Remembering the Little Things

Christmas and all the surrounding holidays make this one of the happiest, most festive times of the year. But sometimes Christmas can be sad as well, like the first one after you’ve lost someone. That’s me this year, this being the first Christmas without my mom. I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately because she loved Christmas. I find myself remembering the little things about Christmases past with her, so I thought I’d share them with you today.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money. Christmas was often very thin on presents, but two things Mom always insisted we have was a bag of oranges and a bag of apples. I’m not sure why, perhaps because that was something she remembered from her own childhood. I also remember there being bags of Hershey’s Kisses. I loved seeing those little silver wrappers. Hey, I still do. πŸ™‚

Mom about to check out her stocking loot, Christmas 2011.

Mom grew up in a big family in rural Kentucky in the years toward the end and right after the Great Depression. Thus, she was a saver. By this I mean the woman never met a Christmas bow she couldn’t use several times. And it used to drive us crazy that she would never rip wrapping paper off a present. She would carefully pull away the tape and save the paper for use again the next year. Confession time — even though I rip paper off of presents, I do save bows. I think that’s a bit of my frugality mixing with my efforts to not be wasteful.

When it came to decorating, we had those big Christmas tree bulbs that would actually burn your fingers if you touched them. We had live trees every year, but they were cedar because that’s what grew near our house. Mom used some of those old tinsel-y Christmas garlands, hanging them from one corner of the living room ceiling to the center to the other corner, both directions to make an X. In the middle, she hung one of those foldable paper bells. I remember it was red.

As a kid, we lived out in the country, too, with no visible neighbors. So we didn’t have outside Christmas lights. But after I was old enough to drive, I would sometimes take Mom around to look at lights at other people’s houses. After I moved to Nashville, she got to see some really big displays. A couple of Christmases ago, my sister and nieces came to visit in December since it was Mom’s first Christmas without my dad. We took Mom to Opryland to see their big lighting display and all the decorations. Though all the walking tired her out, she was a bit like a kid seeing all the massive displays that she probably couldn’t have even imagined as a kid in the 1940s

Though I’ve been sad some this month, I’m doing my best to try to remember good moments from Christmases I did get to spend with Mom.

I’m not much of a cook, so I don’t have a recipe handy today. But I thought I’d leave you with my Mom’s favorite Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger.”


What is your favorite Christmas memory with someone who has since passed? How do you remember and honor those who are now gone at the holidays? In addition to a cool rooster ornament the Bandits are giving away today, I’ll toss in a download of my Christmas novella, A Cowboy in Her Stocking, to one commenter.




  • Helen says:

    Is he coming back to visit me ?

    Have Fun

  • Jane says:

    My grandparents, various aunts, uncles and cousins live in other continents, so we haven’t spent the holidays together. We paternal aunt and her family are the only ones who live close to us.

    • It’s hard when you don’t live close enough to visit easily. My sister and I live quite a distance apart, enough to require a plane ride or three days in the car. So we tend to visit each other in warmer months when weather isn’t a problem.

  • Helen says:


    I can be very sad I agree I lost my Mum 11 years ago and I still miss her heaps and one thing I have continued to do is make the Christmas pudding Mum and I would make it together every year and now I do it we have to have one it wouldn’t be the same without it πŸ™‚

    Have Fun

    The GR will have fun paling with Jayden who is staying for a couple of days till his sister Hayley is out of hospital and of course there are Tim Tams

    • That’s nice that your still make your mum’s Christmas pudding, Helen. We still make my mother-in-law’s homemade pizza from time to time. Still the best pizza I’ve ever had.

  • Amy Conley says:

    This will be our second Christmas without my grandmother. Last year I was still numb, this yead I’m really missing her. Although we lived almost 500 miles away for the past 20 or so years I’ve gone to my Grandmother’s house for Christmas, or at least the day after and stayed til my bday.
    My grandmother not only always got the perfect gift for everyone (and there were tons of us…5 generations), she also always bought the best cards. That’s what I miss most, going to my mailbox and seeing her handwriting on an envelope.

    • It’s such a big difference when we lose a grandparent, often the glue that brings the whole, extended family together for holidays. All my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., haven’t been together for a holiday since my mom’s mom passed 18 years ago. Wow, it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long. She was my last grandparent, and my husband lost his last grandparent in August.

  • Marcy Shuler says:

    I always think of my mom at Christmas. She’s been gone many years now, but I’d always help her with Christmas dinner. We’d get up around 5am to get the turkey stuffed and in the oven and then start on the homemade rolls. Every year we’d make an ornament or craft and include one with each tray of cookies she’d give to friends and neighbors.

    Whenever I watch the cartoon The Grinch Who Stole Christmas I smile and think of her. She had an enlarged heart and she used to say she was like the Grinch because his heart grew two sizes bigger. I like to think I got her sense of humor.

    {{{Trish}}} It’s okay to be sad sometimes, but I bet your mom is smiling at you every time you save a bow.

  • PenneyW says:

    It would be my Mom we did so much together, she’s the one that got me into the Harlequin romances, every year we make pumpkin bread like she use to make, and also put out a 14 inch stuffed Christmas mouse she saw it in a store and wanted it it reminds me of her

    • Yum, pumpkin bread. That actually reminds me of a funny memory — Mom was one of the people on the planet who actually liked fruitcake!

      So nice that you have the Christmas mouse to remember her by as well.

  • Mary Preston says:

    My Father died earlier this year, so it’s our first year without him. He was in a nursing home the last two Christmases so it’s been different for a while now. I have SO many great memories to hold onto though.

    • Hugs to you, Mary, on the loss of your father and on facing this first Christmas without him as well. It’s sad to be sad at the holidays, if you know what I mean, because they’re supposed to be such a happy time.

  • Lianne says:

    Our Christmas Day usually includes a visit to the local cemetery (a brother and Nana).

  • Mozette says:

    Christmas Day at Grandma and Grandpa’s house at Tarragindi here in Brisbane was always a treat! The house would smell of cooking food all day – the bird (usually a couple of chickens as we didn’t cook turkey back then) with stuffing, salads, roast veggies, gravey, cranberry sauce, mint sauce and roast beef (for those who didn’t want white meat)…. then dessert was fruit salad, fresh whipped cream (with the hand-held electric beater!), home made custard (from scratch!), trifle and Grandma’s steamed pudding! Oh! That pudding was the bomb, man… it was the best thing ever!
    Grandma would have threepences from her day sterilized and put aside just for this dessert. She’d mix them in, making a wish with each one! Then, if you found one (there were only 5), you got good luck the following year. However, some of our cousins thought you could keep them… and Gabe (my older bro) and I had to remind the younger cousins to give them back. When they didn’t we’d dob them in to their Mum and Dad, who would set them straight (or go through their pockets later that night and get the coins back to Grandma for the next year).

    Grandma and Grandpa are gone now and we all miss those days… the house has been sold over a dozen times since. But the first time, it was on quarter acre of land and the new people rezoned it, and sold off the tiny piece of land next to it which changed the house number. They mainly did it to get more money in their pockets… greedy, greedy people… very scrooge-like, eh?

  • Maureen says:

    When I was a kid my grandparents came to my parents house every year and the family joke was that my grandfather would be right next to you with the garbage bag as soon as you unwrapped a present.

  • Laurie G says:

    I was very close to my great aunt Anna. I would go to her house and spend my Saturday with her. We’d go food shopping and buy my favorite dinner hamburgers and tater tots. We’d purchase Lorna Doone cookies and M&M’s for dessert.
    We’d take a walk weather permitting, pick up chestnuts from her huge tree, play games, read books and watch TV. I loved those Saturdays. She had a big claw foot bathtub in which I took long bubble baths. She bought Laurie Bath chrystals which she always joked were named for me.

    On Christmas Eve my two siblings and I would spend the afternoon at her house baking cookies and pies. We’d come home and find that we had just missed Santa’s visit. That night my grandparents would also come over and we’d open presents, listen and sing carols and then go to midnight mass. I have fond memories of my great aunt Anna.

  • Deb says:

    Trish, I hadn’t realized you lost your mother this year. Big hugs to you, but may you feel comforted by loving memories…as you posted in this lovely tribute today to your mom.

    This will most likely be the last Christmas my dad has any semblance of memory. He has Alzheimer’s and is fast losing ground. For example, yesterday, he called me by name, yet at Thanksgiving he asked me twice if I had ever visited his house before. It is a sad and horrid disease that steals captured moments for its victims.

    One memory I have is of my Danish grandfather. I was only 7 when he died, but I remember visiting his and Grandma’s every Sunday (or they came in to our house). He made woven paper heart baskets, filled them with goodies, and hung them on the lower branches of their aluminum, gaudy Christmas tree. Why the lower branches? So that we could choose our own basket and so that it was in reach of little hands. (If he and Grandma came to our place, he brought us a basket.) I also remember that he liked his grandchildren to sing Christmas songs on Christmas Day and he would move the tree to the middle of the room so that everyone could stand around the tree and hold hands while singing.

    • I love that image of the woven paper baskets filled with goodies. So sweet.

      I agree that Alzheimer’s is one of the one diseases ever. My mom’s dad had Alzheimer’s, and it’s heartbreaking to see someone gradually forget everyone they ever knew. What a horrible disease to make someone completely forget someone they’ve been married to for 50 years.

  • Trish, it is hard that first Christmas after a loss. Hugs to you. I love your comment on the bow and paper. My mom always saves the bows and used to try to save whatever paper she could. I never worried about the paper but I did save bows. Last year, I looked at the bag of bows and finally threw them out. They were too far gone to be used again.

    But back to your question, for me it’s seeing the eggnog on the shelf. My dad worked for a dairy and while he was a supervisor, during eggnog season, that was his baby. He watched over the making of it and he was the quality assurance (taster). I like a little eggnog during the season but my youngest loves it. Every time I see him grab a glass of eggnog I think of my dad.

    • What a fun memory, Christie. I’ve never had eggnog. I can’t get past the thought of it. Of course, I don’t drink milk either. But I do notice that they seem to have all kinds of special seasonal flavors of eggnog now, too.

  • may says:

    I miss the big Christmas party with my grandparents. They weren’t big on Christmas but it was great being with everyone… even if it drives you insane a bit with so many relatives all under one roof.

  • Phyllis Lamken says:

    We spent every Christmas Eve at my Grandmother’s. My greatgrandmothers would be there. My grandpa was there. It wasn’t much later that I found that divorced grandparents didn’t usually get together for the holidays. But mine did for the grandkids.

  • Teresa Hughes says:

    This Thanksgiving marked 4 years since we lost my uncle Tim from cancer. The holidays just are not the same without him. Sorry for the loss of your mom.

    One of my favorite Christmas memory is the year me and my siblings decided there was no Santa. We all gathered our evidence and confronted mom and dad. We thought we were soooooooo smart.Mom and dad didn’t argue with us so we knew we were right. On Christmas Eve we went to our grandparents home 20 minutes away from ours. None of us noticed when our dad and uncle Tim left for about an hour. When we returned home we found Santa had already been to our house! Presents were everywhere! Then we were sent to bed because without opening anything because it wasn’t Christmas morning. We never questioned if there was a Santa again. To this day mom puts our presents are from Santa.

  • Shannon says:

    My memories of my Mom and Dad is the Christmas eve meal and unwrapping of family gifts. (Christmas morning was Santa gifts and stockings.) It was usually spaghetti. Then Mom and Dad would have tea and dessert. We kids would finish desert quickly and gloom on to presents, shaking and testing to see what we’d gotten. Mom and Dad would finally finish sipping tea, a process that took forever. Then Dad would get out the V-8 movie camera. Usually, he would find one of the lights burned out. But he always had a replacement. Then he’d record the unwrapping. Once we had our presents, Dad would dig out old Christmas movies which we would watch. Sometimes it be slides if he wanted to remember Christmases with just Mom and himself. At some point, we’d have popcorn. Then it was bedtime. It’s been four years since he passed. I know the movies were moved to VHS, but when we were moving Mom to assisted living, I didn’t think to ask where those tapes were. I know the original movies had darkened with age.

  • sandyg265 says:

    We used to go to my Aunt’s house for Christmas when I was growing up.

  • I had to laugh at your Mom saving the bows and paper as my Mom does the same thing. We have some gift boxes that have been in the family for YEARS! It is always funny to see who got the Santa Claus box or the Christmas tree box.

    I know how lucky I am to still have my Mom with me and I am sending you a big hug on the loss of yours. We lost Dad seventeen years ago and there isn’t a day I don’t think of picking up the phone to call him. I am the only girl, the oldest child and I was and still am a Daddy’s girl.

    My favorite memories of Dad are of Christmas as it was his favorite time of year. For my nephew’s first Christmas Dad bought one of those Christmas train sets and put it up around the bottom of the tree. These days it is my niece and nephew who set up Mom’s tree and they still put up the train – Pop Pop’s Train. My father bought my Mom a ring every Christmas they were married. My eldest brother continues the tradition buying her a necklace or bracelet to match the rings in her collection. Dad also bought her Holiday Barbie every year and we continue to buy them for her.

    • Louisa, the continuing of the tradition of buying your mom jewelry and Holiday Barbies like your dad did just brought tears to my eyes. That’s just so sweet.

  • gamistress66 says:

    there isn’t any one memory of my mom (this is my 3rd w/o her) but rather the simple joy & pleasure on her face over the holidays such as on christmas morning when presents were opened and we got that one item we really wanted or were surprised by something special (such as the last holiday together she surprised me by getting me a new chain bracelet after having just giving me a nice jade one for my birthday in Nov — usually only one nice piece of jewelry per year), there was also the fun of driving around and looking at the holiday lights & displays.

    It’s those happy & special memories that will bring a sweet smile to ease the tears over the holiday when you remember your mother. It’s also the way you still get to share the holiday with her & while you may not be able to hug her, those memories are her hugs to you. πŸ™‚

    • I think you’re right in that it’s not a single memory we use to connect to loved ones no longer here, but the entire collection of memories that weave together.

  • Diana Huffer says:

    I have so many great memories of Christmas with my family. It’s difficult to pick just one to talk about… πŸ˜‰ One tradition was that we (my sister and I) would get new PJs every Christmas Eve. We would hear sleigh bells and run to the door. In between the screen door and the inside door would be two packages delivered by Santa — new PJs! We knew when they came, it was time to get ready for bed so that Santa could come back later and deliver our gifts. Another tradition was the turkey — it would go into the oven on Christmas Eve and the whole house would smell sooooo good! Dad always made the stuffing (amazing stuff!) and he and my sister would eat most of the “parts” that came inside — gizzards and such. This was something I never developed a taste for! Yuck! ~LOL~ All in all, we always had great holidays together.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    What a beautiful tribute to memories of your mother at Christmas time, Trish.

    My most memorable thoughts of Christmas as a child were my father pretending, when we were way past the age of believing, that Santa was real. We knew it was true because somehow my dad always got a glimpse of him just before he rode out of sight! My dad was such a kid about Christmas!

  • Oh Trish, I love your memories of your mom.

    Last year was the first Christmas without my Daddy. He grew up during the Depression, too and never really had much for Christmas. One year he and my mom came to visit us and one of my daughters had a FURBIE toy. Daddy sat and talked to that thing for ours during their visit and he actually got it to talk a little.

    So, naturally, for Christmas that year, instead of a pullover sweater that I usually got him, I sent him a Christmas FURBIE. πŸ™‚

    Well, Mom said he was like a little kid after she put the presents from us under the tree. She’d find him holding his present and he’d ask her, “What do you think Suzie sent me?”

    Mom said when he opened it with the rest of the family present opening he just burst out laughing!!! (Best present in the world was to get my rather stoic Daddy to laugh!) MY SIL said, “She got him a toy?”

    But you see…he was the youngest of 7 sons and the second youngest of 18 kids. He NEVER got an indulgent toy in his life.

    Best gift ever!!!

  • Hugs Trish. I found Christmas and mother’s day really hard after I lost my mom. Fortunately, with the passing of years the pain fades and only the wonderful memories remain.

    The October before my mother passed away, we went on our first ever mother-daughter trip to the Mall of America in Minneapolis. I pushed her around that huge mall in a wheelchair. We took in a dinner theater show, a trolley tour of the city (with snowflakes falling), and a visit to the beautiful bascilica there. While at the Mall of America, I bought a Christmas ornament of two mooses holding a Christmas tree that had a star marked “2004.” I told her that the two long-legged mooses were the two of us. Mom passed away the following April. Now, every year I hang that ornament near the top of the tree and remember that weekend. Miss you, Mom.

  • Trish, what a beautiful post. I love the sound of your mum – and I think she and my mum would have had LOTS to talk about. My mum grew up in a big farming family (six kids) and money was very short too. She used to save wrapping paper! She LOVED Christmas and used to start getting ready for it way ahead of time. She loved to fool people with presents because we kids had a habit of poking the stuff under the tree to see what we’d got. So she’d wrap a piece of jewellery like pass the parcel or disguise a book in a box so you’d imagine it was something else. Lovely memories. At this time of year, while I love Christmas, like you, I get a bit sad that my parents aren’t here anymore to share it all. Hugs to you on your first Christmas without your mum. xxx

  • Cassondra Murray says:

    Trish, all of my growing up years, we saw the same bows year after year. And often the same paper. My mom grew up in the Great Depression, and that frugality just sticks it seems. That generation never gave it up. My mom passed out knives and small pairs of scissors for everyone to use on the tape. Nobody was allowed to tear into the presents.

    She’s less concerned about those things now, as storing them takes too much space and energy.

    I save pretty gift bags if they’re not torn or wrinkled, but now I just toss the paper, and we tear into presents without hesitation.

    • You’re right in that so many people who grew up in that era tended to be frugal an save a lot of things, even things they didn’t need or would never use. But it was there “just in case.”

  • Dianna aka Hrdwrkdmom says:

    One of my fondest memories was in later years before my mother passed. While I was at work she would sit and plan how we were going to decorate the two picture windows and porch. After her planning session the next weekend I would put the plans in action.

  • Joan Kayse says:

    Oh wow….bittersweet post but what a tribute to a mother and your love for her.

    I love your description of the decorations. For SOME reason…I’ve been remembering a decoration my Mom had. It was foil letters strung together and spelling out Merry Christmas. It always was hung from corner to corner of the mirror in the living room.

    And the “Tuna Santa”. Coolest, stand up traditional Santa that she got by mailing in tuna can labels. I inherited it and do wish I could put him out. But….his beard wouldn’t hold up under whisker inspection.

    And then opening presents. For some reason, Mom always wanted my brother and I to know that even if we came out with a different number of gifts, it was because of cost not that she favored one or the other. The best gift we had? Her and Daddy (who yes, acted thrilled the year we gave him a variety of “gourmet” jam”)

    • A Tuna Santa? That’s so fun. And you know, that reminds me of something else. Do you all remember when things like glasses and towels came inside boxes of detergent? I haven’t thought of those in a long time.

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Hey Trish! Since both my Mom and Dad are gone now, it’s all about those memories for me. We used to have those big bulbs too, by the way. I remember my father cursing them – something he rarely did – and mother fussing at him….”James Pickering! Don’t you use that kind of language in front of the children!” Snork!! We probably knew more of it than he did.

    She seldom chided him or fussed him about anything, but that one was a regular every year. Grins.

    • LOL on your dad cursing out the lights. They were hot! I think I remember stories about people’s Christmas trees catching on fire because of them. Even though they were pretty, I much prefer the non-burning kind.

  • pearl says:

    Your tribute was lovely. I do remember how devoted my mother was to the kids, the special holiday meals, the practical gifts and the outings as well.

  • ellie says:

    What a wonderful post today. Missing my mother since she was the strong individual whose family ties were constant. She grew up during the depression and instilled in us the value of frugality and thrift which I am to this day.

  • diane says:

    When my grandmother was alive we would gather at her house for the annual baking session, mostly cannolis, cookies and treats and we still do since it is an important tradition for our family. The feast on Christmas Eve and the lovely family time is unforgettable. She did bring her sense of humor, great artistic ability and love of gift wrapping that was amusing and fun. I use gift bags only since it is easier and still pretty.

    • Diane, glad you have those memories. I tend to use a lot of gift bags too, except when I’m shipping stuff and then wrapping and placing in a bigger box is just easier and safer.

  • flchen1 says:

    We’ve been blessed to still be celebrating with many of our dear ones. We have missed DH’s father the last couple years, and laugh that DH has definitely inherited his propensity for taking loads and loads of photos πŸ˜‰

  • pjpuppymom says:

    (((Trish))) What a nice tribute to your mom. That first holiday after they leave us is always hardest. My brothers and I were just talking about how much our mom and dad loved Christmas and how fun they made it for us when we were kids. We always waited eagerly for the day when Mom would make her Christmas toffee candy. That was the only time of year she made it and it was heavenly. I think of her every time I make it.

    My late husband was like a little kid at Christmas. He was an only child and grew up poor so there wasn’t much of a Christmas celebration. As an adult, he enjoyed all the special touches that he didn’t have as a child. He especially loved surprising me. I awoke one Christmas morning to find a rope tied to my wrist. I followed the rope through every room of our house with clues attached in each room. Took me about ten minutes to get to the end of the rope and my Christmas present. One of my very best memories! β™₯

    • PJ, love the rope story. Hope it was a great present.

      I think when someone grows up not getting much for Christmas, it makes the holiday as an adult even more special.

  • bn100 says:

    opening presents together

  • Caren Crane says:

    Hugs to you, Trish! It will be our first Christmas without my grandmother, who was the last of my grandparents to pass away. She did beautiful needlework and crocheted gorgeous white Christmas tree ornaments. I think my cousin Laurel has those now and my sister Holli has a few. They are so lovely, white and starched to hold their shape.

    Having lost Grandmama, it makes me more aware of how precious the time with my own mother is. I hope we have as many years together as she did with my grandmother. Mama was born when Grandmama was 19 and Grandmama lived to be 93, so they had 74 years together. Since I was born when my mother was 25, she would have to live to be 99! I doubt we’ll have quite that much time, so I plan to make every Christmas count.

    Thank you for sharing your Christmas memories of your mom with us, Trish. I hope the memories help you through this tough season. (((hugs)))

    • Hugs on your grandmother’s passing, too, Caren. My last grandparent passed in 1995, and my husband lost his last one this August. So Christmas will be very different for both sides of our family this year.

  • Kaelee says:

    Hugs Trish ~ my mom passed away in 1997 and my dad in 1998. My dad was the paper and bow saver. He used them to wrap open me now presents for his grandchildren, usually ornaments.

    My mom made the best fruitcake ever. Even through I helped her make it on numerous occasions , my fruitcake does not turn out as well as hers did.

    This year we will be missing my brother in law. Our annual Boxing Day celebrations at my sister’s will be bittersweet. On one hand he will be much missed and on the other hand we don’t have to watch him slowly losing his memory.

    One thing my dad always insisted on was having a family picture taken when ever we got together. I wish I’d continued being a pain in the *** and insisted on keeping up his tradition. I stopped doing it after a blowup one year.

    • Sorry about the loss of your brother-in-law, Kaelee.

      I think I’m going to make the jam cake this year that my husband’s grandmother used to make a Christmas. Since it’s the first Christmas without her too, I think my father-in-law might like that.

  • catslady says:

    I loved the large family holiday dinners. Our family has gotten so big that we no longer all get together for the actual holidays so I have a tree trimming party but even then not everyone fist in my small house lol.