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Residents speak of their favorite holiday memories

Posted on December 21, 2017 in In The News

Jack Randolph, resident at Thurber Tower

When our second child arrived we began having photo Christmas cards made with our children’s picture on the card. So as each of the other children arrived, they were added, and at one point in time, all six were on it for quite a few years. So this has been going on for 16-17 years. We did this until they were into college and it was hard to get everybody together. Well I would take pictures with an old camera…a black and white camera, with a roll of film in it that took great pictures. Now every year, there would be something or another that one of the kids was doing in the photo that was…off. You know, not like scratching their nose or something, just something that meant they weren’t exactly ready for the picture. That was always funny to look back on and laugh.

Jack brought in a photo with his four kids at the time (before the other 2 were born). And in this photo nothing seemed to be off balance. Finally! There was a picture that appeared to be “on the money.” Jack also brought in a photo of himself, his wife and six kids—what an adorable family!


Bill and Maureen Cunningham, residents at Thurber Tower

Maureen: Probably one of my favorite moments is actually the first time that Bill came to spend Christmas with us when we knew each other at the very beginning. In our house, a big tradition with Christmas dinner was to have roasted potatoes, turkey, Yorkshire pudding, and we usually had beans and carrots. But we always have Brussels sprouts, and so my mother at dinner serves up the plate for everybody and then puts extra stuff out. She knew that I loathe and despise Brussels sprouts so she did not put them on my plate. So we had dinner and, I think later that day, I said to Bill, “how did you enjoy everything? Did you like Yorkshire pudding?..." because that’s not something normal. He said “fine, but...I don’t like Brussels sprouts.” I said, “Well, why did you eat them? You could’ve just put them to one side.” And he said, “Well this is the first time I met your family. I didn’t want to be rude to your mother.” So he ate them…and that’s when I knew how much he really truly loved me. That’s one of our first memories and one that sticks with me.

Bill: I suppose that this would be the strongest memory for me: Our family was very Catholic, so for Christmas time, we always went to midnight mass. In those years, midnight mass was actually at midnight and not at 10 o’clock. We tended to not overly decorate early, so in the week or two before Christmas we would cut out snowflakes and hang them from the ceiling, we would begin to make the chain rings out of paper… But it never involved the decorating of the tree. That was Santa Claus’ job I guess. So I remember one year in particular when we all loaded up to go to midnight mass. There were no presents under the tree, the tree was bare. It was up, but it wasn’t decorated. We had two or three really large bulbs. One or two of those large bulbs were in the middle of the tree, but other than that, there were no decorations, no lights, nothing on the tree.

All of us loaded up in the car and went to midnight mass, and at midnight mass, my mom sung in the choir, my dad was an usher, my older brothers were servers with the priest and the last couple of us would sit in the pew, and of course, behave appropriately. So I knew where everybody was because we were all at midnight mass. Well, we got home from mass at about 1:30 in the morning. The tree was decorated... the presents were underneath. And to this day, I don’t know who decorated that tree. Mom never shared what elf came in and decorated the tree, but the tree was fully decorated. She took that secret to the grave. That's one of my fondest memories about Christmas in our family. I’ll never forget that Christmas.


Ethel Johnson, resident at Thurber Tower

My favorite holiday memories always involve music. I love singing carols. And we sang and sang and sang when we were kids growing up. We just gathered together and not only sang carols for Christmas, but we just sang all the time anyhow. But at Christmas we did the carols. I remember Christmas morning, because this was the only time that we had a special breakfast. We had Sally Lunn—that’s a special kind of bread—it’s almost like a soufflé. And we had oyster stew, and that was the only time we had oysters. So those were two special things we had on Christmas morning. You know, just the joy of people—more people kept coming into our homes. Our house was just an open house for everybody and anybody, and so people kept coming in at holiday time.

My aunt when she raised us, always raised us around kids because she enjoyed kids. You know, they stay for an hour...they stay for 10 years. She took them in. And so I was so happy when I became old enough to play Santa Claus for the little kids, and hide stuff, and go down to do all those preparations. Christmas was just such a fun time. And it lasted not only to the New Year, but it started early in December too, and went through the whole Advent season, really. So those are my memories, and I smile when I think about them. And even now, I sing carols. I have a hymn book and I don’t need the words because I know them. And when I wake up in the morning and am doing my reading devotions, I just sing carols, because they come to my mind and it’s the Advent season.

holidays, seniors, happiness