Christmas Memories

Christmas Memories

Christmas was always the big family event of the year, with Christmas Eve as the most exciting part for me.  Soon after Thanksgiving, we would go to a tree farm and buy a fresh cut tree, usually eight to ten feet tall to set up near the front window in the living room.

We fussed with the strings of lights because all the bulbs had to be good for the string to light.  My sister Jan and I decorated the tree with many colored balls and dangling ornaments, and strands of icicles.  We had a special antique angel for the top.  The family was completed when my aunt Viva pulled in the driveway a few days before the big day, honking the horn to herald her arrival.  Christmas Eve tradition began with kidney bean stew for supper.  The stew was made ahead, so Mom wouldn’t be tied up in the kitchen.

Our gift giving tradition was to “fish” for small inexpensive gifts.  Mom said that Grandma started the tradition during the Depression when there wasn’t much money for gifts.  All the wrapped gifts were piled on the pool table in the front room, and a sheet tacked up over the door.  We tied a string on a “fishing pole” to throw over the sheet.  Someone would hook a gift on the string and call for the recipient to come “fish” it out while everyone watched to see what they got.  With many small gifts, the giving could be stretched out for the whole evening.

The gifts also became a tradition.  I always gave Mom a box of #2 lead pencils and packs of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum — individually wrapped, of course.  I tied the pencils in a long string.  I always gave my sister Jan a can of cashews, and Daddy a bottle of after shave lotion; usually Old Spice or Bay Rum.  Daddy got paperback books, and Zane Grey westerns or Agatha Christi mysteries.

We vied to see who would notice the passing of midnight, and be the first to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  Then we hung our stockings on the mantle over the fireplace and waded through the mounds of wrapping paper to go to bed.  Christmas morning I was up early!  I snuck out to once again try to shout “Merry Christmas” before someone else did.  First stop was to see what goodies were in my stocking; maybe a candy bar or a small jackknife.
Mom was already up preparing Christmas dinner for the midday.  Normal days we ate in the kitchen, but today we ate on the big table in the dining room.  Mom usually boiled two of our own chickens, and dropped dumplings on top of them.  I loved those dumplings and gravy! The rest was traditional, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and apple pie or pumpkin pie for dessert.

Finally, it was time to clean up the Christmas Eve mess.  We gathered all the torn wrapping paper still piled in the living room, and put away our gifts.  The tree stayed up until New Year’s Day.  Either Christmas Eve or the end of Christmas Day, or both, Mom would sit down at the old upright piano, and we gathered around to sing Christmas carols.

Sigh. Christmas was over.  Now, the long wait until next year.  The wonderful memories lingered as we ate leftover chicken and pie and kidney bean stew.

What special memories of Christmas do you have from your childhood?

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

The Mouse Who Saved Christmas


                          By Robert Z. Hicks

T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, except for a mouse.
He crept to the kitchen and stopped by a chair,
To nibble at breadcrumbs that had tumbled down there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of candy canes danced in their heads.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Saint Nicholas would soon be there.

When up on the housetop there rose such a clatter,
The mouse jumped in alarm and thought, “What’s the matter?”
Down through the chimney came a round little man,
With a bright red suit and a Florida tan.

Over his shoulder was a bag full of toys,
Dolls for the girls, and games for the boys.
Out in the kitchen, still tarrying there,
The mouse heard a scuffle and sounds of despair.

He ran down the hall to a terrible scene,
Santa tangled in cobwebs from last Halloween!
Caught like a fly, he turned and he twisted,
The more to be tangled, the more he resisted.

The mouse was dismayed by an awful thought,
“What will happen to Christmas if Santa stays caught?”
No thought for his safety, he knew what to do,
He leaped to the cobwebs and began to chew.

His teeth flashed in the light from the Christmas tree,
And in no time at all, he had chewed Santa free.
“Oh thank you kind sir,” said Santa to the mouse.
“You’ve saved me, and Christmas, so for you and your spouse,

I’ve two pounds of cheese and chocolates to share,
And a castle to live in under the stair.”
Santa dished out the presents in the blink of an eye,
Then whisked up the chimney with a wink for goodbye.

Stars twinkled above as he jumped to his sleigh,
“Up Dancer, up Prancer, let’s be on our way.
Merry Christmas,” Santa called, as he zoomed out of sight.
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Merry Christmas 2017


Blog followers have asked how I can remember all the things I share about on the Blog entries.  My secret is that we have on file 51 years of annual Christmas newsletters highlighting our newsworthy activities of the year.  So you can see a sample, this year I’m sending you our Christmas greeting via the Blog.

In the July of last year, I was in the hospital with a heart attack and two heart arteries completely blocked.  My cardiologist told me that I am his “miracle patient” for 2016, “We did not think you would make it.”  The Echocardiogram last week showed my heart functioning at 50% output – normal is 50% to 70%.  Last year in the hospital, my heart was at 15% – so I guess I am a documented “miracle”!

I came home under Hospice care, and this past March 20th, I was discharged from Hospice care.  I was improving, and no longer qualified for Medicare support.

Last year I reported that Ashley was half way done with the illustrations for my next book, Danny the Dragon.  Illustrations done, I chose to go with Christian Faith Publishing, a hybrid publisher.  Danny has passed their editor’s desk, and is now in Page Design for formatting/typesetting, as they work the book through their system.

Ashley did a cover, so after the publisher makes a trailer and a website landing page for ordering, Danny the Dragon can be ordered via Barnes and Noble online, or on Amazon. Danny will be available in paperback, hardcover, or e-book.  WHEN, we do not know, but February is a guess.  I’ll send out a letter as soon as we know.

On my Blog entries which you have been getting, I’ve started a new series, a flashback to my youth growing up on the farm north of Ionia Michigan. I’ll continue sharing episodes from my unpublished book, Once I Was A Kid, With the Wild Things On Grandpa’s Farm, and perhaps throw in some other memories.

Ionia friends from high school days may have visited the place back then.  Spark some memories, and stay with me as I reminisce about days of my youth on the farm.  My nephew Kim is still there, maintaining the place.

Thanksgiving week, we had a young couple for lunch who are missionaries in Zambia, Africa – here in the US for furlough and to raise support.   “Home” for them is a tent in a base camp on the edge of civilization three hours by jeep from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.  From the base camp they go out to villages with a translator to teach locals how to farm “God’s Way,” and to witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They train locals to be pastors, then they can move on.  The pastors they train also learn how to raise vegetables to sell, so they can be self-sufficient without a job interfering with their work.

They shared a video of catching a cobra that had gotten in their shower.  I now appreciate the security of our house all the more, although we did have some toads get in.

Most of all this year, I thank God that I am alive!  I thank you and all the people who prayed for me, and all those who came to help me from Hospice, and The Crossroads Church, and neighbors.

I can look forward to wishing you a Happy New Year, and share again with you next year!  Be blessed, and celebrate the birth of Christ, and have a happy year ahead.

The Blog is interactive!  I’d love to hear from you by comment or email.

Bob & Betty

Christmas Special Offer

Christmas Special Offer

The perfect gift for children of all ages for Christmas — a rhyming story picture book by Robert Z. Hicks!

Mouse in the Manger is the Christmas story told by Micah the mouse who was a secret observer of the birth of Christ.  Beautiful illustrations by Ashley Otis brings the Christmas story to life.


Tommie Turtle’s Secret is a beautiful hardcover picture book.  Tommie’s secret is revealed in this fun rhyming story of the day he raced Speedy Hoppy Bunny to teach the bunny valuable lessons about friendship.

My special offer is buy 2 books for $20 and get a third book FREE!  Choose any combination of the two books.

You can view a video of both books, and get all the details to order at    (If you are curious about our website address – take a look)

Local friends: You can order by calling us and coming to pick up your books.  727-842-8314

99. Springtime Symphony in the Apple Orchard

99.  Springtime Symphony in the Apple Orchard

Across a small open field south of the house there was an old orchard with big gnarled apple trees. I would sneak through the tall grass in the orchard, and hide and dream under the trees.



The black bug sat in the apple tree,
Strumming a banjo on his knee.
He sang a love song melody,
To a ladybug as pretty as a bug could be.

While he sang the beautiful melody,
A beetle added harmony.
A grasshopper fiddled and fiddled with glee,
Rubbing his legs enthusiastically.

They all sang high in the key of C,
With the bass notes hummed by a bumblebee.
They sang of Bonnie over the sea,
Of Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

They sang of life’s sweet mystery,
Of battles fought and victory.
They sang of the West that used to be,
With pulsing rhythm and poetry.

Sometimes they sang a little off key,
With marvelous creativity.
The butterflies danced so prettily,
In a swirling aerial fantasy.

I close my eyes for the memory,
To relive that childhood reverie;
Of a wonderful springtime symphony,
And a boy in the grass ‘neath the apple tree.