Elaine Pendergrass

My Best Christmas

This article appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of Texoma Living! Magazine.

By Elaine Pendergrass

Most of my fondest, and funniest, Christmas memories involve my mother, Norma. Though we were not wealthy by the traditional standard, we were rich in loving interaction. Mi casa es su casa is a phrase that my mom took to heart. If she knew of anyone who needed a meal, her door was open. And boy was she a good cook.

Elaine Pendergrass
Elaine Pendergrass

I remember one Christmas when we were all gathered around her table—my sister Linda, and brother Jimmy, and all our families, plus another gentleman, Tom, who sat next to me. Throughout the wonderful meal, we all chatted away, making small talk, telling stories and laughing. As we were walking around the yard after lunch, I remarked to my brother what a nice guy his friend Tom was. Jimmy stopped dead in his tracks and looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face. “He’s not my friend. I thought he was your friend.”

How typical. Mom had invited this total stranger to our Christmas turkey lunch without a word of explanation except that we had enough food to share. Sure enough, Tom didn’t have a job, had little money and had no family in Texas. That is, except us. I often wonder where Tom is and whether he remembers our Christmas together. I’m certain he remembers Norma.

Another Christmas, around the time my daughter Lisa was six or seven years old, we were all at mom’s house and about to open presents. Lisa was especially excited because she had several gifts. One was from Champ and Coco, mom’s horses. It made a delightful noise when she shook it. Another gift was from the chickens, and it had a very unusual shape.

Now some people might think that it was strange, getting presents from the barnyard animals. But in our family it was par for the course. Lisa wondered how the animals could afford to buy her gifts and couldn’t wait to tear into them. The first one she opened, from Champ and Coco, was a box of macaroni. The chickens gave her a can of green beans. Mom explained that the animals had raided her pantry in order to find a gift for their favorite kid as the rest of us had a big laugh.

Looking back at all of my Christmases I see a theme, loving and sharing. That’s the gift mom gave to me. There’s always someone who needs something that you can give. Even if you have no money, you can share what you do have. It’s the love you give away that matters most. Isn’t that the message of the Christmas season? Open your hearts and share. It really is the thought that counts.

Mom passed away last year. I miss her every day. You would have loved her. She would have loved you back and probably invited you to dinner.