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IT'S OUR TURN: 'Don't forget to remember'

Do you know what I remember about Christmas as a child, teenager or even in my early adult years? I guarantee you, it's not the presents.

Oh, OK, maybe there are a few that stick out — like the apples and oranges that always filled our Christmas stockings each year or maybe the rollerskate printed sweatshirt my mother sewed for me or maybe my purple record player with its white lid adorned with the most gorgeous picture of the Bee Gees (yes, I said the Bee Gees!). So, yes, I guess a few presents stick out in my mind.

But do you want to know what I remember even more than the presents?

It is the weeks leading up to Christmas and Christmas itself. Oh, it was so magical.

For those who know me, I haven't always been such a bah-humbug kind of Scrooge as I am now.

I remember spending an entire weekend taking down all the knick-knacks and putting up the decorations, including our beautiful, fake Christmas tree with gold garland, red, green, blue and gold painted glass Christmas ornaments, a few homemade decorations, colorful blinking lights and of course, it was always topped with this plastic-y star with flashing, pretty lights and silver tinsel.

And then there were all the actual Christmas decorations — so many trips up and down the stairs from the basement bringing up all the boxes. There were the reindeer, the snowmen, the Santa Clauses, the Christmas stockings, the plastic poinsettias, the snow globes and of course, the créche, which is what my mom always called it. It's more commonly known as a nativity scene or crib. She loved it and was always so proud of it.

And I can't forget about the Christmas baking. Another weekend would be spent preparing all the Christmas goodies — dozens and dozens of them. We always had to bake frosted sugar cookies for my sister, Donna, and my brothers, Mike and Steve; Russian tea cakes for my sister, Karen; chocolate crinkles for my brother, Charles; marshmallow caramel crispies for my dad; fudge and peanut brittle for my mom; and I just ate it all. My sweet tooth was more than satisfied during the Christmas season.

But the baking and the decorating are just the tip of the iceberg.

My most favorite memory of all was when all my siblings were home for Christmas, well, almost all. Back when my family used to actually celebrate Christmas on Christmas, we would often get together on Christmas Eve and then sometimes, my siblings would stay overnight and we'd all be together on Christmas Day, too.

My five oldest siblings are between 12 and 20 years older than I am, so I didn't really grow up with them; well, during years that I have memories of. By the time I was 5 or 6 years old, they were all out of the house and on their own so when they all came home for Christmas, it was so special to me because they were my idols — kind of like the Bee Gees. Because I didn't spend that much time with my siblings, I was so excited to see them. We'd sit around and visit, eat all the fantastic appetizers and of course, all the sweets. We'd play games, eat and visit some more. I can't even begin to tell you how much fun it was.

As much as I probably whined when I was a little girl and rolled my eyes as a teenager, one of my favorite memories was singing Christmas carols before we opened presents. Again, it may not have seemed like I enjoyed it, but I'm telling you, it's one of my most treasured memories. The guitars would come out, the keys of the organ would light up and music would fill the living room. All of our voices — some better than others — blending together as one big happy, blended family — again, just like those Bee Gees.

It actually brings tears to my eyes to remember those moments. Moments I will never have again.

Times have changed. People are busier. There is more hustle and bustle and not enough time. Everyone is rushing here and there. Our family has grown. Now, my siblings all have their own families, their own kids AND their own grandkids. They have their own lives. Everyone celebrates on their own.

The Christmases of past are long forgotten and are but a distant memory. But if I could, I would go back. Back to a simpler, more family-oriented time when the presents didn't really matter, the time spent together with family did.

And just like the Bee Gees song, "Don't Forget to Remember," I will never forget.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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