Cooking with Myra: Make Christmas memories

Dec. 20, 2011 at 6:20 a.m.

Chocolate Biscotti

Chocolate Biscotti

By Myra Starkey

As I have gotten older, I have become quite nostalgic about my childhood. Those were the magical years of wonder and surprises. I thought I might ask each member of my immediate family, which includes my husband and our three kids in their 20s, to give me a few memories from their Christmases past. I hope you enjoy these and take time to remember those holiday events that have been special for you.


I remember when I received my first sewing machine on my eighth birthday. My birthday happens to fall on Christmas Day, so like lots of gifts, I'm not entirely sure if this was a Christmas gift or a birthday gift. Anyway, it was a mini version of my mother's sewing machine, so I felt so grown up. I immediately plugged it in and began to sew, just like a big person would. My first projects were Barbie clothes, which I later sold to friends for $1 per outfit. I thought I was rolling in the dough.

I remember when my mother made muddy footprints in our house to convince us that Santa had arrived. It had been raining in Louisiana that week, and it made the footprints believable. Upon his arrival in South Louisiana, I had been told that Santa would ditch his reindeer and sleigh for a mudboat to get to all the houses of the children who lived on the bayous and in the swamp.

I remember when our family attended Christmas Eve service and listened to Christmas carols, and I was very young and excited that Christmas Day would be the next day and it would be double special, since it was also my birthday.

I remember when I realized how special it was to have a birthday on Christmas Day and how awesome it must have been for my mom and dad when they were young and had their first baby to cuddle. I can think of no greater Christmas gift.

I remember going Christmas caroling with my church youth group as a teenager during the holidays and thinking that I would rather be doing anything but singing. Maybe I thought I was too cool to be singing Christmas carols.

I remember when I was at home alone one night and the children from Trinity Episcopal school came to my front door singing Christmas carols. Their songs brought tears to my eyes, and I felt so special.

I remember when our children were young, and they came downstairs on Christmas morning so excited to see their presents from Santa.

I remember when Santa brought us a dachshund puppy when I was nine-years-old, and my sisters and I named him Oscar Meyer Weiner Dog.

I remember Santa bringing our kids a dachshund puppy for Christmas and they named him Harry.


My main memories of Christmas involve spending happy times with my mom and dad and four sisters. I would crawl around under the Christmas tree to find the gifts with my name on them, and I would put these all together in one section. Since there were five kids in the family, and we had a fair number of relatives, there were a large number of wrapped boxes. Perhaps I thought that if my boxes were all together I would be able to get to them quicker when I was finally allowed to open them. There was such a sense of anticipation. And I also remember shaking and sizing up each package to try to guess what it contained. This may have been annoying to my mom, but it did keep me occupied for hours on end and out of her way.

We would often go to my maternal grandparent's house in Alice for the Christmas holidays. As the days approached, my parents would load the station wagon with their five kids, luggage, large numbers of wrapped presents and other things that were covered with blankets. These secret items were likely the things that Santa purportedly delivered on that special morning. We didn't ask questions. We only knew it was stuff we weren't supposed to see.

Our Christmas Day was probably like, at most, other households; gasps of excitement over Santa's perfect gifts (amazed that this bearded stranger would know what we wanted), frenzied ripping of wrapping paper, taking of pictures with each gift held in front of each smiling face, sensory overload because of new toys and finally, the simple contentment of playing with the new loot.


I remember when my mom told me that Santa gave coal and logs to bad children. I knew I had been kind of bad, so I was hoping that Santa had not heard about it. On Christmas morning, I found a present in the shape of a log. I opened it and it was a plastic log, so I started to cry because I knew I had been bad. My mom came over and showed me how to open the log and inside was a compass and all kinds of wilderness stuff. I guess my mom never told Santa about me misbehaving. I loved that log.

I remember asking Santa for a dog, and on our back porch was a tiny crate and inside was a dachshund puppy with a red bow around his neck.

I remember catching my mom setting out presents, but since I was a little older and no longer believed there was an actual Santa who traveled worldwide from his wonderland, it was OK.

I remember when I got a remote-control race car, and I drove my parents crazy driving it around the house.

I remember when our Christmas tree fell down three times, and finally my mom said no more glass ornaments for our family.

I remember having Christmas in Lake Charles with my grandparents and eating a lot of Cajun food. It isn't just anyone who gets to eat crawfish for Christmas dinner.

I remember realizing that Santa had moved on to younger children's houses.


Christmas meant Mom turning us loose in Toys 'R' Us in order to make lists of what we wanted for Christmas . including the aisle and shelf number so that Santa could find them easier (never mind that Santa was supposed to be spending the remainder 364 days of the year making these toys).

Christmas meant leaving cookies for Santa, who would politely take only a few bites, as he was clearly watching his jolly ol' figure.

Christmas meant that American Girl doll (the pioneer woman one) that I got as an 8-year-old and the subsequent months my dad spent reading me her story books before I went to sleep.

Christmas meant snow . only once. I remember "sledding" behind a friend's car with a rope and a trashcan lid (until my mom found out and made us stop).

Christmas now means Stephanie, Kim and Caroline coming over to make gingerbread houses and mostly eat the candy until it either runs out or our houses fall over.

It means reading the "Christmas Story" with my tightly knit family to remind us of why we all loved each other through gifts and gathered together in the first place.


I remember having to wait until daylight until I could run downstairs to open my presents (parents' rule). Christmas was generally the only day we would wake up on our own before our parents and without their prompting.

I remember going to the Northside Christmas pageants with our friends and waiting in the long line until it was finally time to secure our seats.

I remember my cousins putting on Christmas plays and dressing me up in sheets and towels to be a wise man. The wisest wise man.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email



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