Photos by Lil DeLaat
For the past couple of years we have asked folks from around the community to send in their Christmas memories.We received some great new ones this year and also really liked the ones that came to us last year as well so we decided to blend the two together because even if you might have read them before it is, after all, Christmas and most people have seen It’s A Wonderful Life and/or A Christmas Story multiple times so…
Some are short, some are long, some are in between but we love these stories and hope they will touch a bit of the Christmas spirit in your heart.
You’ll find a bevy of them here and more offerings on our Pulse Page
A Crossman Pump Action
By Scott VanSingel
"It was Christmas 1989. I was 10 years old at the time and had been begging my father for probably a year or more for a BB gun, very similar to the movie "A Christmas Story." While he wasn't afraid of me shooting my eye out, he continued to tell me I was too young. In the weeks before Christmas I noticed a rectangular box underneath the Christmas tree and began to have hope that it might actually be my desired gift, and not a cleverly packaged sweater.
On Christmas morning I finally was able to open the box and much to my delight it contained a Crossman pump action BB gun. I promptly put this gun to use shooting soda cans. Over the coming years I harvested several squirrels and rabbits which ended up on the family dinner table. To this day that BB gun remains my favorite Christmas present. It has long since been retired and replaced by a Mossberg .410, but still hangs on the wall in my basement. My daughter will be 10 next Christmas and I hope I will be lucky enough for her to ask for a similar gift."
Never a Christmas Like That One
By Carla Roberts
Two little girls about 3 and 4 came running down the stairs from their room to find the living room literally filled with toys and presents. They squealed with delight and began exploring. There was a pink kitchen sink and stove, baby doll carriage, baby doll highchair, dolls, doll clothes and on and on. Two of everything, where last night there was only a tree with a few presents. My sister and I were both in awe of the abundance and we knew for sure there was a Santa Claus because our parents could never have afforded all that stuff. We played with these toys throughout our childhood. There was never another Christmas quite like that one and the joy of that day has sustained me through some Christmas Days that were not as abundant. That is the very first Christmas that I can recall.
By Chris Wren
Waking up Christmas morning brings happiness and joy to me that is very special and deep in family tradition. I love the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day football, but nothing beats Christmas morning.
I will never forget Christmas morning when I was eight years old and running downstairs to the biggest present I had ever seen. As I tore into the wrapping paper I knew that my efforts of pestering my parents for months paid off and the G.I. Joe aircraft carrier was in fact under the tree. I shook with excitement and may even have fainted for a moment it was a great present but more importantly solidified how special Christmas morning can be. It wasn’t the present but sharing the moment with my family.
Knowing that my dad had as much fun as I did watching me open a present and being with the family truly resonated from that day forward. Over thirty years later, I still wake up with the same excitement and happiness that I had that day. My wife can confirm that we don’t usually make it past 6 am before I am up excited to get the morning going. The weeks of shaking presents, decorating the house and preparing for the morning is my favorite time of the year.
This year will be the most special Christmas morning yet for me as I will for the first time get to wake up with a son of my own. I don’t foresee a G.I. Joe aircraft carrier this year, but the love and happiness that my dad created for me will be replicated. Continuing the family tradition for Christmas morning is exciting and I am looking forward to seeing the happiness on my son’s face when he opens his presents and is surrounded by love, even though he will probably be more excited for the box the present comes in. Getting the coffee going, cooking a big breakfast and spending the morning with those who I love is the perfect tradition I will continue as my parents did with me.
This year I may not make it past 5 am.
The Time I Caught “Santa”
By Noah Graff
As a child I always questioned the fictional characters parents told their children about. Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. Not that I didn’t believe them, I was just curious why I never saw them. Christmas 2007 was approaching and I was six years old. At the time Christmas was my favorite holiday, so the suspense was building. This Christmas was different though. I was determined to catch Santa, even if I had to sacrifice not getting any presents that year.
I had a plan. Every night around midnight my parents would check if I was asleep. I was going to watch my alarm until 12 and pretend like I was sleeping when they checked. Soon enough, I heard my door creek then close slowly. Yes! The plan worked so far. Now I was going to stay up a little longer to be sure my parents were asleep.
Around 1:30, I knew it was time. I slowly rolled out of my bed and tiptoed to the door. When I turned the knob, I started to have second thoughts. But I wanted to find out the truth. Very steady, I turned the knob the whole way and opened the door. I crept into the hallway, trying not to make the floor creek. I planned on hiding behind the couch facing our tree until Santa arrived. Almost to the living room, I heard shuffling. Was it Santa? The only way to find out was to look around the corner. As I peeked around the wall I saw a figure. It was very dark so I could just make out the silhouette. I examined the man, quickly realizing it wasn’t the Santa I saw in pictures.
Still convinced it was Santa, I contemplated my next move. Do I say something? Do I wait and watch? Do I tackle him and expose his identity like a Scooby-Doo episode? I chose to watch him a little longer. As I made out the shape of the man it began to look more familiar. Santa wasn’t as fat as I remembered and actually rather fit. Moments later another being walked into the living room. Not far from me, I realized it was my mom! Surprised, a slight gasp slipped out of my mouth. My mom turned my way and saw that it was me. She told me to come out and I realized Santa was my dad. I had found out the truth.
Every day after that I would question my parents on everything. And until all my friends found out Santa wasn’t really, it took everything not to tell them the truth.
By Marianne Boerigter
If you are of at least a certain age, you remember them too; the slides and the slide projector. Almost every family had slides. There was always that one person in the family who could actually run the projector correctly, without them all looking backwards or upside down.
At Thanksgiving, a few of us in my family were talking about old family photos, and of course, slides came up. My sister said she had the slides our parents had taken, and I remembered I had a small case of slides from our grandparents. Later that weekend, I started googling how to best transfer slides to a more usable digital format so maybe all of us in the family could have copies. I came upon a "film to digital converter" gadget and hit the "order now" button.
The next day I pulled that case of slides from our grandparents out of the back of the my closet and found twelve Kodak slide trays with 30 slides in each. I took out the first tray and started holding up each slide to the light…..hmmm. Beautiful fall trees, geese, and people I had absolutely no idea who they were.
The second tray had much more promise. A piece of tape on the side said "Kids". Sure enough, slides from the late 50's and 60's of our family, Christmas, birthdays, and brand new cars with the proud owners standing next to them. Being the youngest in the family, many of them were from before me or when I was a very young. My brother and sisters, mom and dad and grandparents looking so young, smiling and happy. Yes, these are the ones I needed to work on to convert and share.
My new converter gadget worked wonderfully. I quickly get through the 30 slides in the "Kids" tray and went on to the next tray. My grandparents' house, and few more family shots, and then……hmmm. Beautiful fall trees, geese, and more people I had absolutely no idea who they are. Grandpa apparently really liked the trees in their fall colors.
Next tray reads "Holland Tulip Time Floats". Really? No, there can't really be 30 slides of 1961 Tulip Time floats in there, right? Oh yes, there was. Next tray, "Flowers". Yep, roses, tulips, peonies, and flowering bushes with no clue where they were located. More un-labeled trays produced about 20 more slides that were recognizable for location at least or the people in them. Out of 360 slides, 50 of them I converted. But I have to say, they are the best 50 photos around because they all capture a special time for our family.
This holiday season I encourage you to pull out some old photo albums or even the dreaded slide projector and take some time to remember. I imagine you will find some that give you that warm feeling of family and good times. Share some with your friends and family and spread love, laughter and memories. Happy Holidays!
By Ken DeLaat
While we rejoice and celebrate the season there are always folks who are experiencing loss during these days and no other time magnifies those feelings like the holidays.
“This year, Christmas just is what it is”, she said softly.
Garnishing the strength within and the resolve of having made strides toward change and determined to use those tools gained in the process, she came to the only place you can go and remain honest with yourself and others.
I can’t feel any better than this right now.
No amount of pretending will make it go away.
I’m too tired to take care of all of you.
Now, please, don’t attempt to wrest a Rockwell moment out of the ashes of my Christmas of loss.
Enjoy and rejoice and revel and don’t feel obligated to take care of me.
Just show me you care by acknowledging me, loving me, and leaving me be as I desire.
I’m not gone nor am I forever changed.
I’ll be happy again at my time and pace.
I’ll come back to you.
But this year, please, Christmas just is what it is.
By James Kelly
How do you make sense of a white Christmas, dashing through the snow on an open sleigh, and Frosty the Snowman when it’s 90 degrees on Christmas day? When Christmases past were filed with memories of singing Christmas carols on Christmas eve in the local park while enjoying a picnic with your friends and family, or playing “Marco Polo” for hours in the pool with your cousins on Christmas day?
Well, you adapt!
Sing it with me now…
”Six white boomers, snow white boomers,
Racing Santa Clause through the blazing sun.
Six white boomers, snow white boomers,
On his Australian run.”
While there may be a lack of reindeer in Australia, there is no shortage of kangaroos (boomers) that could easily provide the power needed to haul around Santa and his stash of goodies. Add a couple more verses and before you know it you will have a kids Christmas classic that doesn’t cause confusion, but one that actually adds to the festive season in a meaningful and relatable way.
“Pretty soon old Santa began to feel the heat,
Took his fur lined boots off to cool his feet,
Into one popped Joey, feeling quite okay,
While those old man Kangaroos kept pulling on the sleigh”
So for a taste of Christmas on the other side of the world consider a quick Google search for “Six White Boomers’. I’d recommend the version performed by Rolf Harris, the man you might of once heard sing that other Aussie classic, “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport”.
Wherever you find yourself on Christmas day, I encourage you to sing a song that bought you some joy as a child. I’m confident the joy will return almost immediately.
By Brett Zuver
The Holiday Season is always one that brings cascading memories and a sense of wonder and amazement for all, young and old, to life once more. Quite often the memories are measured in quiet and private thoughts, maybe with a smile that was meant for nobody in particular-perhaps even for someone who is no longer with us, a memory. The warm smell of Christmas cookies that instantly transports you back countless years, hearing a favorite Christmas song that reminds you of a special time or a special someone, fulfilling long-lasting family traditions or beginning new ones, and most importantly, taking time to connect, or even reconnect, with loved ones on a level where they truly understand how important they really are to you. These are the things that make this time of year special.
Personally, I am in the stage of life where I am different things to different people. I am a husband, a father, a co-worker, a peer, a friend, a mentor, a learner, an employee, and countless other things to countless other people. For me, finding time to reflect and make sure that I am giving all that I can to everyone who needs me is the most satisfying part of waking up every day. There are times that I fall short, there are times that I wish I could have done better, and times where I am proud of how things have worked out. For me, this time of the year magnifies many of my relationships and gives me a much stronger lens to examine how I have done in deepening these relationships that matter the most. There will always be emails to answer and phone calls to return, those will never run out. Making sure the people I care about, whether or not I see them every day, know that I fully value and appreciate them is, to me, the most enjoyable part of this time of year.
Every time I hear, “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole I am instantly taken back to a certain day at my grandparent’s lake house up North on Burt Lake. They lived there for several years when I was young and one day in particular stands out for me. My mother, father, brother and I were there for a few days with my grandparents and my uncle’s family. His family had four children, Cathy, Renee, Robert, and Suzie, all of whom ranged in age from a couple years older than me to a couple years younger. We always had a blast every time we would get together, lots of laughter and adventures, to say the least. We were visiting for the Zuver family Christmas, it was a weekend in mid-December, and it was bitterly cold outside.
To me, this was a magical place. There was a lake that looked as big as the ocean where we could always find Petoskey stones and catch fish right off the dock. We would go for rides on my Grandpa Zuver’s pontoon boat, which was something I had never done before. They lived in the woods just up the hill from the lake and were surrounded by a cast of characters who lived nearby that always made the visit something to remember. Uncle Esko and Aunt Carol lived in a little house behind them, Mr. Oloffson lived in a beautiful home right on the lake and had a small fishing pond right next to his house. He would always smoke a pipe and referred to me as, “Bart”, even though he knew my name was Brett. He would smile every time he would call me that. The road cut through the woods still had the biggest tree I had ever seen growing right up in the middle of the dirt road, our car could barely fit around either side.
There were neighbors down the road that actually had a big one-horse open sleigh! We would pile in as many of us as we could and ride with them occasionally when there was enough snow on the ground. I remember the smell of cinnamon rolls in my grantparent’s house and a combination of old wood and gasoline smells in their unattached garage where they kept their snowmobiles.
This particular day started with a good breakfast and then soon a plan was hatched-my father, my uncle, and all of the kids were going to head out into the woods and find the perfect Christmas tree to cut down and bring back so we could all spend the afternoon together decorating it. Although it was cold, it was something we were charged with and none of us wanted to disappoint!
I remember the snow being at least knee-deep and even walking was a challenge. We marched in line, being led by my father and uncle, trying to step in the deep white footprints that were left by them so we would not lose a boot or get too much snow up our pant legs. We weaved in and out of the forest, along the edges of some barren fields and then back into the woods again until we found the perfect tree. There was a light, soft snow falling. Big, fat flakes, that almost looked like goose feathers landing all around us but not making a sound. By this time my face, hands, and feet were freezing but I would not have missed this for the world!
It took my dad and uncle longer that we thought it would to cut down our prized Christmas tree but they were successful. Now we had to get it back to my grandparent’s house. At that time it seemed like we had walked 10 miles uphill in a blizzard to find the perfect tree, in reality, it was probably more like a quarter to half a mile, but I took smaller steps back then.
All of the kids took turns helping Dad and Uncle Bob drag the tree through the woods and fields. The snow did cause a bit of an obstacle as we did this and I remember more than one of us complaining about getting poked by the fresh pine needles on our wrist or through our home-made knitted mittens. After some time we were able to fight through all of the elements and challenges and succeed in delivering what we had promised to our grandparents.
There was a roaring fire burning in the red fireplace when we got home and hot chocolate with marshmallows for anyone who needed it. I took my hot chocolate straight, no marshmallows. Music was playing on the record player and my mom, aunt, and grandparents had prepared a table full of crafts for us to use to make home-made Christmas ornaments. There was construction paper cut into strips to make a chain, paper, markers, glue, glitter, and almost anything else we would need to make one of a kind creations to make the tree perfect. They had brought a box of ornaments with them as well and we spent the next few hours creating masterpieces and decorating the tree together.
This was a time of no cell phones, no texting, no tweeting, no Instagramming selfies in front of the tree, the television was not even on…it was just genuine human family interaction and connections, all working together to create a one of a kind symbol of our family together for this fleeting weekend. All the while, quiet music continued to play on the record player. I do not remember listening with any interest at that time, but every time I now hear Nat King Cole’s voice begin to sing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose”, I am instantly taken back to that day, that afternoon, that moment, where I felt like things would be like that forever, but, as we know, change is the one constant we have in life. To me it was the perfect day.
I recently came upon an old picture that I had never seen before that was taken that day. I also have no memory of it being taken. It was of our group, arriving back to the house successfully with our Christmas tree. We were all standing in a cluster, everyone smiling and seeming like there was no other place on earth that they would rather be with the exception of one person, me. I looked almost angry and bothered that I was outside with everyone, I was freezing and tired. Everyone else had a look of amazement, happiness, and anticipation on their faces. I looked like I wanted to be anywhere but there, completely disinterested and agitated.
When I saw that picture, I was dumbfounded. How could one of my favorite memories of my childhood be captured with me looking like I wanted to beat something or someone up? I felt embarrassed when I saw the picture, confused. As I think back to that day, and especially that picture, I sincerely hope that my actions did not mirror my body language. I would be devastated if, in actuality, I complained the entire walk, distanced myself from trimming and decorating the tree, and generally made things miserable for others to even be around me on that day.
That was the last time we were all together for Christmas.
There is nothing I can do about that long lost day now, however, moving forward I can focus even sharper than ever on making sure I am fully present in the moment and can stay upbeat and positive with everyone, no matter the situation. After all, we are never guaranteed tomorrow, we need to make the most of today. I sincerely hope that all of your Christmas wishes come true and that you get to spend time with the ones you love the most.
Features and Fun
Concerts, Plays, Happenings, Local Recipes, Gardening, Entertainment, Charities, Fundraisers, upcoming events, Theater, Activities, Tech, and much more.
“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”
- Eric Qualman