David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “Christmas”

The Memory Tree (Part 1 of 2)

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things—not the great occasions—give off the greatest glow of happiness.

—Bob Hope


It’s no secret I enjoy this time of year, not only because of Who we celebrate (and why), but also because of the power of Christmas to both stimulate old memories and to create new ones. This year we got a late start putting up the Christmas tree, but when we finally dragged the twenty-year-old pre-lit Tannenbaum out of the attic, the Ghost of Christmas Present forgave our tardiness and joined in the celebration. After Hannah and I fluffed the branches and made sure all the white mini-lights were functional, we began one of my most cherished traditions: hanging the decorations. Why do I relish this tradition? Because of the memories and stories contained in each and every one of those ornaments.

The Hughes family Christmas tree is decorated with nothing but ornaments important to our family history. We long ago scrapped the mishmash of generic red and gold glass balls and Hallmark collectibles to focus exclusively on ornaments gathered over the years that tell a story, most joy-filled, but some tragic. And after eleven Christmases, our tree twinkles with meaning. This year Mary sat on our red chaise lounge parked in front of the tree and carefully removed each decoration from its box, releasing it from its nest of tissue paper. Carefully, almost reverently, she offered each one to either Hannah or me to suspend from the green plastic branches.

“I like this one,” Hannah declared, handing me a clear plastic ball filled with fake snow and featuring the silhouette of a gymnast doing a split handstand on the beam.

“Why do you like this one so much?” I asked, hanging it from one of the upper limbs, beneath the glowing LED star.

“Because it’s really pretty and it has a gymnast in it,” she explained, “and because I think some of Mama’s friends made it.”

We hung a baby rattle emblazoned with “Baby’s First Christmas,” a snow baby dressed in pink and declaring “Hannah 2007,” and a block featuring a key-operated music box that plays Brahms’ Lullaby in cut time. One clear ball is filled halfway with downy chicken feathers, a testament to the day Mary came home to discover our two dogs, Dot and Levi, had somehow pushed their way into the chicken yard. For a brief moment they’d escaped domestication and had relived their predatory ancestry with gruesome enthusiasm. Before we buried the three pet birds, my wife asked me to pluck a few feathers from their limp carcasses to remember them by. The Christmas decoration features their names—Norma Jean, Inde and Coco—encircling the top of the globe.

When I was a kid my two brothers, my sister and I looked forward to the annual arrival of the Christmas package from Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Will—it was the one gift Mom and Dad allowed us to open on Christmas Eve, a tradition that carried on well into my teenage years.

One year Mom opened the box and plucked out a clutch of small wooden birds with loops of gold thread emerging from their backs—Christmas ornaments, one for each of the kids. Mine was painted Blue Angel blue, and “DAVID” was printed on the underside of one wing in gold paint. I prized that ornament for years, and each time I hung that bird on the tree, memories of that Christmas Eve so long ago would flock into the moment and perch on the branches with it. Makes me want to chirp with joy!

As Hannah and I continued to hang ornaments, Mary passed to her a photo frame made from red foam polka-dotted in white, with “2010” written in black Sharpie on the green bow. “I don’t like this one,” Hannah professed. She skirted the tree and hung the photo on the side facing the wall so no one could see it.

“Why don’t you like that picture?” I asked.

“Because it looks like I’m grumpy,” she replied. Indeed the photo within the frame features Hannah wearing what appears to be a very Grinch-like snarl. Upon closer inspection, however, she was chewing a piece of gum when the photo was snapped, giving her the appearance of grumpiness.

“It’s a cute picture,” I said. I moved the ornament from behind the tree to the front and dangled it out of her reach. It’s still there last I checked.

As we continued decorating, the memory of draping plastic icicles on our childhood tree popped into my mind. “We used to hang icicles on our tree every year,” I told Mary and Hannah, recalling the clumps of metalized plastic tinsel we’d practically throw onto the branches by the handful, covering all of the ornaments we’d just finished hanging. The tree ended up looking like a conical Cousin It in bling. “It was a pain in the butt.”

“My dad would hang them one at a time,” Mary remembered. “It took forever!”

But for all the mess the tinsel made, my fondest memory is of laying icicles across the tracks of our O-gauge Aurora train set chugging around the base of the tree. The popping sparks and smoke entertained my brothers and me for hours. And the cool part: my parents let us do it! It had become a Christmas tradition we looked forward to year after year. My brother still has that train. I wonder if he’s reliving the Christmas dream with his kids. I haven’t heard anything about his house burning down recently. …


Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes


Farewell, Christmas, Until September 1st (2013-12-27 Daily)

Okay, I couldn’t resist.  Enjoy!



David C. Hughes

Sigh . . . . Another Christmas come and gone, all too quickly.  The anticipation of the past three months now lingers in the air like the scent of mulled cider and freshly-baked banana bread.  Is it just me, or does Christmas day always seem so . . . anti-climactic?  One minute we’re sound asleep, next minute our kid is waking us up at 6:45 AM, long before the residual effects of Christmas Eve’s indulgences have slinked back into the recesses of my brain.  In preparation for this day we’ve hung lights, baked cookies, wrapped presents, watched Christmas shows, decorated the house, and hummed catchy Christmas songs for two or three months, then it’s all over in a flurry of torn paper and fulfilled wish lists.  For what seems like only a brief moment, Christmas Future handed the baton to Christmas Present, but, alas, at 12:00 midnight on December 26th, Christmas Present dutifully passed the baton to Christmas Past, morphing holiday moments into enduring memories.  I can still hear Jacob Marley’s chains rattling.  Or is it Hannah’s new Umbooly?  As I saw on a recent Facebook post, December 26th is the saddest day of the year.  Amen, sister . . . .

As I write this my head is still filled with Christmas songs, the residual music of 50 Christmases blending together and accompanying me wherever I go, like old friends: loyal, comforting, familiar.  As I rolled out of bed the morning after Christmas, Nat King Cole’s buttery voice slipped into the bathroom with me, the spirit of “The Christmas Song” still bringing a smile to my face as Christmas’ calendar page sloughed off the wall and revealed the 26th with the heaviness of time’s passing.  And even as I type these words, Nat faithfully belts out his rendition of the holiday classic in my head while 98.7 FM puts the Christmas CD collection back on the shelf in anticipation of the day after Halloween next year.  Hang in there, Mr. Cole, I’m still listening, even if it is on the ethereal soundwaves of Christmas memories.

Mary and I spent Christmas Eve making new memories as we watched holiday movies, played games with Hannah, and snuggled under the blankets of tradition steeped in the comfort of our friends from Beringer and Oak Leaf.  On Christmas Eve morning I extracted all the holiday-themed VHS tapes and DVDs, spread them across the corner of the entertainment unit, and told Hannah to pick what she wanted to watch.  We started out with “Very Merry Muppet Christmas,” transitioned into “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and climaxed the day with “A Christmas Story,” followed by the 2012 sequel “A Christmas Story 2.”  I hand-popped popcorn on the stove, and Mary honored my family’s tradition of abstaining from meat on Christmas Eve by whipping up white pasta with garlic sauce and shrimp scampi for dinner.  I built, lit, and stoked a fire in the fireplace, maintaining its warm glow throughout the day as we stayed in our pajamas, played Monopoly Junior, and wrapped ourselves in the warmth of the season.  And before we knew it, Hannah was in our bedroom at 6:45 Christmas morning . . . . Might as well have put a hammer in our Elf on the Shelf’s hands and told her to play Fix-It Felix on my head.  Ugh!

This year, for the first time, Santa Claus graced us with an Elf on the Shelf named Taylor McTuttle.  He dropped her off on the front porch the Sunday after Thanksgiving, rang the doorbell, and disappeared before Hannah could catch a glimpse of the jolly old man in the bright red suit dashing away back to the North Pole.  We welcomed Taylor, and enjoyed her mischief for the next three weeks.  And believe me, those things can get into a lot of mischief, especially since we own a well-stocked wine fridge.  She engaged Hannah in a long-running game of chess, making one move at a time each night after Hannah went to bed.  She ended up in the top of the Christmas tree, under the Christmas tree skirt, on top of Hannah’s bookcase, and trapped in one of the entertainment unit doors.  She made snow angels in a pile of white flour spread across the stove.  She fell head-first in an empty coffee cup after drinking all of the hot cocoa.  She captured and tied our dog Dot’s squeaky kitty to the back of a kitchen chair, then found herself hanging from the dining room ceiling fan piñata style, wrapped in a tangle of green yarn as kitty made a bit of mischief herself.  She even kidnapped Hannah’s Zelf, Angelina, and wadded her up in a ball of rubber bands and pipe cleaners.  Lesson learned: Zelfs encroaching on Elf on the Shelf territory will be duly hunted down, captured, and made the brunt of cruel jokes.

But amidst the fun of Taylor and Angelina’s turf battle, amongst the explosion of wrapping paper strewn across the living room floor on Christmas morning, in the middle of the baking, eating, and distributing holiday goodies to the neighbors, we managed to bring to life the true meaning of the season by teaming up with our church small group to provide for a family with limited resources.  On the Monday before Christmas, our group arrived at the Omni American Bank in Weatherford and placed an abundance of wrapped Christmas gifts in the middle of the lobby.  We handed the presents over to the grandmother responsible for taking care of her three grandchildren while the kids’ mom serves out her remaining jail sentence.  It warmed my heart to not only participate in this act of service, but to demonstrate the meaning of life in a very real, roll-up-your-sleeves way to Hannah.

“’In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak,’” Luke wrote in Acts 20:35, quoting the apostle Paul, “’remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive”’” (Acts 20:35 NIV).  As we relegate yet another Christmas to the realm of Christmas Past, as we store away our memories on picture disks and DVDs, as we dump the shredded wrapping paper into the recycle bin and store away the presents, there’s one gift we need to put on instead of put away: the Gift of God’s Son.  May you strive to wear the garment of redemption, the robe of salvation, and the multi-colored coat of love as we close out this year and begin a fresh new 2014.  God bless!



Copyright © 2013, David C. Hughes

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: