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Thanks for the Christmas memories

Readers reflect on their special remembrances

December 23, 2012
By JANICE R. KIASKI - Herald-Star community editor ( , The Herald-Star

Whether it's a family tradition, a special ornament or an unexpected gift, Christmas is the holiday celebration that naturally fosters fond memories.

A request for readers to share some of those generated responses that included one from Debbie Grimm Artman of Toronto.

"The old yellow house still stands on Main Street in Richmond, but we don't go there any more," begins Artman.

Article Photos

FOND MEMORIES — Debbie Grimm Artman, above, sits in front of the Christmas tree in her Toronto home where holiday decorations include mementoes of Christmases past spent at the Richmond home of her paternal grandparents, the late Kip and Darlene Grimm.
-- Janice R. Kiaski

"But if those rooms could talk, they would tell of all the happy memories that were made there at Christmas. That house belonged to my grandparents, the late Kip and Darlene Grimm, known to us as Paw Paw and Me Maw. They had five kids, and then there were 14 grandchildren, and before we stopped having Christmas there, some great-grandchildren were starting to arrive," she wrote.

"When I drive by that house, I can always remember something that happened there," Artman said.

"After we had Christmas at our own homes, we would head to Paw Paw and Me Maw's for a Christmas feast and presents. As you opened the kitchen door, you could smell the good food cooking and see Me Maw in her apron stirring something on the stove top.

"We had all the usual - turkey, mashed potatoes, ham, noodles, stuffing with chestnuts and also, for some members of the family, oyster stuffing," she reminisced.

"Right before it was time to eat, my mother (Barbara Grimm) would head to the basement to deep fry sweet potato balls with a marshmallow inside. Yum! Yum! For dessert, we would have fruit salad, Christmas cherry pie and cookies. The cookies were kept in a very special place. There were two doors leading in the house from the porch, but only one was used. The other door was used to keep cookies. The space was cold, so she stored the cookies there. She would go into the living room, open that door, and there were the containers with buckeyes and fruit slices," Artman said.

True to tradition, her paternal grandmother always had an aluminum tree with a color wheel on it.

"One year, three great-grandchildren - my two included - were playing by the tree. My daughter, Sarah, fell into the tree. It tipped into the color wheel and sparks flew. No light shining on the aluminum tree trimmed in red that year," she said.

"Then there was the year my cousin Cindy (Pollock) got a new Chatty Cathy doll. She was so excited for us to see it. Her dad (Art Pollock) pulled the string, the ring came off, the string went into the doll, and she talked no more. That made for a sad day for cousin Cindy," Artman said.

"When it was time for presents, there was always something special for everyone. There were boxes from the Hub, Phil Mor, Denmark's, Reiner's, the Hello Shop and Stone and Thomas. It was great," she reminisced.

"Those times have passed. We have the memories, and family members left us, but my mom and dad (Tom and Barbara Grimm) continue these traditions with their grandkids and great-grandkids," Artman noted.

"And now since I'm a grandparent of three, I have started some of my own traditions for them. Merry Christmas in Heaven, Paw Paw and Me Maw. Thanks for the memories," Artman concluded.

Steubenville resident Mitzi Ring Probert shared a special memory inspired when she comes across a certain Christmas card.

"There's a greeting card that I keep stowed away in a box which reminds me of those wonderful Christmas times gone by," begins Probert. It's one showing a little child following his father as they drag a Christmas tree through a snowy pasture to a house below.

"My father was not one to get too excited about holidays, but Christmas seemed to spark a certain childlike wonder in him," Probert said. "About a week or so before Christmas arrived, my father would start preparing the living room for the tree's arrival. Chairs and tables had to be moved, extension cords found and a white sheet scavenged from the wardrobe upstairs.

"I honestly don't remember too many of those tree-hunting days to be without snow. So, while my dad went out to the barn to get a saw and some twine, I would bundle up and get my boots on. Once he was ready to go, I would follow. I remember those years when I was 6 or 7, trying to walk in the footsteps he would leave in the snow ahead. Sometimes it wasn't easy, especially when my dogs would want to run in front of me, but in all was a fun time," she recalled.

"Picking out the tree was actually a feat in itself. We usually would trudge up to the tippy top of the hill in front of our house - a summit where you could see for miles around, to the Ohio River to the east and as far north to the top of the power plant stacks in Brilliant. Once there, we had a variety of trees from which to choose. It was my job to figure out which one to get. Of course I always picked the tallest," Probert wrote.

"We would first look for bare spots or other imperfections the tree might have. But, if it was really the one I wanted, Dad would cut it and proclaim it to be a pretty nice tree," she continued.

"After arriving to our back porch, it was time to get the tree in the stand. This was probably the most frustrating part for him, yet I never heard one foul word stream from his mouth the whole time - a trait very rare nowadays. Once secure, it was time to disrupt my mother's baking in the kitchen.

"Yes, the kitchen table had already been moved out of the way for the tree's grand entry. As I 'helped' parade through the house with the tree, Mom was quickly sweeping behind us what needles or small branches were left so that she could get back to baking. The corner by the living room window was ready, and so there my father carefully would place what outside appeared to be a bit smaller of a conifer. Yet, inside, the tree morphed into a gigantic redwood of sorts," Probert reminisced.

"The branches had to be clipped and the top trimmed, too, for the angel's resting place later on. I would stand back with my Mom as my father struggled to turn the tree so that its 'best' side could be seen. After twisting and positioning the tree, Dad would finally get our approval. It was now official. The tree was ready to have its first drink of a hot sugar water concoction and us a drink of homemade hot chocolate Mom had waiting for us," she said.

"While my Dad is no longer with us, our family has carried on the annual Christmas tree-getting event. The two boys now follow their Dad to a local tree farm, picking out what they believe will be the best tree," she said.

As for Probert, "I stay home and make the hot chocolate."

Retired Indian Creek schools teacher Natalie Doty of Wintersville shared two special Christmas memories, including one from 49 years ago.

"It was December 1963, and I had planned my wedding for several months," Doty began.

"My fiance and I had put up Christmas decorations in 'our' second-floor apartment on Virginia Street in New Martinsville, W.Va. The living room had a huge, lovely bay window on the south side, so that is where our 8-foot live Christmas tree was set up, decorated with our newly purchased ornaments and tinsels and watered to last while we were off on our honeymoon for a few days," Doty reminisced.

"Under the tree, we had placed beautifully wrapped gifts to each other and a manger creche with the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the Wise Men. During our few days away, a huge snowstorm hit the New Martinsville area. Upon our return to our lovely decorated apartment, we were greeted by a disaster in the bay window," she said.

"Unknown to us, the window was not sealed too well, and when the snow on the roof melted - well, you can guess - the water flowed onto our beautiful tree, drenching all the ornaments, tinsel and all the gifts under the tree," Doty recalled.

"What a way to start a new life together, but we laughed and began cleaning up the mess, never to forget our memoriable first Christmas together."

Another Christmas memory for the former Natalie Johnston revolves a special gift.

"Last summer I read a magazine article titled 'Daddy's Gift,' but my memory is of 'Mommy's Gift' to me. I did not have an ear for playing music, but my mom sat on an old piano bench with me on one side and my little brother, Eddie, on the other side as she played sheet music from the 1930s and 1940s," Doty wrote.

"Eddie and I knew, and still do know, every word to those old World War II songs. Mom taught me where to put my fingers on the piano keys so I could play a few songs. She taught me the main notes on the sheets of music so I could play just the melody. As I grew older, I learned to read music in band in high school and taught myself to play using both hands," Doty noted.

"Music has always been important to me, and I've always had a piano in my home. Right now I have an old black, upright Mason & Hamlin piano which is basically a baby grand in an upright frame, and it sounds like a baby grand when I play it," she said.

"At one time, I had two pianos in my home, and one was in the kitchen. The magazine article brought back all the old memories of my mother's gift of music to me and I say, 'Thank you, Mom' every time I play her sheet music every morning."

Constance Miller of Brilliant drew on "wonderful memories of Christmas. I think they were the best years of my life back in the 1950s."

One memory includes what was a tradition that wasn't necessarily thought of as one until in retrospect.

"All year, my father threw his loose change - no pennies - in a three-pound coffee can and on Christmas morning he brought it to my mother, who would later count them and there was always at least $100 worth of change," she wrote.

"My mother always loved Christmas. She would get together in her kitchen with my aunt Alice, and they would make several different kinds of candy. My mom - Santa - would bring me a toaster that looked like a two-slice Sunbeam toaster. After Christmas when she noticed I wasn't playing with it any more, she would put it away and bring it out again next Christmas. After two or three times, I said, 'Mom, Santa brings me this same toaster every year.'"

"Dad would go up in the woods behind our house and cut down a beautiful tall Christmas tree. We decorated it with a lot of our homemade trimmings such as strings of popcorn, strips of construction paper intertwined and glued together to make a long garland for the tree," she wrote.

"Mom would get a Jane Parker fruit cake from the A&P among lots of goodies and a turkey for Christmas dinner. I remember one Christmas dinner we had sat down to - my younger sister and brother, mom and dad. The table was full with the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, sweet potato casseroles and lots more," she said.

"As we were preparing to eat after giving thanks, one leg of the kitchen table gave way, and all the food slid off on to the floor. We salvaged the turkey nad casseroles. There were more mashed potatoes and gravy on the stove. Dad fixed the leg on the table, and we got to eat," she wrote.

"On Christmas Eve, our church choir went caroling after services. The houses were far apart, and it got pretty cold, but we enjoyed it and the shut-ins waved and enjoyed it. Afterwards, we had the hot chocolate and ginger cookies at the church," Miller noted.

(SUBMITTED SCANNED PHOTO Sharon Parsons, center, with her daughters Debbie and Dawn (older daughter is mentally challenged)

An Elvis Presley song figures in to a Christmas memory shared by Sharon Parsons of Follansbee.

"My husband and I were divorced, and every Christmas since then, even after my younger daughter got married and had her own tree to decorate, it was a tradition for her and my other daughter to put on Elvis Presley's music and decorate the tree, just the three of us," Parsons wrote.

"We did this for many, many years and always looked forward to it. One song on the album was 'Mama Loved the Roses,' and one time when it was playing, my younger daughter said to me "I don't know what I would do without you, mom,'" Parsons reminisced.

"That was probably 30 years ago, and now my husband puts the tree up, but it is just not quite the same.I will never forget that day as long as I live. That is my favorite Christmas memory," Parsons wrote.

(Kiaski can be contacted at

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