By Mary Manners
It's that time of year again...a time for holiday baking and decorating, Christmas carols and lists for Santa, shopping, shopping, and...more shopping??
When the subject of Christmas gifts comes up, most people think of packages wrapped in colorful paper and shimmery bows, sitting under the Christmas tree, just waiting to be opened.
When I think of Christmas gifts, I think of my dad, who passed away fifteen years ago this holiday season. He was a man of many gifts, including the joy he shared for the traditions of Christmas.
Dad loved light—especially the light that brightened a fresh-cut pine tree in honor of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Each December first, like clockwork, Dad piled his family—all seven of us—into our Chevy station wagon and drove us to the tree lot where, shivering in the Chicago-winter cold, we oohed and aahed over each and every tree until we found the perfect one.
Once home, with the tree safely arranged in a metal stand and watered, Dad climbed the ladder to our attic (a mysterious place, indeed) where the Christmas lights were stored. He’d lower the battered cardboard box (re-used, season after season) to the floor below and dust it off.
Then my brother and sisters—five of us—gathered ’round him in the living room and waited, eyes huge with wonder, as he carefully unraveled the strands of lights and tested each one. No matter how stubborn the bulbs, dad always managed to get them working.
Beautiful, vibrant colors turned the room to a kaleidoscope, dancing over walls and windows with the feel of winter magic. One by one, my siblings and I each took the place of honor beside Dad, helping him to adorn the tree with light. Pine sap clung to our fingers, but we didn’t care. All the while, our hearts soared with happiness and child-like wonder.
Finally, dad gently gathered the Christmas star from the box. Hushed with awe, we waited while Dad chose one of us to hoist to his shoulders for the greatest thrill—placing the treasured beacon of light—the Baby Jesus Star—atop the highest limb. Somehow, Dad always sensed who needed that extra touch of attention, and there was never any argument.
With the lights in place (just in time for nightfall—always) we circled the tree and held hands to sing Silent Night. In the earliest years, the tune didn’t always carry and the words were sometimes off, but Dad didn’t care. He knew we understood what the tree—and especially the lights—symbolized…the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. The most wonderful gift of all!
Mary Manners is a country girl at heart who has spent a lifetime sharing her joy of writing. She has two sons and a daughter, as well as three beautiful grandchildren. She currently lives along the sunny shores of Jacksonville Beach with her husband Tim.
A former teacher as well an intermediate school principal, Mary spent three decades teaching math and English to students from kindergarten through middle grades. While growing up in Chicago and as a student at the University of Illinois, Mary worked her way through a variety of jobs including paper girl, figure skating instructor, pizza chef, and nanny. Many of these experiences led to adventures that may be found between the pages of her stories. Mary loves long sunrise runs—she’s completed three marathons—ocean sunsets and flavored coffee.
Find out more about Mary on her website: www.MaryMannersRomance.com. “Like” her author page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.
When Emilee Lancaster’s aunt calls her home to Hope Creek for the holidays, Emmy readily agrees to assist with a charity event at the family theater—until she finds herself front-and-center stage with her high school flame, Jayson Taylor. She’s not thrilled about the pairing, but she’s made a promise to her aunt, and unlike Jayson, she keeps her promises.
Jayson Taylor makes his living building sets for Dahlia Brewster's Family Theater. When the Christmas show's emcee falls ill, Dahlia asks Jayson to step from the backstage and into the limelight. He's more comfortable working behind the scenes, but the country-singing superstar has always treated him like a favorite son, so Jayson reluctantly agrees. Center-stage at Christmas—especially beside dream-chasing Emmy Lancaster, who once ran off and broke his heart—is not where he planned to be.
But God has other plans, and what happens when the curtain falls and the stage lights dim truly reflects the heart of this holiday season.