Richard McWilliams – I grew up in Pennsylvania and it was during World War II when I was 13 or 14 years old. I was hanging out at this local service station and the snow was really coming down when in walks a young soldier trying to make his way home to Chicago. It turns out that he was going home to tell his daughter good-bye before being shipped out to Germany. He was wet, cold, broke and hungry. He humbly asked if anyone could spare some food for him. So, I just took him home with me! I was one of seven children and mother was widowed. Once the first snowflake fell in the fall until Spring arrived, my mother would keep a big pot of vegetable soup going on the stove. So, I knew that we could serve him a hot meal at least. We got him out of his wet clothes – that big old wet army coat must have weighed 20 pounds. But we laid it out by the radiator to dry and my mother had me loan him some of my dry clothes. It ended up that this fellow, James, stayed with us for two weeks. And boy could he ever play the piano! It was unlike anything we had ever seen. He even ended up playing music at our grade school’s Christmas pageant. I sure learned a valuable lesson that Christmas – there are no strangers, just friends that we haven’t met yet. Sadly, we received a telegram that James gave his life in service to his country while in Germany.

Alice Roberson – One of my most favorite things to do at Christmas time is to partner up with my sister (Kaye Haile) and make cookies. We have done this for years and always look forward to it. We make all kinds of cookies – not just plain old sugar cookies, but a good variety of flavors and types. Kaye always had made the best butter cookies! Then, we deliver them to folks that are shut in or don’t have much family. This blesses me more than it does them and I have just loved doing this over the years. Last year, we took cookies to 20 different folks.

JoAnn Wilson – One particular Christmas back in the early 80’s, we had a full house with guests as well as all four of our children being home. It was bitter, bitter cold that year and our electricity went out on Christmas morning. We woke up to a freezing cold house full of people. My husband was afraid that we would burn the motor up in our buck stove, but we finally talked him into lighting a fire in it so that we could at least get our den warm. My youngest son had the curliest hair you’ve ever seen and after taking a quick shower, his curls froze before he could get in front of the fire!

Kathryn Brown – I grew up out in the country. It was just us three girls with our parents. My daddy would go out into the woods and find three cedar trees to bring home to us so that we could pick the very best one to put up and decorate. We would use the other two for their greenery. He would fix up the best tree for us in the tree stand. Mama would pop popcorn and we would string it up with needle and thread and put it on the tree. Mama would also make popcorn balls – something you don’t see too much of anymore. Daddy would go out back to the smokehouse and pick out the best ham. Then he would put it a pot outside and boil it. It was always a great big ham and we would take half of it across the river to my grandmother, who lived in Wilson County. She always had a special treat for us when we arrived at her place. About a week before Christmas, she would go out back and hack on her sweet gum tree. Where she had cut the tree, sap would run out and we would chew that sap like chewing gum.

Amy Carter – When I was a little girl, I remember “Santa” coming to the house on Christmas Eve. I found out later it was one of our neighbors dressed up, but at the time, it really did seem like the real Santa Claus. He came into the house all dressed up with a great big bag full of goodies. He dumped out his bag and it was full of pecans, walnuts and fruit.

Barbara Rawlings – We always had a big Christmas pageant at school. It was in the 1940’s and there were around 12 of us and we went all the way through the 8th grade together. We each brought in sheets and would make a stage with curtains. And there was always a big decorated tree. We had a guitarist in our group and he would play for us while we sang and put on a play. All of our families would come to see us perform, as would Santa Claus. And he would always give us little wrapped boxes of hard candies. This was in Michigan — I grew up north of Detroit — so there was almost always snow, too.

Jane Haynie – When I was around 8 years old or so, I wanted a bicycle so bad, I could taste it! We lived with my grandparents and my uncle. He was always teasing me anyway, but this particular year, my uncle got to teasing me that he was going to get me a bicycle for Christmas. He would say, “I bought you a bicycle today!” but it seemed like he was just joking around. He was color blind, but he would even say that it was red. My mother would fuss at him to stop teasing me, while secretly, she was planning on getting me a bicycle for Christmas herself. Well, one night, he proclaimed that my bicycle was being delivered the next day. I was so excited that I may as well have not even bothered going to school the next day. I raced home, but there was no bicycle. I was so disappointed and knew then that he really was just teasing me. But, when we sat down to dinner, the bell rang and there it was…a beautiful red bicycle! I was so happy! My mother was as surprised as the rest of us. Since my uncle had made good on his teasing, she had to settle on getting me a basket for my new bike for Christmas.

Merlene Mosely – In 1977, we were expecting our first grandbaby in mid-December. Everyone in the family was so excited and we had all gotten lots of Christmas presents for the new baby and they were all under the tree. But that little bundle of joy didn’t make her appearance until Jan. 5!

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