Two winners selected in Muddy River News holiday memory contest

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Some Christmas moments are just magical. 

If you take the time to stop during the hustle and bustle of this season, you can feel it — even if it is just for a few seconds. There are so many memories that surround us this time of year that we can often miss that feeling, or maybe we even avoid it as sometimes the most precious memories are also the most painful to revisit.

As we experience this cold weather and snow, take time and enjoy the pause of Christmas. Reflect on Christmas’ past. Listen to the sounds of the season. Stand outside and watch the snow fall and blanket your yard in stillness and silence.

When I close my eyes and think of Christmas happiness, it is being surrounded by family, hearing the adults’ laughter, greetings as the front door opens and closes with the sounds of stomping feet, accompanied by a gust a cold air, and watching the old fashioned bubble lights on my Grandma’s tree through the sparkle of tinsel.

There is often that sadness too. Christmastime brings melancholy feelings, similar to the A Charlie Brown Christmas song, “Christmas Time is Here.” Maybe it is because it marks another year gone by, seeing children grow up and leave Santa behind, or loved ones leave us. It is wonderful and heartbreaking all at the same time.

This year, Muddy River News asked you, its readers, to submit your favorite memories. We were happily surprised to have such a great response. It was an honor to read your stories. It is impossible to judge the “best” memory, so below are our top two favorite story submissions.

I hope you enjoy reading these stories and that it encourages you to think of your own memories. This Christmas, when you are with the ones you love, I hope you will take a few minutes to share with them your favorite Christmas memories. They are meant to be shared and cherished.

Wishing you the merriest of memories this Christmas season,

Maureen

Christmas trees have always been a special part of my past holiday seasons. It is not possible to reminisce about Christmas, without having a picture in my head of a cedar cut fresh from the woods and all that went into bringing it home.  

My first recollection of our family Christmas tree was when my dad and I went out to the woods to cut one down for our family. One of my sisters and I rode with dad down an old gravel road to a spot, which seemed to me very far from civilization, but as far as we knew, was the best place in the world to find the perfect Christmas tree.  I remember there was fresh snow on the ground, and Mom bundled us up with our winter coats, cotton gloves, and those boots you pulled on over your shoes with the buckles that held the boots tight against your leg, keeping the snow from slipping inside. 

Dad parked the car and we both carefully stepped out, watching where we walked so we would not fall or step into a pile of wet snow that was taller than our boots. As we jumped across the small ditch, we were faced with our first adventurous challenge — how to cross a farm fence, something we had not done before now. 

Dad went first and of course, made it look easy by simply grabbing the post with his right hand, taking one step on a lower wire with his right leg, holding down the top barbed wire with his left hand, stepping over with his left leg, placing it carefully into a spot in the fence on the other side, followed by his right leg which went all the way down to the ground and finally placing both feet on the ground safely on the other side as he held his balance with one hand still on the pole. 

Easy, right? 

Well after several attempts at it and a couple of snags from the barbed wire, Dad finally decided he would just lift us over so we could move on toward our task.

As Dad made his way across the pasture, we quickly made a game of trying to step into his footsteps. This became another challenge, since his stride was much bigger than ours. It was a big, long stretch for me and a jump for my sister from one step to the next.  The next thing we know, Dad is hollering back at us to catch up and we quickly make our own steps as we run to catch up with him. I remember looking back at our paths in the fresh snow thinking how neat that was. One large set of tracks and two small sets.

As we looked over our selection of wild cedar trees, dad gave us the description of the type of tree we were looking for. It would have to be about a foot or so taller than he was, about this wide as he held his hands apart to give us an idea of the width, plenty of branches all around and it had to be straight. 

Well, that last criteria was a tough one, because we quickly discovered that not many wild cedars grow straight. We could find one that was the perfect height, but it would have too many holes in it. We would find one with no holes and it was not tall enough. But all of them had this problem of not being straight enough. Finally, there it was, the perfect Christmas tree. It was just the right height, branches all around and straight. With a little bit of trimming, Dad could make it work. 

“We could not help but stand there and admire it as it stood there looking back at us as if to say, finally, you found me.” 

Dad had brought along his hand saw for cutting the tree and after he got it started, my sister and I took a turn at sawing on the tree. We had to get down low and work our way under the cedar branches. Back and forth we would see our way through trying to keep the line straight. Finally, Dad took over and you could see the sawdust fly as it covered the white snow beneath the tree. As he made the last cuts, we had to carefully and gently let the tree down to the ground so we did not break any of the branches. Our Christmas tree was ready to take home. 

Dragging the tree across the ground in the white snow makes a path that is unlike any other path. You see paths made by people out for a walk, a dog prancing across the yard, or a sled going down a hill, but they are nothing like the lines in the snow which make up the footprint of the perfect Christmas tree being pulled across the snow toward home, to be placed on display for the entire world to see. It will soon be lit with brightly colored lights and have decorations which mom has carefully packed away every year to ensure they are there for our enjoyment.  Dad loaded it up in the trunk of the car and our task was complete.

“I can picture myself on that day in December, a long time ago, and remember how life could not be more perfect and how much this cedar, which may not have been what many would claim to be the best choice, would be the most perfect symbol of Christmas for our family and how proud I was to be a part of bringing it home.” 

These days, as some folks spend a lot of money on their trees and may be satisfied with something made of plastic, I will always go back to my youth and know that I have experienced what it takes to have a great Christmas tree and I will cherish this memory all of my life. 

Merry Christmas to you and your families and may God bless you with the perfect Christmas tree as you decorate during this holiday season. 

Sid

“My favorite Christmas memory was one of the last before my parents divorced.”

I was getting too old to play with dolls, but I asked for a “real” baby that cried. My sister (who is six years younger) and I both got one from Santa. My sister loved to let her baby cry. It started to drive us all crazy. 

Unbeknownst to us, my mom had hidden a cassette recorder behind the couch and recorded our Christmas morning. You can hear me coaxing my sister to put the baby’s bottle in its mouth numerous times. 

We aren’t sure of the whereabouts of that tape, but I would pay good money for a chance to listen to it. As I said, that was one of the last Christmases as a family and a favorite Christmas memory.

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