to take in our surroundings. I hear a faint “Jingle bells, jingle bells…” in the distance. The room is filled with laughter and joy as everyone arrives.
A warm, happy feeling comes over me as I smell the ham roasting in the oven. My aunt has the juiciest ham that is oh, so tender. I spot a tier of chocolates on the counter and I snatch one. It melts in my mouth like ice in the summer heat. Soon, dinner is upon us. My family’s hard work is absolutely delicious. From the ham to the warm, gooey casserole, I am in heaven.
A strange noise brings me back into reality. It is Santa’s bells! One by one we race into the living room to await our guest. A few moments later, Santa himself walks down the stairs. The looks on my little cousins’ faces are absolutely precious. He calls us up by name to receive our treasures. This is how we celebrate Christmas: with family, friends, and lots of love.

Natalie Anderson
Corn Belt Energy Corporation

It was Christmas morning in 1967. Daddy and I were at the kitchen table enjoying a quiet time together. Everybody else was looking and probing under the Christmas tree trying to find the treasures that Santa had brought them. You see, when my mom and dad married, back in 1939 they didn’t have much money so mom just got a small gold wedding band. Oh she never complained but dad always wanted to give her something better. After more than 30 years of marriage that day had come. He called her into the kitchen and handed her this beautifully wrapped package. I was ecstatic because I had helped him pick out this present, and could hardly wait until she opened it. It was a lovely white gold wedding set, that was so unexpected by mom, that she cried. My dad was so pleased. The look of such sweet love they shared that morning is something I will never forget — how the love between a man and a woman can be and should be.
My wonderful dad has been deceased for over 40 years. Mom is still with us. She is 96 now, and misses him terribly each and every day. .
This memory of their love is still as vivid in my mind today as it was that wonderful Christmas morning back in 1967.

mary patterson
SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative, Inc.

the Christmas memory that I submitted yesterday…. the year my parents married wasn’t 1939 it was 1936. sorry for the typo

mary Patterson
SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative, Inc.

When I was young we lived on a farm in southern Illinois not far from my Grandmother’s house and farm, and each Christmas the whole family would gather there to celebrate. I remember going home one Christmas evening to do the feeding at our family farm. I remember what a strange contrast the low bawling of the cows and the peacefulness of the barn was to all of the loud conversation and laughter at the family gathering. I fed the cows and as I stood there watching them, enjoying the warmth of the barn and taking in the muffled sounds of farm animals settling in at the dimming of a winter’s day I remember thinking of how very, very lucky those animals were so many years ago. How surprised and confused they must have been to have had the visit of the Holy Family on that very special night. And even though it was a meager beginning for that small family, it must have been so very calm and beautiful in its own way.
As I latched the door to the barn that evening the sun was sinking behind the woods at the edge of the pasture, and the colors were so bright in the evening sky that I stood there and watched as they slowly faded on the horizon. That Christmas sunset seemed more vivid to me than many others that I had seen. Not because it was so much different from other sunsets throughout the years, but simply because I was filled with that very special joy that Christmas brings. Because my heart was happy and those around me were also sharing that same Christmas joy, I saw the world and all its wonder much more clearly and vividly on that very special Christmas Day.

Rose Kettler
Monroe County Electric Co-Operative, Inc.

“Hurry up! The countdown is starting soon!” my little sister yells up the stairs at me, her voice edged with excitement. I shoot up from my position on the floor in my room and bound down the stairs, catching a glimpse of her lit-up face through the rungs of the staircase as she waits impatiently for me to reach the bottom of the steps. She hands me a glass of sparkling cider and smiles as we lift our glasses in unison, the numbers descending on the screen and the ball shifting slowly to the bottom of Times Square.
“Happy New Year!” my mom shouts as the television screen erupts with confetti and banners. We clink our glasses together and I press my lips up to the rim, the fizz sizzling over my tongue and washing down my throat with a satisfying chill that settles in my stomach.
My sister grabs me by the elbow, sparklers and cherry bombs in hand, and unlatching the screen door we run out onto the driveway. The air reaches into me and tugs at me with icy fingers, chills rippling up my arms and legs. Small mounds of snow sit in lumps on the frosty grass, white gumdrops that turn almost blue in color as the moon reflects from above. The sky is black, and it spreads out to the very edges of the earth like a dark dome sprinkled with pinholes of light.
“On three…one…”
“Three!” We pull on the strings of the cherry bombs, and clumps of colored tissue shoot out, the smoke lingering in the air before it is carried away by the late December wind.
“To new adventures,” my mom says to us. The sparkler in her hand burns golden, sending a silent promise into the night.

Elizaveta P. Fehr
Corn Belt Energy Corporation

Christmas is my time for seasonal cooking. I give many gifts of candy and cookies. Several people on my list are older and no longer cook. I ask if they have a favorite recipe and I’ll make that request for them. I limit my cooking to 14 recipes. With these, I make many wonderful attractive trays of goodies.
There’s an elderly man in town that doesn’t have a driver’s license. He rides a bike. He doesn’t have a job and few people pay attention to him. I was at a convenience store and he rode in to buy a sandwich. I had an extra tray of Christmas treats with me. I asked him if he would enjoy the tray of goodies. He was very eager to accept it. His eyes welled up and tears trickled down his cheeks. He told me the only person who nurtured him throughout his life was his Grandma and she made food like what was on the tray. He told me I “made his Christmas” because the cookies and candies brought wonderful memories of his Grandma’s cooking alive once again in his life.
I think of this man’s gratitude with each recipe I make. His fond memories of his Grandmother are now my memories also.
I shared cookies and candy; he shared his memories which became mine.

Norris Electric Cooperative

When I was 8 years old, my nine brothers were still living at home. Each year Mom would give each one of us a dollar to buy our Christmas gifts. Somehow, I managed to buy gifts for everyone and still had change left over. Mom would buy me a gift from my brothers and wrap it and put on the card .. To: Nita From: The Boys. I asked her once why they didn’t buy me a gift themselves.

In the early Fifties we lived in New Castle, Indiana. One Christmas Eve there was a present for me under the tree with a tag signed by the boys. It was wrapped in aluminum foil with a big bow on top. When I picked it up it was heavy and it rattled on the inside. Come Christmas morning it was the first gift I opened. Inside I found a dead fish, rocks and glass. I cried all morning and Mom and Dad scolded the boys.

Then I decided to go outside and make snow balls and put them in the freezer. The following July, I put a snowball in each one of my brother’s beds and I never received another gag gift from either of my brothers again!!

Juanita Hoskins
Potomac, Illinois

Juanita Y. Hoskins
Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative

It was late November of 2008. Only eight months earlier my father had been deployed to Afghanistan. As a six year old boy I had not even the slightest clue on earth where my father was. But I’d had six ears to come to love, and admire him; and I was smart enough to realize that something was wrong. All I really wanted for Christmas was my father.
School had ended for the holiday break in December only a few days ago. The house smelled of hot coco and sweet candy cane scented candles. I was outside playing in the crystal white snow, enjoying the fresh air, when my mother screamed and came running outside, tears glistening on her cheeks. She held me for the longest time, all the while I was deeply puzzled yet curious. Once again though I knew that something had changed, but I didn’t know what.
As we walked inside I held my mother’s gentle warm hand. When we had taken our coats and boots off my mother guided me over to a chair and sat me down. She smiled, patted my head, and walked in the kitchen. A few minutes passed and she brought me a steaming cup of dark hot chocolate with two marshmallows. Just how I liked it. I sipped my beverage quietly, but finally my curiosity got the better of me and I turned to my mother. “Momma,” I said tentatively, “Why were you crying?” She turned to me sniffled, and wiped away a tear. “It’s daddy, honey.” My eyes snapped open. “What is it momma?” She sniffled again, “Daddy…he’s…he’s coming home.”

Jack Cook
Corn Belt Energy Corporation