Becky Brickhouse, Appling resident
My favorite Christmas memory was last year, 2005, when I had given my sister (Joyce Ann Lewis) one of my kidneys that year in July, and to see her with us on that day was a blessing for me and the best Christmas gift for me and my family.
U.S. Army Capt. Charles Brickhouse, Appling resident
My name is Capt. Charles Brickhouse and I live in Appling, Ga. I am in the United States Army, currently serving at Phoenix Base in Baghdad, Iraq.
My favorite Christmas is one that has not even arrived yet (Christmas 2006)! It is only natural to want to be surrounded by family and close friends during the holiday season, but for many who serve our great nation (whether in uniform or as a civilian) that won't be the case this year. The cozy and familiar relationships we are accustomed to have been replaced by other, just as meaningful ones. My umbrella of friendships have expanded and as such I don't have to worry about the "rain of loneliness" affecting me. I've been given a wonderful opportunity while deployed to grow in my faith (I'm a member of First Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Appling) and many members (including my Pastor Roscoe Perry) of my church family have taken the time to keep me connected to home. Care packages such as the one from my wife's fellow employees at the Transportation Department of the Columbia County Board of Education or the care package we received from Ronica Cummings and the staff at SRP Federal Credit Union in Edgefield, S.C., contained plenty of goodies (the peanut M&Ms, chocolate cherries, magazines and razors were a particular favorite) that we all enjoyed.
Everyday tasks that I used to take for granted now fall squarely on the shoulders of my wife, Becky. I can truly appreciate the sacrifice that she has to make while I'm away from home.
If we are to embrace the "Spirit of Giving" during Christmas, then I have been given the most precious gift of all ... the "Gift of Thankfulness" for all those who have kept me in their prayers and have extended kindness to not only me but my entire extended family here in Iraq.
It is my hope and prayer that everyone can have as great a Christmas as I expect to have; even if I cannot be at home to celebrate it.
Charlie Beale, Columbia County Recreation Department director
I specifically remember a childhood Christmas a long time ago. I guess I was about 8 years old and we had moved to Waycross, Ga., from Augusta.
We had moved away after living there all my life. We had come back to Augusta on Christmas Eve to spend Christmas with my mother's parents and the rest of the both families. Now I was really worried that Santa wouldn't know where I would be. You know most children back then (1955) still believed in Santa, and even though I had talked to him several times, I wasn't sure he would know where I would be on Christmas.
We were staying with my mother's parents, in the house my father's mother had owned and I had lived in until 5 years old, so I knew the house very well. This was an old two-story house, with the living area downstairs and all of the bedrooms upstairs. There was always a big get-together on Christmas Eve at my grandmother's house, to exchange gifts and eat ... The bad part of the evening was that all of my cousins kept telling me that Santa wasn't coming to see me, because he wouldn't know where I was, so I wasn't going to get anything for Christmas.
Everybody finally left and I went upstairs off to bed, lying there for what seemed all night, wondering if Santa really knew where I was. Finally when I seemed to fall asleep, I heard something downstairs. I jumped up and ran to the top of the stairs, and there he was (Santa), with a large empty sack bag, slowly going out the front door. Making sure he was gone, I slowly sneaked down the stairs to check out what was under the Christmas tree.
From that point on, I had no problem being home at Christmas, because I believed and knew Santa would find me wherever I was on Christmas Eve.
Stacie Adkins, Columbia County Community Events Manager
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday! I am a December baby myself, and as a child, I enjoyed shopping with my birthday money to buy gifts for my family. I love giving gifts and seeing the excitement on friends and family's faces.
I can remember so many great childhood Christmas memories with my four sisters; however, the Christmas of 1994 does stand out for me. I was pregnant with my first child, and the baby was not due until mid-January.
God was ready to give me a present of my own - a baby girl, Caroline Arlington, was born Christmas Day 1994! I have since had three other children with two more born in the month of December - Ben (May 15, 1998), Will (Dec 22, 1999) and Jackson (Dec 30, 2000). Now the memories get better each year!
Kirk M. Wright, principal, North Harlem Elementary School
In December 1997, I decided to propose to my then-girlfriend Susan. First, in the ultimate traditional gesture, I called her father and mother in New York to get the green light on joining the family.
That evening, before Susan arrived home from work, I slipped into her apartment and set up a tiny artificial Christmas tree that I had purchased at a local drug store. Then, I took the engagement ring - which was not purchased at a local drug store - and balanced it on top of the tree.
When I heard her key in the door, I scurried to my spot behind the counter. The rest, they say, is history. She walked in, found the ring on top of the mysterious little tree, and actually agreed to marry the crazy guy hiding in the kitchen. Almost nine years and three children later, Susan remains my wife and my best friend, as we continue to create our own Christmas memories together.
Dick Manion, Grovetown City Council member
This being my 76th Christmas, it is hard to pick one: from the one right after Pearl Harbor, when we all felt things would never be the same again, or arriving in Korea on Christmas Eve in 1951 away from loved ones for the first time, or in Vietnam in 1969 just after seeing the Bob Hope show as he attempted to relieve our deep loneliness. Those were the "bad" ones that immediately stood out.
But then focusing on the "good" ones - it was easy. The world was simple on the best one. I was 8 and my grandparents were visiting our small town in Maine. After coming home from Midnight Mass, we covered up in our unheated bedrooms, and my father bedeviled my grandparents by tying a string to an empty thread spool and making the sound of a mouse near their bed - my poor grandmother making my hard-of-hearing grandfather spend half the night seeking the culprit.
And the next morning - my first big toy, my first electric train. Snow was waist deep - temperature 10 below, fire in the old fireplace, the smell of the dinner being prepared on the wood stove, the Victrola Christmas music playing on 45 rpm records.
Life was simple in 1938; little did we know that the world would really not be the same in a few short years when men would step on the moon, and be able to blow up the world with a few bombs, or that it would be virtually illegal to say "Merry Christmas."
Beda Johnson, executive director of the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau
The Christmas of 1966 was probably my fondest and most memorable. I am the youngest of five children. The first three were born a decade before my sister Pat and me.
Several weeks before this particular Christmas, our "middle" brother, John, banned the two of us from my Dad's workshop in the basement.
"It has to do with Christmas," was all we were told, which heightened our curiosity to a fever pitch.
Christmas Day arrived and we were corralled in our bedroom that morning for what seemed like hours until all of the relatives arrived. As we finally burst free and ran down the hall into the bright lights that accompanied the family Super 8 movie camera, we were greeted with what remains today as my very favorite gift.
My brother, who was 14 at the time, had "wrapped" our gifts from him (two small books) in a 6-foot papier mache reindeer. "Clyde" came complete with antlers, a "Rudolf-esque" nose, and, the very best part, he was large enough for my both my sister and I to ride. Clyde was a wonderful part of our childhood for several years until we finally had to say goodbye.
My brother's caring spirit, his creativity and the joy he shared with us that season, and the years that followed, are something I'll never forget. I wish for each of you the joy of simple things and the love of family and friends.
Nicole Abbott, Augusta Prep junior
Although I've had a lot of memorable Christmases, the Christmas and New Years of 1999 firmly sticks out in my mind. Actually Christmas day itself was rather depressing, especially for a nine year old girl (me) and her six year old little brother, Eric. Being young children, my brother and I immediately recognized how few presents were actually under our tilting tree. We stayed very composed.
The next day my mom and dad told us to get packing. We were going to see Grandma. Assuming they meant that we were going to Alabama, where my grandma lives, we got packing strait away. We hit the road early the next morning, and I slept most of the trip.
When I awoke, I started to stare out of the van's windows. It wasn't too long until I started to see signs proudly displaying phrases such as, "Welcome to Florida" and "128 miles to Disney World."
In retrospect, it's really obvious where we were headed, however, at the time I wasn't thinking that we might be going to Disney World. Actually, I remember thinking how utterly ridiculous the idea was. However, I did wonder why we were in Florida when our grandma lived in Alabama, but for fear of being made fun of I kept my mouth shut.
Late that night, we pulled into a hotel in Kissimmee, Fla. My mom told us that we were going to stay there for the night. My brother broke into hysterics, sobbing and screaming, "We can make it! Just keep driving!"
My mom tried to convince him that grandma was actually in the hotel, but it didn't do much good. Low and behold, grandma was in the hotel, with a really big present. Eric, my cousin Gavin and I ripped off the wrapping paper. Immediately, Disney-themed balloons flew in our faces.
After I was done looking through the box, I looked up at the adults in the room. They were all smiling. My grandma then told us little kids how, actually, the present was to spend the days after Christmas through a few days after New Years in Disney World for the turn of the millennium.
This emotional trip remains my favorite and most meaningful Christmas present I've ever received. Not many people can say that they heard the countdown to the year 2000 in Disney World's Magic Kingdom while watching both a parade and the most miraculous display of fireworks I've ever seen.
Pat Husbands, Evans High School senior
When it comes to Christmas my family has always done everything by tradition. We have always put up our fake, 10 year old Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. We have always watched home movies. We used to ride around town to see Christmas lights. On Christmas Eve we have always opened one present. We have always left out milk and fresh baked cookies for Santa Claus.
These traditions are followed by many families, but we have another tradition that is much more unique. Despite our ages, it still holds strong today.
Ever since my brother, my sister and I were young, we have always slept on the floor of my sister's room on Christmas Eve. We lay parallel to each other while facing the uncovered window. We face the window because when we were little we wanted to see Santa Claus outside on Christmas Eve. To us, seeing Santa Claus was worth putting up with each other for one night.
Even though we now know we will never see him, we still uphold our annual Christmas tradition.
Bobby Christine, Columbia County Associate Magistrate Judge
My most wonderful Christmas memories are from 2003. The events I cherish didn't actually occur on Christmas Day, as early morning December 25, 2003 I boarded a plane to begin my return trip back to Iraq. No, my best Christmas memories occurred during the 14 days of R&R I was granted leading up to Christmas.
My National Guard unit was called to active duty the first week of February, 2003 and was sent over to participate in the invasion and subsequent rebuilding. When I left Evans my wife and son had just been released from the hospital after a difficult birth, my oldest daughter was three years old and my other daughter was two.
When I landed in Atlanta members of the USO greeted those of us in uniform with cheers, hugs and heartfelt emotions even though we were complete strangers to them. They were determined that the lack of support shown to our Vietnam veterans would not be repeated.
When I arrived at Bush Field I was overwhelmed at the reception. Dozens of friends, members of my church and co-workers from the District Attorneys Office were there to welcome me home for leave. However, the most beautiful memory of all was the reunion with my family. My wife, children and parents anxiously waiting at the end of that corridor is a sight I will never forget.
The next 13 days at home - where the heart is - form my best Christmas memories of all.
Today, if you haven't already, please join me in remembering in prayer our men and women in harms way.
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