Archives for December 2019

Memories of Christmas

What Christmas memories stand out in your mind?  My favorite memories are the smell of oranges, the crackling sound coming from our fireplace and the sight of candy-striped material on the floor in my mother’s sewing room.

Memories Of ChristmasChristmas was the only time we had oranges. Regardless, the time of year, their nostalgic sweet, citrus smell still stir up memories for me. When we lived in South Texas I loved it when it was time to go to orange groves and pick oranges. I could hardly wait until we’d get into the car and begin to peel the skins off while the sweet, sticky juice ran down my hands. Being able to eat all the fresh oranges I want is still something I do not take for granted.

When I was visiting schools during the holidays, one youngster told me the fruit she thinks about is grapes. Their family tradition is eating twelve grapes on Christmas Eve and making twelve wishes. She says their wishes don’t always come true, but enjoying this family tradition year after year is special for her.

Another special Christmas memory that comes to mind is candy-striped material lying on the floor in my mother’s sewing room.

We had a large family, and my mother made all of our clothes. A lot of times she used the material from the bags of flour she bought each month. The merchants packaged their flour in bags made of cotton material, which was usually a pretty pattern or flowered print.

Right before Christmas one year, my mom bought a bag of flour that was a candy red and white stripe. When I ask her if she was going to make me Christmas pajamas, she said no she was going to give material to someone else. I was disappointed, but when I peeked in her sewing room there were little scraps of the material on the floor.

On Christmas morning when we ran into the living room to see what Santa had left us, I found a beautiful little dark-hair doll dressed in a candy-striped dress and lots of candy-striped accessories.

I was confused because I believed only Santa Claus brought our toys, but my mother assured me that she had given him the material to outfit my doll. I suspected she had a lot more to do with it, but I wasn’t ready to break that wonderful childhood spell in my life yet.

A friend at work said that when they were little they always put their shoes neatly by the bed at night. The next morning the shoes were filled with goodies. In our house, our Christmas stocking was our biggest and cleanest socks.

Our children and grandchildren probably won’t remember exactly how many toys and gifts they receive as much as they will remember the little things we do to make these holidays special for them.

Holiday memories and traditions are important.  They are a part to building a strong bond between family, and our community. They give us a sense of belonging and a way to express what is important to us.

Whatever we do each year to celebrate the holidays, whether it is planned or not, becomes a memory and sometimes a treasured tradition in the eyes of a child.

Giving The Gift of Life

Giving The Gift Of Life

Dear Santa

“Before you get too busy with all the gift lists, we need your help. We will ask you for a special gift.

We have a friend. He is an Native Indian. He went to fight in the war, in a nation called Vietnam. He’s a very tall man, long hair, skinny and dark like some of us Latinos.

Tom does not speak Spanish. He speaks Indian and English, but he is a nice man.

Our friend’s name is Tom. Now that he’s a little more sick, he went to see his family in Arkansas. But we know you can find him.

Santa, could you find him a kidney so he will not die? Maybe someone has invented a plastic kidney or something like the heart machine. Maybe someone dies, but wants to give his kidney. Hurry!

Please can you give it to him on Christmas Day?

It will be OK if you bring us a $1 dollar gift. Just get Tom his Kidney.”

Thank you, Sofia and Brothers

The letter was sent to the newspaper to be delivered to Santa Claus. When I opened it, I felt blessed to read it before sending it on to the recipient.

I made a copy and kept if for a few days and then called Sofia’s mom to ask if I could share the letter in this column. Then I decided to find Tom and tell him about this beautiful gift of hope Sofia was wishing for him.

His wife, Nita, answered the phone when I called. It took a moment to explain why I was calling, but when I read her the letter, she cried.

Her husband, Tom, who is Chickasaw and Choctaw Indian, suffered from Polycystic kidney disease. It is a genetic disorder characterized by the growth of numerous cysts in the kidneys. The cysts are filled with fluid and will eventually replace much of the mass of the kidneys, reducing kidney function and leading to kidney failure. After that the patient requires dialysis or kidney transplantation.

Tom was on dialysis three times a week for five hours a day and was waiting for a kidney.

The disease took the life of his father when he was nine and his older brother in 1998. His younger brother suffers from the disorder and so does his nephew.

After four and a half years Tom found a kidney donor.  He was a big man, 6 feet, 6 inches tall, weighing over 200 pounds, so he had to wait for a kidney from a large person. He also had a blood type of B positive, which is very rare.

The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network matches donated organs with critically ill patients according to blood Chemistries, and body size.

My 67 year old brother in law, Joe, has been on the kidney transplant list for a year.  His kidney failure comes from genetic diabetes and high blood pressure.   Right now he is on peritoneal dialysis for eight hours each night.

Joe has 22 grandchildren and one great grandchild who could have written a request with just as much love as the letter above.

Each day about 68 people receive an organ transplant, but another 18 people on the waiting list die because not enough organs are available.

Organ and tissue transplantation saves lives, but only if people are clear about their wishes in case of death.

Having organ donor written on the back of your driver’s license is not enough. You must carry a donor card with you and let your family know your wishes.

Christmas is about giving because of the example of the birth of a child who was born to give his life for others.

In the letter to Santa, Sofia and her brothers wrote that it was all right if they only received a dollar gift, but the thing they wanted most was for their friend to have a chance at life.

Tom said he had no words for how he felt about the children writing such a wonderful letter for him.

“It is amazing how much little children know about giving,” he said.

If you are interested in more information about giving the gift of life through organ and tissue donation, you can visit a website called  The site also has donor cards that you can fill out and carry in your wallet.

The Best is Yet To Come

As I watched the second candle (the candle of peace) of the Advent season being lit in church on Sunday, I thought of the fork my friend gave me at the very beginning of this Christmas season.

The Best Is Yet To ComeIt was something no one had ever given me before–a set of silverware, yes, but not just one fork. However, with the dainty fork that I can wear as a pendant, she gave me a beautiful story to go with it.

It seems there was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was “getting her affairs in order”, she contacted her pastor and asked him to come to her home to discuss her “final wishes”.

She told him which songs she wanted to be sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also wanted to be buried with her favorite Bible.

Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. “There’s one more thing!” the woman said excitedly. “What’s that?” asked the pastor. “This is very important,” the woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”

The pastor stood and looked at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. “That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked. “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.

The woman explained, “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie, something wonderful and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, ‘What’s with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork…the best is yet to come!’”

Advent, which means “coming” in Latin, marks the beginning of a new church year and is a time of expectancy and preparation for the coming of the Savior. It is a time that Christians believe came 2,000 years ago with the birth of Jesus, yet they wait expectantly for it to happen again.

The first candle lit for the Advent season was Hope. That was what the woman in the story wanted people to see as they said goodbye to her. With only one thing left to give as she ended her life, she gave a symbol of hope, because it was what she felt people needed the most.

The second candle that was lit was Peace. I couldn’t help but think of the times, as a young mother, I may have missed that part of Christmas, by trying to buy Christmas presents we couldn’t afford. Children don’t thrive on the gifts we buy them, but on the time we spend with them and the unconditional love that surrounds them.

Last Sunday I watched as another couple in our church shared the responsibility of lighting the third candle of the Advent season; the candle of Love. Love is still the best gift to give those around us. It can be given in so many ways and it feels so good when it is returned.

The last candle to be lit for the Advent season will be the candle of Joy. Looking at my fork pendant fastened to my blouse that my friend gave me reminds me that joy is something that I can have during the Christmas holidays and all year long because I know the best is yet to come.

Imagination is a Gift

I don’t know what happened,” she said. Suddenly I had this entire white wall as my canvas and a palette of colors to play with.  I lost track of time and let my imagination go wild.

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It started out as an artistic effort to paint a small mural of flowers on a little girl’s wall. However, my daughter said when she stepped out of our granddaughter’s room two hours later; there was an entire garden scene; complete with an apple tree, sunflowers and a furry little bunny sitting beneath it all.

I thought about all the times I took crayons away from her when she aimed at the wall as a child.

Maybe this was pent up frustration, I thought, but she assured me it was just sharing her childhood imaginations with her daughter.

The child in us has a way of awakening a part of us that we often put away when we become adults. As a child we call it imagination. As an adult we call it creativity.

When we are small we believe in fun things like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, but somewhere between childhood and adulthood we become convinced we have to let go of those colorful imaginations to become spiritual and mature adults.

It is an important effort every parent makes when balancing the enjoyment of fantasy with the growth of faith during Christian holidays.

Sometimes the difference between allowing a child to believe in an imaginary Easter bunny and teaching them that Easter is a Christian holiday that celebrates the death and resurrection of a Savior is not much.

Our imagination is a spiritual gift given to us when we are born. It is a white wall with a palette of beautiful colors and God’s way of preparing us all to believe in a truth that we cannot see.

As parents we have an opportunity to nurture and guide that gift as an exercise to strengthen their children’s faith as they grow into adults.

Along the road to adulthood a they will learn what is real and what is not real, what is good and what is not good, but that same childhood ability to believe will allow them to accept a man they cannot see who died on a cross and rose from the dead three days later for a world that crucified him.

In the famous editorial written by Francis P. Church, from the New York Sun to a little girl name Virginia who asked the question, “Do you believe in Santa Claus?” Church wrote: “The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world.

Another great author wrote in the Bible, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Just as we allow our children the freedom of their fantasies, we can introduce them to a God that protects them and loves them by reading them Bible stories and sharing our faith with them.

When our daughter was a child, her favorite story was Cinderella. She loved the glass slippers, the beautiful dress and the pumpkin coach that carried Cinderella to the ball, but when it came time to choose a mate to share her life with, she prayed that God would help her meet a kind, honest person who would help her face life in the good times and the bad times.

One by one, the make believe characters she and her brothers played with as children have disappeared and in their place they have learned how to grasp the hand of faith.

It may be more grownup to say they are creative now, but I am glad they still have that white wall and palette of colors in their mind to change a room or their lives when they need to.

The Santa Claus Story

My husband and I were sitting in a Burger King having lunch, when a lady approached us and asked, “Sir, would you mind coming into the playroom with our children?” We looked up at her and back towards the room where about 20 little children’s faces were pressed against the glass looking our way. “The children think you are Santa Claus,” the lady said.

The Santa StoryMy husband had a white beard and was wearing a Santa hat and a red shirt. He smiled and said, “Sure!” And off he went with a big smile and a little bounce in his step.

He sat down on one of the small tables so the kids could approach him and said, “Hello boys and girls!” The kids were giddy and took turns coming up to him and telling him what they wanted for Christmas.

As I stood at a distance and watched him I could see the joy and fun he was having. The group was from a daycare school and the teachers were so pleased that they were able to add this moment to their student’s outing.

Since that day he has played Santa at many schools and events. When he starts to grow his beard in the middle of the summer I know he is preparing for his role as Santa Claus. As soon as Thanksgiving is over he puts on his red Santa hat and his Santa persona and starts having fun.

He laughs a lot, bursts into song unexpectedly and talks to strangers everywhere we go. I love watching him. In everyday life he is a quiet man, a retired minister and a chaplain for the VFW(Veterans of Foreign Wars).

There was another kind man who began the tradition of Santa Claus, whose name was Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was born a long time ago during the third century, in a small village of Myra which is now on the southern coast of Turkey.

His parents were very wealthy. They raised him to be a devout Christian and died when Nicholas was very young, leaving him a large inheritance. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering.

He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. After his death, at age 73, the legend of his gift-giving grew. Saint Nicholas transformed into the legendary character called Santa Claus, who brings Christmas presents to children around the world.

What to do when your children stop believing in Santa? Tell them about this kind man who continued the tradition of giving. Because we know who began and gave the greatest gift of all when he came into this world to live and die for our sins so that we might have eternal life.

In fact, maybe that would be a great way to start the Santa tradition. Tell the children the true story of this kind Bishop who gave what he had because of his love of Jesus.

What Grieving Parents Feel at Christmas

There was a quiet sadness that filled the room. Each mother there shared a special memory of her child. It was a comfortable place to be because it was all right to cry.

What Grieving Parents Feel At ChristmasMy friend had invited me to join her and a group of mothers who gather each Christmas to share memories of their children who have passed away.

Warm hands reached out for mine as I entered the group. I listened as they shared stories of their children. It had been longer for some since they had held the warm hands of their children, but the happy memories they had to share was as clear as if they experienced them yesterday.

This was a way of honoring their children during the holidays.

I feel sadness during this time,” my friend, Susie said. “But it is not a sadness without hope, because as a Christian I know I will see him again.” Her son, Don Jr. died seven years ago and she said sharing her memories of him is a way of including him in the holidays.

We could talk about anything we wanted. Some of the mothers talked about feelings of guilt they experienced this time of the year.

I understood because for years after our two year old daughter died I felt guilty that my other children were happy and still growing, and sometimes I felt guilty because I was thinking of her instead of being happy for what I had.

Being able to share feelings like these, for just a moment, with other parents, was like being in a safe place. Susie brought each mother an angel ornament to represent her child.

While we were talking, a nurse walked into the chapel for a personal time of prayer. When she looked our way we told her why we were there, and she joined us even though she had not lost a child.

A few minutes later another woman walked in and knelt across the aisle from us. She was crying and we thought she might be grieving too. When she stood up, we tried to speak to her, but she didn’t speak English. Fortunately, the nurse, who had joined us earlier, was able to translate and tell her why we were gathered there.

She seemed to understand and shared with us the story of how her son had been in an accident and laid in a coma for the last few weeks. She began to cry again, and we thought he must have died.

But after a few minutes she smiled through her tears and told us that her son had come out of the coma and was going to be alright. She had come into the chapel to give thanks.

It was good news and each of us hugged this woman who had been a stranger only moments before.

Suddenly the sadness in the room was bearable. We were celebrating the life of a boy we did not know.

Later when I reflected on the meeting I felt it was all meant to be that way, because we needed to see beyond our grief that day and maybe she needed to see how blessed she was.

The holidays have a way of illuminating the difficult things in our lives. For some families it is the loneliness of missing a loved one, for others it is the lack of funds to buy presents or enough food for their children. These feelings can become unbearable when you are alone and feel that no one cares.

Mary gave birth to the Christ child in a stable. Not having a clean place to be born was sad, but his birth was joyous.

His life gave hope to all who came in contact with him. When he died, his mother felt the same sadness that every parent feels when their child dies, but it was not sadness without hope, because she knew she would see him again.

Little Metal Christmas Trees

It was small, about 2 ½ feet high, with green branches and a different color fiber optic light at the end of each thistle. It sat in a window of my house that faced the street on a small table I found in Mexico. The tiny twinkly lights were constantly changing and it became a brilliant display every evening as darkness arrived. Humble as it was, it represented Christmas for us.

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Of course, our children were not that impressed with our little artificial tree. They grew up with the smell of pine saturating the house each year, and couldn’t imagine we enjoyed decorating the house with anything but the traditional pine they remembered.

Decorating Christmas trees began as far back as the 16th century, but it began in my heart when we were children living on a farm in a small Georgia town where cedar and pine trees are plentiful.

We had many different trees representing Christmas in our house. Since we were surrounded by woods, it was a common tradition for my dad and brothers to take the saw and trudge through the woods for hours until they found the perfect tree.

We had tall, bushy cedar trees that filled the entire living room, tall skinny pine trees that could hardly hold the ornaments, short trees that had to be positioned to hide their flaws and even holly trees that dropped their red berries on the floor and attacked us with their thorny leaves every time we tried to place an ornament on the branch.

Whatever our dad could find in the woods, whether it was the perfect tree or one that we had to tie extra branches on, would be placed proudly near the window trimmed with multi colored lights and silver tinsel to bid Merry Christmas to all who passed by.

I don’t think he would be disappointed with my little fibre optic tree. In fact, it is possible that he may have been an inspiration to others to create such beautiful trees.

When I was little he spent hours in his shop behind the house building little trees out of wire, cement and pine cones.

He took a plastic flower pot or jug and fill it with cement, and place several pieces of heavy wire that had been weaved together to resemble the trunk of a small tree in it.

After a while, when the cement dried, he broke the pot and peeled it away from the cement bottom. Then he painted the bottom forest green.

He attached to other pieces of wire to the trunk to make branches. Each branch would have several smaller pieces of wire wrapped around the branch with its end pointed outward, as though it was a stem. There he would place a small hand-painted pine burr.

Little Metal Christmas Trees P2Sometimes we spent all day in the woods looking for those small perfect shaped pine burrs for him to paint. I remember the little paintbrush in his rough hands and baby food jars filled with different colored paints setting all along his long homemade workbench.

Each burr was unique. Some were painted one brilliant color, while others were made to look like beautiful flowers with deep rich shades of color starting at the base of the petal and softening as it relaxed along the edge of the rough wood burr.

When he was finished, it looked like a cross between a tree and a flower.

Sometimes he put them on a table in front of the house or at the edge of a busy road and people would stop and buy them. I didn’t know how valuable they were at that time—maybe not in money, but in memories.

Childhood memories can haunt us around the Christmas holidays. Some are good and some may be bad.

When I think of the little metal trees I watched my dad make, I wished I had saved one—perhaps it would have reminded me of the good times I had with him. I might have even set it on the little table in front of the window of my house to wish all those who passed by a Merry and Blessed Christmas.

A Final Christmas Gift

How do you pick a Christmas gift for someone who only has a few days or weeks to live? That’s the dilemma I had when I got the news that my brother, Gerald, who was in stage four brain cancer, had one last request–to celebrate Christmas with all of his brothers and sisters, together.

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He talked my sister into taking him to the mall and push him from store to store picking out Christmas gifts for each one of us.  This was going be the last time my family and I would have with my older brother who had been given this sad news.

Hospice, a special nursing service that provides comfort and support to patients and their families when a life-limiting illness has been diagnosed, was called in to help our family through this painful time.

As I walked around the mall I prayed for God to help me pick out a gift that would be appropriate for the end of my 40-year-old brother’s life. As I was looking at bedding that might be comfortable for him, my hand touched a very soft, beautiful blanket.  I picked it up and held it close to my chest.  It was so soft and comforting that I could imagine how it would keep him warm when his body was chilled.

A few months earlier I prayed with my brother as he accepted Christ as his Savior. When I gave him his gift, I reminded him of the love and protection of God and asked him to imagine that the blanket was like the Holy Spirit that would comfort him just as the love of God would when the angels took him home.  For a moment we talked about heaven as though it was another home that we both were looking forward to. Through his tears, he smiled and nodded his head.

Then I knelt down in front of him and told him how much I loved him. I thanked him for being a good brother to me and for protecting me when I was little. After I assured him that we would see each other again, it was time for me to go.

We received the call a few weeks later that he had passed away holding the warm soft blanket in his arms. I was fortunate because I was able to tell my brother goodbye.

For the last few weeks, I have watched as a family in our church has been saying goodbye to one of their loved ones. After the diagnosis was confirmed, his wife took him home from the hospital and placed his bed in the brightest part of their home. Family and friends have visited each day to bid their farewell.

It is a sad and painful time when we have to say goodbye to those we love, but it is also good to have a chance to say goodbye.

My husband teases me in the mornings when I am too busy to kiss him goodbye. He will say, “You need to kiss me so I won’t have a heart attack today.” It’s a corny joke, but it always gets my attention.

Our son-in-law says he is still getting used to the way we say goodbye to each other on the phone. We always end our calls with, “Love you, bye.”

None of us have any idea of how long we have to live. Sadly, parents and families who sent their sons and daughters to war had to renew their hope each day that their loved ones would come home.

My daughter’s neighbor is a Vietnam veteran who had to say goodbye to both of his sons when the war began. “I just told them I loved them and I was proud of them and then I had to let them go,” he told our daughter.

Not everyone has the chance that I had with my brother to say goodbye or our church friends have had to say goodbye to their loved one.

That is why it is important not to postpone the things that, deep down, you know you want to do, like telling the people you love how much you care, visiting a good friend, taking time to laugh with someone, going fishing with your child or parent, writing a letter, or just patting someone on the back because they need to feel a touch.

Shotgun Christmas

We always pretended to be asleep. It was a game we played with our dad on Christmas Eve. He told us he couldn’t signal for Santa until we were sound asleep in our beds.

As soon as he announced it was time to go to bed, we would run to our rooms, change into pajamas and jump into bed to wait for him to come into say goodnight.

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He’d lean down close to our faces to see if our eyes were closed. Sometime I could feel his scratchy beard brush against my cheek. He turned his face sideways so he could listen to our breathing, then pulled the covers up around our shoulders and tucked us in before he left the room.

As soon as he walked out we jumped up and ran to the nearest window. The screen door squeaked and we could hear his footsteps as he stepped out on the porch.

We knew what he had in his hands. It was his shotgun and the clicking sound told us he was loading the first cartridge in the chamber as we covered our ears with our hands to muffle the sound.

Bang, open, click, Bang, open, click, Bang! The sound of the shotgun echoed across the empty fields that surrounded our wood-framed farmhouse, as a signal for Santa. It meant that all of the Gaultney children were asleep in their beds and ready for him to deliver our toys.

My younger brother would sometimes worry about the safety of Santa. But we lay awake quietly in our beds listening until we drifted off to sleep, then the morning light would bring us to our feet.

It was apparent that Santa had indeed made it through the night as we dashed into the living room filled with the smell of oranges. We were greeted with a roaring fire in the fireplace and our mom and dad sitting in their chairs drinking coffee.

Our dad was as jolly as any old Saint Nick as he knelt beneath the Christmas tree to pass out the presents. It was the best time of the year for us.

When I was telling my daughter recently about my dad shooting the shotgun three times to signal Santa, she stopped what she was doing and said, “Mom, those are the stories I want to tell my children about their great-grandparents.”

Our children love to listen to stories. They didn’t have much time with their grandparents and when we tell stories about them, I can see them forming a picture of what they were like in their minds.

Our daughter creates a memory book online for her children every Christmas. They love looking back at what they did, the memories they’ve made and comments their mom includes.

If you don’t want to make an online book you could buy a scrapbook or make your own by using a loose-leaf notebook, some acid-free paper that can be bought at a craft store, and plastic sheet protectors.

There is another kind of memory book called a smash book. Instead of buying a scrapbook album and page protectors, this is a journal in which you can write, draw, paint and glue in embellishments and memorabilia as you’re on-the-move. No planning is involved – you simply decorate as you feel in the moment.

I love to tell stories to our children and grandchildren. I know they will create their own holiday traditions, and maybe even choose some that I’ve shared with them, but I doubt our shotgun Christmas will be one of them.

A Curious George Christmas

If you are making a list and checking it twice I think I may have found a children’s movie that, in a very simple way, may help you fill your Christmas list.

“The Very Monkey Christmas” is a Christmastime story about a problem Curious George and The Man with the Yellow Hat were having. They must both find out what each other wants for Christmas.

A Curious George Christmas

Curious George is an American animated educational children’s television series based on the children’s book series of the same name that ran from 2006-2015.

In this story, George draws out his Christmas list with a simple picture,  but The Man with the Yellow Hat cannot seem to figure out what it is and George can’t decide what he should get The Man with the Yellow Hat for Christmas.

Meanwhile, together they decorated a tree that was way too big for the house, visited their neighbors, participated in a Christmas play, prayed for snow, and had fun with friends.

Yet as Christmas got nearer, each became more desperate to figure out what the other wanted for Christmas. The Man with the Yellow Hat conferred with his most intelligent associates to decipher the shapes on Curious George’s Christmas list, but no one could figure it out. The Man with the Yellow Hat was beginning to think that maybe he was not a good master to his monkey because he couldn’t figure out what his friend wanted.

Curious George knew his master loved snow, but there was no way he could make snow. And no other gift seemed good enough. Finally, standing in front of a toy store window they often visited together, The Man with the Yellow Hat realized the shapes George had drawn were the shapes of the toys in the window. He knew exactly what George wanted.

On Christmas day, The Man with the Yellow Hat gave George the presents all in the shapes of the boxes he had drawn. George was so excited because his friend figured out his Christmas lists.

George gave his master a rolled-up piece of paper for his gift. When The Man with the Yellow Hat unrolled the paper, there were drawings of everything they had done together since the holidays began, such as picking out their Christmas tree, bending the top down with a chair so it would fit, going to church and participating in the play, helping their friend write a song for her mother and making cookies.

The Man with the Yellow Hat was so touched because he realized that what he gave his monkey friend every day in life made him happy and George was happy because The Man in the Yellow Hat knew him well enough to keep looking until he understood what his friend wanted. Oh, and suddenly there was snow outside.

A Curious George ChristmasAs I snuggled with our grandchildren watching this adorable story with such an important message, I thought about our Christmas together. We brought lots of presents, but that was not what made them so happy. It was our time together, snuggling, telling stories, taking walks, riding their bikes and spreading peanut butter and extra honey on their sandwiches. They counted the days while we were there and planned the moments we could be together; laughing, singing and just talking together.

Christmas is so much more than the presents we put under the tree. The greatest gift we can give to ones we love is to be present with them in moments we have together.