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Posted By: beebiz Precious Memories - December 22nd, 2005 at 06:26 PM
Copyrighted 2001, this was written by me, Robert Garner and is dedicated to my grandparents, Lee and Modell Danner. For they are responsible for my memories of what Christmas SHOULD be.

I invite you to take a stroll with me through my...

Precious Memories

Though my childhood was filled with many wonderful, happy events, none are as deeply embeded in my heart and mind as the annual tradition that was born in 1960 (the same year I was born). The tradition I reference is the family gathering at Momma (my mother's mother) and Paw (my mother's father) Danner's house on each Christmas Eve. I will forever cherish my memory's carefully filled snapshots, sounds, tastes, and aromas, which were created from the events of each gathering. The chronology of each evening's gathering was usually the same and quite simple - arrival, a meal, the exchanging of gifts, and departure, but each stage contained scenes that made each Christmas Eve befitting the content of a Norman Rockwell painting.

The evening begins with a knock on the front door, which produces Momma Danner and her smiling, "ho, ho, ho," and "Merry Christmas" greeting. Then comes the hugs and kisses accompanied by plenty of back patting and other love gestures. Then, the telltale aroma that says that Momma Danner has been busy preparing all sorts of goodies for the evening's meal greets my nostrils.

As I move through the living room full of family members, gifts and decorations into the kitchen, I can see a table, covered end to end and side to side, with the fruits of Momma Danner's labors. Looking further, I see that the bounty has been more than the table could bear by itself. On the china cabinet is perched the deserts that will make a perfect meal complete.

My arrival journey ends in the den where other family members are discussing events of the day and reliving Christmases gone by. Among these members is Paw Danner, leaned back in his rocker, glasses in place, mouth wide open, and still containing it's pacifying toothpick, and snoring that "Lee Danner" snore.

Soon, I hear Momma Danner's voice rise above the laughter and conversation, "Okay, you children get washed up and come on. It's time to eat." After a brief period of no movement by the adult males, again I hear Momma Danner, "BIlly (my father), Dan (my uncle) ya'll come on now, these young-uns want to eat so they can open their presents."

The evenging meal begins with Paw Danner "turning thanks." He begins with, "Our Heavenly Father..." and ends with "in Jesus name we pray, Amen." At this point Paw removes his well-chewed chewing fum from his mouth and, after we children beg him to, places it behind his ear for later retrieval. This signifies that it is time to fill your plate with things such as barbeque, baked beans, potatoes, green beans, turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes, creamed style corn, rolls, and the one thing that is to the Christmas Eve meal, what a cherry on top is to a sundae - hoop cheese!

At the adult's table, the topic is again the events of the day and the events of Christmasses gone by. At the youth's table, the topic is turned toward speculation of what is awaiting us under the Christmas tree in the living room and what type of parcels Santa will deliver in just a few hours.

After polishing off the main course and its sides, it's now time for desert! The menu is alway a lengthy one, but contains some constants such as coconut cake (my favorite), fruitcake, chocolate and lemon pie covered with meringue (a substance which Paw Danner called calf slobber), and boiled custard.

In his traditional style and form, Paw partially fills his glass with boiled custard. Then he takes Wild Turkey in one hand and a tablespoon in the other and states that he only wants a tablespoonful of "flavoring" in his custard! That said, he holds the tablespoon over his glass while carefully pouring the Wild Turkey into the tablespoon. After enough of the "flavoring" has spilled over the sides of his tablespoon to almost finish filling his glass, Paw stops pouring and announces, "That looks about like that is about a tablespoonful to me." With that, he dumps the ramaining contents of the spoon into the glass!

Now that the adults are filled to capacity with the meal's cuisines, it is finally time for what we children have waited three hundred sixty-four days for... time to pass out and open presents. So, we all move into the livingroom, which is adorned with it's decorated Christmas tree. Under it, it appears that there are enough gifts to fill two of Santa's sleighs.

Finally, the adults are seated and we older children who are able to read, pick up a gift, read the name on it, and deliver it to its intended recipient. We also involve the younger children by handing a gift to them and instructing them concerning the proper delivery destination. This continues until all the gifts are carefully and correctly delivered. Now, the wonderful mayhem begins. Wrapping paper flies in one direction as bows fly in another. Emotion filled exclamations such as "thank you," "oh, I love it," "boy, I sure needed that" are lobbed back and forth across the room. Occasionally a shriek rises from someone who has received something that they weren't expecting, yet were really hoping for. All of the emotion is finally summed up with a tear or two, a hug, a "thank you," and an "I love you."

Now that all the words of thanks have been spoken, the multicolored litter has been picked up, and everyone who wanted it has had that extra helping of their favorite delectable, it is time to begin the end of our family's Christmas Eve gathering. Paw Danner gathers everyone, young and old alike into the living room and prays. He begins by thanking God for his wonderful family and this special time that he has been allowed to spend with them. He also thanks God for that Christmas many, many years ago when His son Jesus was born and for what Jesus did for all of us. He concludes by asking God to go with each of us as we go our separate ways, to guide, guard, and protect all of us. Finally, after asking it all in Christ's name and for His sake, he finishes his prayer with, "Amen."

As heads are raised, and eyes are opened, I can see a few tear laden eyes that speak of the sadness that accompanies the goodbyes spoken by loved ones at the completion of an event such as this. Now, the hugs, kisses, and other loving gestures accompanied with words of good-bye mark the end of the gathering and we all go our own way.

Paw Danner is no longer with us. He joined his creator in 1988. After he passed away, the Christmas Eve gatherings just have not seemed to be quite the same. Last year (2000) was the first time since 1960 that we did not have a family gathering at Momma Danner's house on Christmas Eve. But, I still have a wonderful collection of memories from many other preceding Christmas Eves that I frequently flip through just as a reminder of why Christmas Eve at Momma and Paw's house remain such precious memories to me.

Have a very Merry Christmas,
Posted By: Anonymous Re: Precious Memories - December 23rd, 2005 at 12:22 AM
That was great Robert! thumbup The memories that are created each and every year are so special.

One of my favorite memories of the past years is when my nephew was little, I suppose I was about 18...Every year he'd sleep in my bed with me on Xmas eve because truth be told, I was just as excited as he was and he really looked up to me. So he was 5 yrs old and we were laying in bed talking about how Santa might be downstairs at that very moment....next thing you know we heard bells coming from somewhere up above the ceiling....Yes, I heard them--he heard them...and my parents were in bed and I know my dad wouldn't have been up there jingling bells around. Throught the excitement of my nephew I believed in the possibility of Santa again for a brief moment...through the joy of a child.

Then there were the few years I remember of Christmas when I lived in England. How my parents would put up a ton of extra decorations on Christmas Eve after we went to bed...so when we all came downstairs it was even more magical. My nana and grandad would come over on Christmas day to see us....and then on Boxing Day we'd all go to Nanas house for a huge feast and all the granchildren would get to pick a number from her christmas tree for a toy.

Thank you so much for your story, I hope it makes everyone remember all of the precious memories of their past holidays--whatever it may be that they celebrate.
Posted By: Triss Re: Precious Memories - December 23rd, 2005 at 03:58 AM
You both brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. Thank you SO much!

My parents, when we were young used to do ALL of the decorating of the house when we were kids, on Christmas Eve. We went to bed with a "normal" house and awoke to a wonderland of lights a tree and gifts. My mom continued this tradition after they divorced and I remember hearing her one Christmas Eve when I was old enough not to believe anymore in Santa. I snuck out to find her setting up the tree and wrapping gifts and hanging lights. I remember sitting there with tears running down my face cuz it was that year I realized just how much she did for us to make the holiday special.
Posted By: Anonymous Re: Precious Memories - December 23rd, 2005 at 05:10 AM
Aww Triss, that such a sweet memory....So many parents really go out of their way to make the holidays a magical time for the children....that's the best part of the decorating and the presents....watching a child look at it all, and the excitement on their face as they come down the stairs in the morning.

I've missed out on a lot of memories with my most of my family being in England--but mom and dad always did their best to make it special....The first few years we were here we had a lot of assistance, toys for tots sort of stuff.....they were never too proud to ask for help. kissies
Posted By: Triss Re: Precious Memories - December 23rd, 2005 at 05:36 AM
Loz, This year with the move and all, help is the only way my kids are having a Christmas. And while I am completely thankful for all the help, it makes me sad I cannot do more not only for mine but for others as well.
Posted By: beebiz Re: Precious Memories - December 23rd, 2005 at 09:36 AM
Hey All,

It warms my heart to know that someone else besides myself and my family has enjoyed this. Christmas is supposed to be a magical, loving, and giving time. It is also supposed to move and inspire us deep enough that we will continue the "Christmas Spirit" throughout the year. I feel that my family went above and beyond the call of duty. The Christmas Eves of which I spoke in "Precious Memories" inspired me enough to last a lifetime!

Tris and Loz, I've been there and done the Toys For Tots, Salvation Army, and other charitable groups as well as help from friends, family and fellow church members. At the time, I too felt bad because I could do no more for my children (monetarily speaking). My fear was that they would not have the "Precious Memories" that I have.

After having written "Precious Memories," I showed it to a writer friend of mine. I told her about the past Christmases with my children when Santa's bag was not nearly so full, and told her of my fears. She asked me if I had actually read what I had written. I told her that I had read it several times. She informed me that I must not have paid much attention to what it said.

Then, I asked her what she meant. She asked me if I could point out so much as one specific toy or gift that was mentioned in "Precious Memories." I said that I could not and asked what she was getting at. She said that because of the different amounts of space given to each part of the Christmas Eves, it was quite obvious to her that the specific gifts were so inconsequential to me, even as a child, that I didn't even mention so much as one of them. She said that it was further obvious to her that the "Precious Memories" were not of GI Joe, Batman, baseballs, footballs, bycicles and such... it was the love, affection, sharing of good food and good times, and just being together with those you loved. Just what Christmas is all about. And you two sound like you had parents who really understood this.

So in the future, if there are Christmases (or other times for that matter) when Santa's bag seems a little light and/or completely devoid of what Jr. wants, remember this. When he is all grown up and has a family of his own, he won't remember that he didn't get that new video game for Christmas. Instead, he will remember the love that his family had for him and how much he enjoyed the fellowship with them!

Have a great Christmas,
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