published Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

My Favorite Thing: Times Free Press readers tell about their favorite Christmas present memories

Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto.com

It was last Christmas when I received the best gift I could ever get. I was 39 years old. The beautiful pink laptop was awesome, but who sent it and what it meant was more important. I opened it to see a gold plate that read: "Deana, my wish for you: Never forget your dreams, soar and be happy! Forever my birth daughter, Brandy." I'd searched for my birth mother since I was 21 years old. This was our very first Christmas that wasn't spent wondering where the other one is, if we're thinking about each other, or even if the other one is alive. We knew, and we were and are grateful. We were unable to physically spend Christmas together, but she mailed my present and we stayed on the phone while I opened it Christmas morning. My laptop is fantastic, but my birth mother is my best gift ever.

-- Deana Landrum

When my great-grandchildren were small, they watched SpongeBob SquarePants all the time. I really disliked that show, so annoying. Sometimes I think they watched it just to annoy me. One year for Christmas, they gave me a pair of SpongeBob pajamas and house shoes. As I opened the gift, they were trying so hard to keep a straight face and not giggle. When I opened the package and saw what was in there, I exclaimed "Why did you get me these ugly things?" They laughed and giggled until they bent over. I said, "I'm not wearing these ugly things." One of my great-grandchildren said, "That's OK Grandmommie, we'll bury you in them." I still smile when I think of that Christmas, the happy look on their faces because they pulled a fast one on Grandmommie ... and yes, I will be buried in those ugly things.

-- Jerry Heffington

Christmas 2004, Kandahar, Afghanistan. My birthday is on Dec. 18 ... So it was my 21st birthday in Afghanistan, and on a USO Tour that Christmas was Robin Williams, Daryl Worley (country singer) and Mike Wallace (NASCAR driver). I know they were there for everyone, but to me, it seemed like it was my very own Christmas gift. It was very cool.

-- Jason Jansen

As a certified nursing assistant, I was spending Christmas Eve on the job with an Alzheimer's patient. Feeling lonely after my patient went to bed, I sat in the den, watching Christmas celebration on TV, when the doorbell rang. I went to the door and a mailman asked my name and handed me a package. I opened to a gift of mixed nuts sent to me from my brother in Hawaii. How the postal people knew where to find me, I never knew. It was my most memorable Christmas; even though I was alone, I wasn't forgotten.

-- Dolores Bishop

Christmas morning 1956. I was a typically excited 9-year-old and in the living room sat my dream present -- a piano! You see, five years earlier, at the age of 4, I contracted polio. What I didn't realize as a child was that I didn't have the muscle strength or control required to play the piano. My friends were taking lessons, and I wanted to take lessons, too. My parents never told me that I shouldn't or couldn't try, so they enrolled me in lessons. In the years since that Christmas, I have been blessed to play for many groups and especially for church services. That piano is in my living room today and, when I sit down to play, I remember the love of parents who let a little girl have her dream to be just like the other kids.

-- Anne Hutson

The original Nintendo gaming system in 1986. Everyone might be like, 'That is kind of shallow, lots of kids got that.' But that Nintendo system gave my brothers and I something that you can't buy, a bond that has survived for over 25 years. Brothers are born and are close by nature, especially when they are stairstepped like we are, but that video game system sparked a love and tradition that has survived for a quarter of a century between us. We fought like all brothers do, but we still sit down when we get together and share the love of playing the next new games and even break out the old game systems sometimes, and it is like all is forgiven and we remember the bond we have shared through the years.

-- B.J. Anderson

A BB gun! Originally, I got a doll that I didn't play with and my brother got a BB gun, which he didn't want until I wanted one. Being daddy's girl, I got my BB gun. I was the happiest redneck 9-year-old ever, but it was short-lived. The neighbor kids got our guns and shot each other, so we didn't get to keep them. Never was fond of those neighbor brats, especially after that.

-- Christie Black

The greatest Christmas gift I ever got was my little brother Ben, who was born on Christmas Day '79 when I was 4 years old. As kids, we could be best friends and worst enemies between breakfast and lunch each day. He always knew that he had a pretty cool birthday and used the date to his full advantage. As adults, our bond grew and we never missed the chance to tell one another "I love you." Ben passed away at 26 years old in 2006, but I wouldn't trade those years for anything. He still is, and always will be, the best gift I ever received for Christmas.

-- Stephanie Ramsey

Sixty years ago, I was a junior at Penn State, living in a rented room in the basement of a private home. My then-girlfriend, Janet Leahey, was attending a college in Erie, Penn., and working part-time in a department store. Since Pennsylvania winters can be harsh and the basement was chilly, she gifted me with a wool, Pendleton robe that Christmas. I have worn the robe every winter since then, and it is still in decent shape. At its 50th anniversary, I wrote Pendleton to ask what it might have cost in 1953. Based on a 2003 cost of $178, they estimated it probably cost about $25, so it was quite costly for a college student. This year, my then-girlfriend and I celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary.

-- Bernard Coombes

Me and my dad had just seen "101 Dalmatians." ... I loved dogs after that. My father left that year; I was only 4. That year I received a Dalmatian puppy, and he stayed by my side for 10 years. Until I was reunited with my Dad.

-- Amala Yunyong

In 1958 for Christmas -- the only Christmas my Mom and Dad were able to get us presents -- I got an electric train set, a very nice one. We had a little trouble with the track staying together, so Dad took it and nailed it to the floor so it would stay put. Worked great, and then a few months later our home burned to the ground, destroying everything. That's something that an 8-year-old boy will never forget.

-- Jimmy Johnson

In the summer of 1954, my Mom and Dad separated. I was 9 and was still hedging my bets with Santa Claus ... not sure but perhaps there is. Dad went to Florida to work, and my mother and my two younger brothers rented out our little G.I. house in East Lake and moved to a duplex in Ridgedale. It was awful, everything changed. All I could think about was to get back home to my friends at East Lake Elementary. Mother was always a Christmas person and made every effort to make our situation cheerful. I was sleeping soundly on Christmas Eve when she awoke me and said, "Guess who is back?" My Daddy sat down on the bed and said, "Hello, son."

-- Michael Green

My best Christmas present comes every year as I watch my children open presents. However, the true best gift is just having my kids healthy and alive. I lost a stepdaughter just before her second birthday in 2008 and a cause was never found except an older version of SIDS. In 2011, my son, who was then around the same age, became unresponsive and we ended up in an ambulance on our way to Children's Hospital to spend a night and Christmas Eve afraid of losing our son. ... No answers were ever found. I am thankful every day and especially at Christmas to still have my boys.

-- Amy D. Clark-Smith

One of my most special Christmas presents was a Revlon doll. I received it from my mother and father (Santa at the time) in 1959 when I was 10 years old. I played with my Revlon doll for hours, styling her hair and changing her clothes. My grandmother had made other clothes for her ... which I also have.

-- Joanne Mockus-Leach

I got the best Christmas present ever the year I turned 30. I was pregnant with my first child and she was due on Jan. 2, 1999. I was put on bed rest on Dec. 16 and had to go to the doctor every few days for rechecks. On Dec. 23, my doctor decided that my blood pressure was too high and ... admitted me to Erlanger. My water broke at around 6 p.m. on the 23rd and all of my nurses told me, "It won't be long now!" Every shift change of nurses brought me the same news, "You won't make it to the end of my shift." Twenty-six long hours later, I finally delivered my daughter by C-section. It was 4:32 on Christmas Eve. Mary Catherine Chadwell then became the best Christmas gift I have ever or will ever receive. She is a beautiful, intelligent, talented, compassionate spiritual almost-15-year-old and I am blessed beyond measure to be her mom.

-- Nicole Chadwell

The best Christmas present I ever received came on Christmas Eve 1963. I was 27, teaching at Barger School here in Chattanooga and having some disquieting health problems. Nevertheless, I would wake up, eat crackers and go to work. Early that Christmas Eve, my doctor sent us to a lab for testing as my symptoms were getting worse, and he was probably tired of my complaints. Lo and behold, I was pregnant. We had been told this was most improbable.

-- Jane Hill Southerland

Mine wasn't a toy or any other materialistic object. My mother passed away on Dec. 1, 2012. This brought Christ into my heart and led to my salvation.

-- Miranda Grimes

I didn't realize it as a child, but in my adult years, I realize the best Christmas present I had was spending it with my family, some of whom have passed on. Not a Christmas goes by that I do not wish for those gifts back.

-- Nick Barnes

I can remember as if it were yesterday -- my third Christmas. It was a cold, cold morning and I remember running into the living room and Wow! Santa had come. Gee, I must have been good. The first thing I saw was a red "Kitty Car"; my mother handed me and a doll and I said, "I want the car." I'll be 87 the 22nd of this month and that seems like yesterday.

-- Alice Trimble

My mother wrapped up a big metal tin full of M&M's with peanuts and had cash hidden inside the tin with the M&M's. The wrapping paper was made out of cash money. In all I had a pound of M&M's and about $450.

-- Curt Harris

Dec. 25, 2003 our son, Gabriel, was born. Best Christmas present ever. However, the next best Christmas that we've had was in 2007 when we had a house fire 12 days before Christmas and we lost everything. When the "stuff" of Christmas was forcefully stripped away from us, we celebrated what we had ... each other and Christ in our lives. It was pretty awesome.

-- Kara Onstad Teichroew

My great-grandmother, who was blind from macular degeneration, knitted me a coin holder with a snap. I loved that very much as a child. It was a simple homemade gift made with love.

-- Brittney Hartung

I received my most memorable Christmas present as an 11-year-old boy in 1950. It was a Red Ryder BB gun, and I had been collecting his comic books since soon after I started reading. I saw my first one at a store in downtown Chattanooga. My only regret was having found the wrapped box in a closet a few weeks before Christmas. I could tell by the shape of the box that it was my BB gun. I soon realized that I had made a huge mistake, and it became a miserable few weeks until I had to act surprised when I opened it. It became a prized possession, and I still have it today. I have passed this story along to my sons and grandsons, along with the lesson that, sometimes when you think you are so smart, you are really only outsmarting yourself.

-- Ernie Jackson

I had a hard time choosing between my Easy Bake Oven and my Barbie, but in the end, my Easy Bake Oven is my all-time favorite Christmas gift when I was 8. Plus there was also a complete set of mixes to go with the oven for lots of baking. I'm sure it didn't take me long to get light bulbs in and make a chocolate cake. Somehow I have been able to keep up with the original baking pans and the recipe book. If you could see it up close, you could tell it was used a lot by an 8-year-old.

-- Rosemary Palmer

2011 was the best, so close to my heart. My father, Fred Crews, died of cancer at age 35 when I was 5 weeks old. I don't remember him, but my family kept his memory alive so that I feel I do. Christmas 2011, when I was 81, my family did the greatest. Papa had written a song (in his handwriting, poor grammar and all). He was not a musician, so no music was included. My son-in-law, David Adams, wrote the music, played guitar and sang. My daughter, Lee Ann, made appropriate comments, my grandson, John David, played drums, and my husband, Dick, played the train conductor and sound effects. The setting was my hometown, Lawrenceburg, so I was stunned and happy. Tears of joy flowed. Papa's picture and handwritten song lyrics are on the CD cover. If you could only hear it.

-- Freddie C. Shirley

A box set of the "Star Wars Trilogy" in 1996, just a little over a month before "Episode I" was re-released as a special edition in 1997. I was 9 years old and had never seen "Star Wars," didn't even have an interest in sci-fi, but my mom had caught me admiring the promo poster for the special edition at the movie theater a few weeks prior to Christmas. It completely changed my previously "Baby Sitter's Club"-dominated world and opened my little-girl eyes to a whole new universe of fantasy and imagination. I've been a die-hard "Star Wars" fan ever since.

-- Kelley Fitzpatrick-Holland

Out of all the nice, expensive things I've ever received, the one that always stuck out in my head was the year I got my Super Nintendo.... I don't even remember how old I was, maybe 8-10, but I was so beyond thrilled.

-- Apryl Bunch

I got married five days before Christmas two years ago (I was 28). Justin Evans was my best Christmas gift ever. And I met him in person for the first time the day after my birthday the year we got married, so he was the best birthday present ever, too.

-- Hilary Evans

I was in about third grade. We were at my grandparents' house for our usual Christmas Eve dinner and gift exchanges. As always, I was blessed to have gotten several wonderful gifts from family and, after all the gifts had been opened and a huge meal, my sweet Papaw came in the kitchen door pushing the prettiest purple and white "Road Runner" bicycle ever. I was shocked and surprised to say the least. I just lay in the floor and cried and cried. My Papaw (Jady Sutton) was a wonderful man that loved Christmas. I loved and still love him very much. This is one of the memories that still makes me sob.

-- Tina Bohannon

The Beatles' "Rubber Soul" album. Oh, how I wanted and still love that album/CD. Thank you, Aunt Betty. You were and are the coolest aunt.

-- Nancy Burns

My firstborn child. 12/15/1980. I was 22 years old. God and my wife gave her to me.

-- Jeffry Woolston

We stood in line for hours on Black Friday, waiting to get a TV and impulsively bought the Wii because we were offered a ticket. That was the year they were selling for almost triple their value. I must have been 12 years old. My cousin tried to convince my mom to sell it and wait to buy it in January, but she wouldn't. "I never got what I wanted on Christmas but my kids will," she said. We opened presents on Christmas Eve and played until early the next morning, seeing who could get a perfect score on bowling. The money didn't matter to my mom, the time we shared as a family was far more important.

-- Ashley Noonan

Christmas 1977, when my grandfather made a fridge and stove for my sis and I. We had that fridge and stove up to 1991 when we gave it to our little cousin, and she kept it till 2000 when she was going into high school. So it was well passed on.

-- Elizabeth Boss

Dec. 26, 2009. My Mom bought me a car. I was 34. She got me a 2008 Saturn Vue. Newest car I'd ever owned.

-- Nicole Gebhard

I was 6 years old (I'm 45 now) and my family was so poor, there wasn't going to be anything. My Dad was out of work, my Mom was pregnant with my brother, and my grandmother made me a rag doll out of old, dry, rotted pillowcases. I cherished her forever and had her up until a fire gutted our house 10 years ago. My grandmother, Louisa Short, died in 1986.

-- Rena Short

I saw this "Space 1999" ship at the department store when I was 5. My dad told me that Santa might bring it for Christmas, but I had my doubts. I was thrilled when I unwrapped it, and I played with it, and the included astronaut action figures, all winter. The front section detached for a quick escape and the side opened to reveal the bridge. Then "Star Wars" was released a year or two later!

-- Robert Grot

It was 1959 and my two brothers, sister and I had just moved to a small town on the coast of Maine; money was very tight. Christmas morning came and my parents had cautioned us that Santa may not have known we had moved. So imagine how nervous we were coming down the stairs, and then so surprised. Dad had made my older brother wooden cars and trucks, my younger brother and I wooden guns (we loved playing cowboys and Indians) and each of us toy tops and soldiers (made of clothes pins). He also made wooden jigsaw puzzles for everyone. Mom made my little sister Raggedy Ann dolls and clothes. Later in the day we all went down to the old gravel pit to ice skate and drink hot chocolate around a bonfire. Life was so good.

-- Scott Wilson

One of many memories that stick out is a tool kit that I have for my Harley. There's a homeless guy named, oddly enough, Harley. He helped out the bands I managed with their gear and was always around. My friends and I always tried to help him out if we could, and I took him clothes and sleeping bags and such. One year at Christmas I ran across him and he said he had something for me. He gave me a tool kit that cherish to this day. He had nothing, but thought to give that to me. I was floored. I saw him this summer and found he is living in a place of his own now.

-- Joe Hooper

When I was growing up, we by no means were poor, by no means were we wealthy, but we were happy. I remember when I was about 7 or 8 years old receiving a brown paper bag. In that brown bag was an orange, an apple, a peppermint stick, a couple of nuts and cookies (special cookies that my mom baked and called them "tea cakes," the same as sugar cookies today). You would have thought that brown paper sack contained gold for the things in it were savored and treasured for days.

-- Janet Maffett-Penny

It was Christmas 1951, I was 9 years old and I got a baton and a little green Tom Thumb cash register. I still have the cash register; he is worn but he was the most precious gift of all time to me. After I left home I thought my mother had given him away, but about 20 years ago my sister found him in a closet. He is 62 years old this Christmas; I'm 71.

-- Eva P. Warner

When I was about 11 years old, my stocking was a black nylon stocking hung by a garter snap. My father filled it with fruit. nuts and money. The more fruit, the longer it stretched. What started out with $5 bills went down to ones and change near the top. He said he could have gone broke filling that stocking. I loved it; and I'm now 63 and I never forgot it.

-- Debbie Pataky

On Christmas Day 1949, when I was about 9, I received a typical-size dollhouse made by an older brother. It was bright yellow, inside and out, with a bright red roof and had four rooms. It was thrilling enough to get a dollhouse, but the fact that my 12-year-old brother made it for his little sister has always been so special. He came up with the idea, bought the plywood and paint with his own money and made it by himself. Most 12-year-old boys are thinking about what they want for Christmas but my brother, Joe I. Majors, spent hours and days planning and making the dollhouse surprise that made me so happy that long-ago Christmas, which was his thirteenth birthday, as well. Even though the dollhouse is long lost, I still treasure that gift from my dear brother, who is now also gone.

-- Shirley Ann Husband

Dec. 21, 2012. I had just gotten out of the hospital for severe depression. You see I am a full-time caregiver to a wife with a brain injury. I had no longing to keep on going. On that day I attended a church service at a small congregation attended by a wonderful lady named Kathy. She gave me a small, framed Bible verse for Christmas; it read, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phillipians 4-13. That one scripture put everything together for me. For the past year I have served as musical director for a 93-year-old old Methodist church, served in work to help the patients in nursing homes, hospitals, youth and the homeless and hungry. You see, giving is the key to all happiness. When you give of your time or talents or material wealth, you become a whole human being. This wonderful simple gift changed my life. The gift of Christ is the most wonderful gift ... and eternal.

-- Dan Young

December 1958. As a little girl, 5 years old, we lived on Fifth Street in Chattanooga. Neither of my parents had a job so there were no Christmas gifts from them, but an organization, more than likely the Lions Club or Highland Park Baptist Church, brought Christmas gifts to all seven of us kids. We were all so happy and excited. When we all opened our gifts, I had some talc powder and a small bottle of perfume. I loved it! ... Today, I still have the little bottle of perfume. I am now 60 years old. I treasure that little bottle. Recently, we were in Crossville at the Rocking Horse Antique shop and I saw a slightly larger bottle just like mine. I didn't know if it was the same maker, so I came home and checked. It matched, so we drove back to Crossville two weeks later. They had moved the bottle. I had to search the whole store but I wouldn't leave until I found it. ... I am the only one of the seven of us who still has something left from that Christmas. It always brings joy to my heart.

-- Lena Steele

My best Christmas gift ever was December 2006. We were headed to my son's graduation at LSU when I checked our phone messages and had one from Chickamauga Kennels, letting me know my puppy was ready to pick up. I asked my husband because I knew nothing about it and he confessed he was getting me a Shih-Tzu puppy for Christmas. We picked up Ruby when we returned from Baton Rouge. She was the perfect remedy for an empty nest. She has added so much companionship and love to our home, not only for us, but for my mother-in-law who trained her and enjoys her company every day.

-- Sally Woodward

In 1957 when I was 10 years old, I wanted a Revlon doll for Christmas. I woke up Christmas morning and there was my Revlon doll under our tree. I also saw a large box (a used Loveman's box) beautifully wrapped with my name on it from Santa. When I unwrapped it, there were 10 outfits my Mother had had a friend of hers (who sewed out of her home) make for my Revlon doll. I had years of fun dressing and undressing my doll. When I think of Christmases past, I always think of my doll and the outfits my Mother's friend made for me. I still have the doll.

-- Mary Scoggins

One of my most favorite Christmas gifts is a little book entitled "God's Promises For Your Every Need." I received this book over 20 years ago from a niece who worked in a book store in Dalton, Ga. Through the years I have re-opened this little leather-bound book many times. When I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2009, I found comfort in its pages. Recently, my husband was also diagnosed with cancer, and I continue to find strength in the pages of this book. I hope that, in the future, one of my children or grandchildren will enjoy this book. I am sure, as they face the challenges of life, they will enjoy "opening" this gift again and again.

-- Barbara Freeman

In December of 1980 I was 15 years old. My dad had lost his job, so groceries were more of a priority than Christmas presents. A family tradition was to go to visit my grandmother on Christmas. She gave my brother and me $5 apiece. Two days later I walked into Walker's Music and bought my first pair of drumsticks with it. That night my Dad sat me down and taught me some of the basics of playing music. That day I became a musician and have been for 33 years. That $5 bill changed my life.

-- Robert Keltch

Regretfully, my parents divorced when I was 3 years old. My two sisters, my mother and I moved into her parents (my grandfather's) home. Mother made about $35 per week in the yarn mill. She gave her child support money to her Dad for room and board. Christmas morning of 1946 under the tree was an electric Lionel train set, complete with engine, water car, box car, tanker, flat car and red caboose on an oval track. I was 11 at the time. I am now 78 and I still have the set, which works. I know that it was a real sacrifice for my mother to get the train.

-- Bryan O. Dantzler

The year I was 7 or 8, the Employees' Union where my Dad worked called a strike right before Christmas. Since my Dad was the sole income provider for our family of six, being on strike resulted in a shortage of income, especially for Christmas. Even though my siblings and I were used to getting only one gift for Christmas, that year it seemed there would be no gifts. However, on Christmas morning, there were a few gifts under the tree. Mine was a toy stuffed bear with the name of Chubby Tubby. He was cute and cuddly, and there was just something about his face that spoke to me. I immediately loved him. That was 60 years ago, and I still have that bear.

-- Patricia F. Bennett

For me the best Christmas present came in 1970. I had three sisters and two brothers. My siblings ranged in age from 22 years to 13 years when I was born. I cannot remember as a child celebrating Christmas with all my brothers and sisters. Because I was to be married on Dec. 27, 1970, all my brothers, sisters and their children came home for Christmas that year. That was the best Christmas present I can remember because everyone was there for Christmas.

-- Margaret Callahan

Ten years ago for Christmas my son Don gave me a very unique rocking horse. Don is very skilled at woodworking and created this custom horse with zebra stripes to match my decorating style. An artist friend of his painted on the stripes. This horse is so special because my son designed and crafted it in a style that he knew I would love. I proudly display it as the centerpiece on my dining room table.

-- Carol Johnson

I was 8 years old and there was a Schwinn bicycle under the tree. It was the Black Phantom model with chrome fenders and lots of options such as horn, light and shock absorber over the front tire. What it really meant for the following summer was freedom, mobility and the ability to ride around our little town in West Portsmouth, Ohio, from morning till night with my buddies. In those days it was actually safe enough for children to do such things.

-- Tom Norman

On Dec. 7, 2005, having been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, my 20-year-old son received a bone marrow transplant at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a harrowing and difficult procedure. As we approached Christmas, he still looked bad and felt bad and his blood counts were still low. I prepared myself for being with him in the hospital on Christmas Day. Just a few days before Christmas, his blood counts made an improvement and, on Christmas Eve, his doctor came in the room and said that he would be discharged to an apartment across the street. So we moved him out of the hospital and into an apartment on Christmas Eve. He still looked and felt pretty bad, but he was on the road to recovery. Today he is thriving and has not been hospitalized since that Christmas Eve in 2005. My most precious gift? The gift of life.

-- Kathy Clark

I was 64 years old when I got it. It is both practical and sentimental. It does not require batteries. It does not take up space on the counter. It saves my arthritic hands from pain. My thoughtful son gave an ergonomic can opener to me 'cause he loves his Mama and I think of him every time I use it. One of my best presents ever.

-- Annette Reynolds

When I was 6 years old, I wanted a snow sled for Christmas. My family left Ohio to visit relatives in Tennessee for the holidays. I asked Mom and Dad how Santa would find us in order to deliver my sled. I awoke on Christmas morning at Grandma's house and there was not a sled anywhere. I was very disappointed. We left to go back to Ohio and we opened the door to our house and there it was -- a brand-new snow sled under the tree. Santa had delivered as promised. This has reinforced my belief in Santa Claus to this day. I am now 63.

-- Dennis McCloud

My Gram lived in Chicago and often took me into the Loop to see a show and shop. I was 7 when, a month before Christmas, we went to a show and saw ballerinas in dark green dresses with an overlay of strips of organza that flared out when they twirled. I loved them. Gram gave a little smile. After the show we went to the doll section at Marshall Fields. I saw a bride doll I really wanted. Gram did not buy it but gave a little smile. Christmas Day at Gram's was always spectacular with a big, beautiful Christmas tree. That year there was a bride doll wearing a bridal dress she designed and made and a doll-sized replica of the green dress worn by the ballerinas. Sixty-five years later I still treasure my Gram and the memory of her creativity and love for me.

-- Beverly Gray

For Christmas 1949, my Aunt Cecile bought my younger sister a beautiful bride doll, showing it to me before the "big day." Because I was so excited, she surprised me with one, too. My sister Betsy and I spent years sewing outfits for them ... I saved them for keepsakes even though they were in bad repair. In 1999, I decided to restore Betsy's doll, Cecile, who she named after our aunt. ... You can imagine Betsy's surprise when she opened her Christmas gift. Even today, Cecile is proudly displayed in a glass dome case in Betsy's home.

-- Barbara Bender Howard

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