Christmas this year just wasn’t the same.

Christmas this year just wasn’t the same.  We all eventually suffer the loss of grandparents, parents, siblings and sometimes children.  Holidays without them are hard. We go on, but spending the holidays without them is difficult, especially the first Christmas spent without lost loved ones.

My parents are now both gone, leaving only my brothers and me.  Our parents would have been proud; we had a wonderful Christmas together with our families.  Small children always make it fun and easier.

Thinking back, I remember how much I looked forward to Christmas as a child.  Mama always made it special, although I know it wasn’t always easy on my parents.  I think they gave us everything they could and then some.

We grew up in small house with big love.  On Christmas morning you couldn’t find the floor for the toys and the wrapping paper.  Between the Sears Roebuck catalog and Grandmama’s ten cent store we were not “toy poor.”

Mama was good about teaching us the true meaning of Christmas, but she had this thing about toys.  She thought they were good for boys’ imaginations and learning.  She was a school teacher; she knew what she was doing.

If I thought I wanted to be a fireman, Mama gave me fire trucks.  If I wanted to be a geologist, Mama gave me rocks, hammers and microscopes.  I’m pretty sure if Mama thought I wanted to be a bank robber, she would have given me toy guns and a mask.

It was all about using our imagination.  She taught us right from wrong and Daddy taught us that working was the only way to “make ends meet.”  He would say, “If you didn’t work for it, you don’t deserve it.”

My brothers and I continue to work to be a testament to our parents.

There is probably not anything I can think of much worse than disappointing my parents. 

So on this first Christmas without Mama, we sure wouldn’t have disappointed them.

On the drive back from our get together, my son and I were sitting in the backseat of the car together.  Out of the blue, my son asked, “You know what I miss?”  Puzzled by his question, I simply said, “No, what?”

My son responded, “Grandma’s random bags of stuff.”

We had not been talking about her, so it surprised me.

It got to me, and I started laughing.  I knew exactly what he meant.  Mama was the absolute best when it came to stuffing stockings (or bags).

Growing up, the stockings got too small to handle everything she wanted to put in them.  Mama then started piling stuff in chairs and on the sofa on top of the stuffed stockings.  Throughout the year, she would accumulate “stuff” to put in your stocking and always have too much.

When she had grandchildren, she gave up on the stockings and started using these huge Christmas bags with handles.  Sometimes I thought the kids weren’t that interested because they were so overwhelmed with the volume of it all.

Mama would have been happy to hear my son say that.  No, Mama would have been thrilled.

All year long, she would accumulate little bags of things to put in the children’s “Christmas Bags.”  I’m sure she lost a lot of it through the year, but she had so much that it didn’t matter if she lost part of it.

As she got older, my older brother would help her put the bags together.

Most of the time what she put in the bags made sense, however sometimes it didn’t.  Sometimes the boys would get the girl’s stuff and vice versa.  The grandchildren didn’t care; they would sit and trade things.

Through the years, Mama would almost always keep giving grandchildren and more importantly her sons the same things she gave us as children.

There was Silly Putty, a Slinky, baseball cards, playing cards and other card games, dice, balsa wood airplanes, Matchbox cars & Hot Wheels, Pez dispensers and enough Pez candy for a year.   These were just the staples of her “Christmas Bags.”

She would put marbles, plastic parachute men, Duncan yo-yos, paddle balls, super balls, puzzles, tops, jacks and army men (because she knew I would still play with them).

Enough candy? No.

My Mama never got the memo about candy being bad for you.  I always appreciated that.  Mama would give us candy canes, stick candy, Mallo and Reese’s Cups, Goo Goo Cluster Bars, candy necklaces, Tootsie Pops and all kinds of suckers, M&M’s, Hershey Kisses, Coconut Long Boys, those books of LifeSavers candy and those little wax bottles of colored sugar water (Nik-L-Nips).

You say that sounds like enough?

No.  You needed to be able to destroy things.  Little boys liked tearing things up.  Therefore, every little boy (or grown man) needed a magnifying glass to start fires on a sunny day, a jack knife, a sling shot, a rubber band gun and other things that “could shoot an eye out.”

She wouldn’t be finished.  In that bag, she would find room for magic tricks, whoopee cushions, Groucho glasses with the big nose and mustache and other secret spy stuff that she would find.

I thank God that I was always a little boy to my Mama.

Little boys also needed to make a lot of noise.  Noise never bothered my Mama.  She put in whistles, kazoos, juice harps and harmonicas.  None of us turned out to be musicians, but her grandchildren are.

As the years passed, Mama started eating a lot of Happy Meals from McDonald’s.  She would keep bags of the toys she would get in her Happy Meals in her trunk to give her grandchildren and put in their Christmas Bags.

On top of all this, she would put random things like can openers, key chains, band aids, fingernail clippers, combs, brushes, rings from quarter machines, hair bows, cassette tapes, flashlights, pens, pencils, erasers, little pencil sharpeners and magnets and postcards from places she had been.

I got some nice fingernail polish one time.

I just laugh thinking about all of that wonderful stuff Mama would come up with. 

You know what?

My son was right; I miss Mama’s random bags of stuff at Christmas too.

Just like those bags, my Mama overdid it when it came to loving us.

We understood and we always will.

If Mama was still with us and I read this story to her like I always did, I know what she would say.  She would ask, “What about those little dancing plastic people that danced when you pushed the button on the bottom, the little wind-up walking people, the Barrel of Monkeys, the wind-up chattering teeth and the Sugar Babies?”

Mama remembered the little things and so will we.

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