Dad’s rock band practiced in the living-room for their Friday and Saturday night gigs and often they mixed carols with the Righteous Brothers’ and Gene Pitney’s hits. Mom cooked supper for everybody – if there wasn’t enough hamburger in the spaghetti – nobody complained. Sometimes the pasta came out pretty dry and the salad was more lettuce than tomatoes. Dessert was homemade chocolate chip cookies – each cookie had one chocolate chip.
Often, we visited my maternal grandparents, singing carols all the way to their house in Seattle since the radio didn’t work in our old station wagon. Grandma took us shopping at Woolworths and the Five & Dime downtown. We kids always saved up enough money to buy gifts for one another and if we ran out then we made presents. Dad said the best ones he got were the coupons for washing his car and mornings or nights off from the farm chores.
When we couldn’t afford gift wrap, the Sunday comics served as a substitute, or we used newspaper tied up with bright ribbons. Often by Christmas Eve, Santa was down to grocery bags. The elves cut the brown paper sacks open, tying it with twine to finish wrapping our presents.
After stockings and presents at our house, we went to Grandma’s and Grand-dad’s for dinner where he presided over the cutting of the turkey. We knew we’d graduated to adulthood when we were invited to sit at the ‘grown-up’ table in the living-room.
Grand-dad used to say, “Christmas comes from the heart.”
Grandma always added, “And you give from the heart all year-round.”
Dad left on my 12th birthday and took the magic with him, along with his five kids, my sisters and brothers. My childhood faded into dust. Mom needed help to raise my two sisters and I was the closest adult. We tried to hold the Christmas traditions together, but it didn’t work after my so-called ‘real’ father and my mother reunited.
I dismissed Grand-dad’s words as those of a silly old man when he said again, “Christmas comes from the heart.” I ignored Grandma who said to give to others all year.
Thirty years passed and I moved to a small beach community. My sister invited me for Christmas, saying I was only welcome if I brought expensive gifts for her family. I’d recently lost my job, so that was impossible. I stayed in my new home and babysat my neighbor’s dogs. Slowly, I realized my grandparents were right and adopted their creed. “Christmas comes from the heart, so give from the heart all year-round.”
I have two stories out in two different holiday anthologies this year. Home for Christmas is a short story in the Black Opal Books anthology, A Touch of Winter, coming in December. Stewart Falls, Washington is where Nikki Tiernan longs to go. She’s tired of being bounced around her dad’s family, since he’s remarried and her mom is still overseas with the U.S. Army. All Nikki has to do is buy a bus ticket—or so she thinks. But when a mysterious stranger claims the seat next to her, Nikki begins to fear her adventure may not go as planned.
Deck the Stalls is a Shamrock Stable holiday novella from Fire and Ice YA Books available November 30th. All Sierra McElroy wants for Christmas is a guarantee the horses at Shamrock Stable will be home for the holidays. Her mother has decided they can’t keep every horse and should sell some. Now, what can Sierra do to save her friends and Christmas for everyone?