Holiday Stories & Articles

Mar. 24, 2017

The Boston Tea Party, a disagreement over the taxation of tea, ignited the American Revolution in 1773. As animosities from the king erupted over the dumping of 342 crates of tea into the Boston Harbor, people began to unite and prepare to fight. Those instincts have continued to rise in Americans, even today.

On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere rode is infamous ride, warning us of the great peril we were soon to be faced with - The British were coming. Although he was injured, he had escaped to make this ride. The next day the battles of Concord and Lexington marked the first day of the American Revolution.

The following year, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and a few of our other forefathers composed a document that would declare our freedom from King George II of England. This document is henceforth named, “The Declaration of Independence.”

On July 4, 1776, this precious document was signed by many of our ancestors. John Hancock, being the first to sign, signed the Declaration with a large signature stating that he wanted to make sure the king saw it.

When Lord Charles Cornwallis sent his messenger to surrender to General George Washington, and the document of our Independence was signed, we celebrated with a display of fireworks. Thirteen rockets were shot into the sky, each one a representation of the 13 colonies. And so it’s been every year for well over 200 years, that we give a display of fireworks on fourth of July to show that as a nation, as an independent country, we will treasure our freedoms and our liberties.

In the days of yore, we were segregated as Loyalists (those who supported the king) and Patriots (those who supported the freedom from English rule). While we separated ourselves into groups, Deborah Sampson, dressed in men’s clothing, joined the Continental Army as Robert Shurtleff. She joined in 1782 but was later discovered in 1783. However, the discovery was to her benefit. Not only did she receive an honorable discharge from the Army, she went down in history as the first woman to join and fight in a war.

Patrick Henry, who often spoke on the issues of liberty, believed in our fight. His famous speech that ends in “Give me liberty or give me death,” is still an inspiration today. The town’s people believed in our rights to freedom as well and showed their support by naming their children, Liberty” or “Freedom,” and our young men and women still continue to fight for the pursuit of happiness of the free nation.

In light of the tragedies of 9-11 and current event of the White House, Congress, and Capitol Hill, my heart goes out to our fighting men and women. I believe we should continue our tradition and offer our display of fireworks for our nation in symbolization for those who have died to protect us and our freedoms. It truly is a symbol of unity to stand tall, proud, and our continued fight for freedom, liberty and justice for all.

Mar. 24, 2017

I was always excited about Easter as a child, as are most children. When I reflect on my excitement, I think it was because of the spirit of Easter; the atmosphere that it generated because, although my mother always made sure I had a basket to find, my non-family, my father’s family, didn’t allow me to have one.

My mother would fix up the top of the console TV as a “basket” of goodies for the household. She’d lay out the grass and place bunnies, chocolates, and other confectionaries scattered strategically about. For me though, I got my own little basket filled with all of her favorite candy.

I laugh when I think about that. My mom was slick filling the basket with her favorites and not mine. I did not like cream filled eggs, chocolate covered marshmallow eggs, marshmallow peeps (the worst), or the jelly beans. Especially the black jelly beans; Mom’s all-time favorite (the worst of the worst). I didn’t care though, I was so happy to just have a basket.

My non-family decided I was too old. Although, I do remember one year my step-mother making me a huge plastic cup full of candy for Easter. It too was filled with the sugar clumped jelly beans and cream filled eggs. Again, I did not care, I was appreciative, but mostly surprised.

When my children came around, I changed things up a bit. For one thing, they were still getting baskets into their twenty’s. They were filled with candy, gifts, money, sometimes even gift certificates. They had to beg me to stop making them these enormous baskets every year.

The other thing was the jelly beans. My mother-in-law introduced me to Jelly Bellies. Holy bunny eggs! I quickly became known amongst the kids in the neighborhood as “the mom who gives out the good jelly beans.” All of the kids would come “visit” so they could scope out the baskets and get some of the Jelly Bellies.

One year, when the knock came at the door, my son, Reese, said, “Don’t let them in! They’ll eat all my candy before I‘ve had a chance to look thru it!”

There were four boys standing at the door just itching to get inside and go through my son’s Easter Basket. “So put up the basket or tell them they can‘t have anything yet,” I advised.

Reese grabbed a few things and tossed them into the refrigerator for safe keeping. Later he told me he didn’t have time to go through and pick out all of his favorite jelly beans (Tutti-Fruitti) but he did keep watch.

Jelly Belly makes gourmet jelly beans - each color is a different flavor. They have buttered popcorn, toasted marshmallow, even Dr Pepper flavored. The children often mixed and matched many of them. For example: taking a chocolate fudge bean and eating it with a peanut butter flavored bean to make a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Jelly Belly even has a recipe card for mixing and matching.

Some of the children would put in requests, “Next year, Michelle, can you get less Margarita flavors and concentrate more on the buttered popcorn and strawberry cheesecake flavors?”

I used to get plastic eggs and fill them with Jelly Bellies and M&M’s - the kids would go nuts over them with Jelly Bellies being their favorites. In the beginning, I would spend anywhere from $100 to $200 dollars at Easter just on jelly beans alone. They were a big hit.

I went to the candy store one year and noticed the sign on the door, “Closing Soon.”

“When are you closing?” I asked while collecting my pile of jelly beans.

“I guess next Saturday will be my last day. I was just waiting on you to come in before notifying the mall when I’m shutting my doors.”

Me?” I asked somewhat surprised.

“Yes, you’re my biggest buyer,” she explained. “You come every year for the Jelly Bellies and I wanted to be sure you got your jelly beans before I closed the shop.”

Fortunately, I found another store that housed the Jelly Bellies. When they closed three years later, they did the same thing. They waited for me. They did not want to miss me before moving their store to a new location so, they waited for me to come in and get my jelly beans.

By the time I had quit buying so many jelly beans (as I still buy them), I was paying over $300 for them. My friends and other family members would ask, “What are you going to do with all those jelly beans?”

“I’m going to use them all. There won’t be any left by the time Easter gets here,” I would answer.

The first Easter egg hunt I ever participated in, my daughter was 18 months old. My father-in-law had taken some real Easter Eggs and hidden them around in the yard. I watched as he bent down and gently placed an egg under a bush, another by the tree and so on. Finally, I asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m hiding eggs so Amber can do an Easter egg hunt.”

And so began the tradition. As Amber got older, and her little brother came along, so did a few of the neighborhood kids, friends, and family. My egg count grew from a dozen (12) dyed eggs to around 200 plastic eggs. Each plastic egg contained M&M’s, Jelly Bellies, and the special eggs had quarters in them.

The first year we fenced in our yard so my dog, a black Chow-Chow named AJ, could roam it freely, we had a funny experience. My husband (the official Easter Bunny) was out hiding the eggs one morning when I noticed every time he would hide an egg, AJ would pick it up. She would follow behind him, gently put the egg in her mouth and then carry it to a pile she had started building. She was only trying to help! By the time Mr. Bunny had finished hiding all of the eggs, he had to turn around and hide all of AJ‘s eggs too.

After that, we made sure she was in the house when we hid eggs. AJ could go out with the children when it came time for the hunt but remained inside while hiding them. Since Amber was her favorite human, AJ stayed close to her and helped Amber her find Easter Eggs. After all, the dog had experience in finding the eggs.

Since my kids rarely, if ever, gorged themselves on candy, we often had lots left over once the baskets were cleaned out. We put the remaining candy in candy jars. I noticed if any Jelly Bellies were left over they were usually the first to get eaten from the jars. Whatever chocolate was left over at Halloween was usually discarded and thrown out. For my kids, it was more the sport of the holiday than it was the gain.

My husband and I used to have so much candy for the kids. I am talking about hundreds of dollars' worth of chocolates, gifts, and at least 40 lbs. of jelly beans, if not more. We also made baskets for other children who were less fortunate and probably would not have gotten a visit from the Easter Bunny otherwise. Several would be trying the Jelly Bellies for the first time in their lives.

Now in my latter years, my kids are grown and I’ve stopped making baskets. The memories remain and they are such fond ones too. I've had the best time with my children (and other children as well). Whenever I see the Jelly Belly heart or hear the name, I sigh heavily and smile. I love those Jelly Bellies and I love the fond memories the name gives me; all the years of making children, especially my own children, very happy at Easter.

Mar. 24, 2017

My husband and I always enjoyed the holidays with the children. We would make a big splash about everything. I don’t think any of them escaped our special brand of idiocy. We felt it was important they enjoyed these times during their youth and tried to provide them with happy memories.

New Year’s I would cook cabbage and corn beef, a more traditional northern meal. Other times I would cook the southern version, collard greens, hop-n-john with rice and cornbread. Many times, I would be grateful my mother-in-law did it for me.

Valentine’s day always came with a Happy Bag filled with little gifts and a box of candy. Even though they were not our sweethearts, we loved them and wanted them to know our children were important in our lives. I remember setting up flowers to be delivered at school a few times to make them feel special.

St. Patrick’s Day was full of pinches for no green and another helping of cab-bage and corn beef. I always regretted I didn’t make them green eggs and ham on that day. That would have been fun.

Easter was always a big holiday for us. They had over-sized baskets. When they were smaller, these baskets were so big; they themselves could not carry them. As they got older, they had to be carried with both hands. We loaded them down with candy, gifts, & money.

We have made several of these large baskets, filled to the rim, for other more unfortunate children over the years. They've all really enjoyed them. It was equally important for us to teach our children the art of sharing, compassion, and thankfulness of having people in our lives.

I really enjoyed the Easter Egg Hunts. At first, my husband would get up early and hide the eggs. Some of them were plastic eggs filled with Jelly Beans (Al-ways Jelly Bellies, never the regular jelly beans), M&M’s, and special eggs had quarters. Their friends and family were invited over for hunts with anywhere from 100-200 eggs hidden around the yard.

We’d spend the rest of the morning keeping the kids from the windows be-cause my daughter, forever the astute one, would peep through the blinds and announce, “Yup, the Easter Bunny’s been here. I saw an egg.”

We eventually had to wait until all of the kids (friends and family) were inside the house, occupy them so they didn’t notice when my husband would slip outside and then hide the eggs.

The 4th of July always came in with a bang. We had BBQ’s or cook-outs and again, we allowed them to invite their friends over if they were so inclined. We’d spend $300-400 on fireworks each year and set them off.

Halloween was always fun. I’d dress up like a cow and go to their schools and deliver cookies or cupcakes - maybe I’d make trick or treat bags up for their class mates. Whatever the case was, it was always fun.

After which I’d go home and decorate the house with Halloween dressings, spider webs, and my “thing box.” I had a special box made so that every year, the children who trick or treated at the house would get a "handful" of candy passed out to them by Thing. He’s the hand that was on The Addam’s Family cartoon and movies.

Thanksgiving was another big holiday event - I cooked a lavish meal and eve-ryone and anyone was invited. I’d have both ham and turkey with lots of side dishes and trimmings.

I tried to instill in my children that Thanksgiving is not just for family but a time to be grateful for all of the people in your life. As “hospitable” as the south is known to be, surprisingly this is not the view of many southerners.

Christmas was even bigger. My husband and I adopted a family every year, even members of our own family. We'd provided them with gifts and some-times food and treats. Again, this was to teach the children about giving and not just receiving.

For our children though, we would have gifts laid out under the tree, in the tree, and in their stockings. We had to use “Santa paper” and then there was regular paper. When my daughter was three, she pointed out that Santa used the same paper as we did.

Huh! Imagine that!

So any gift we exchanged with each other or other family members was wrapped in a fun and whimsical paper like Christmas Bears, Santa Claus, toy trains (I didn’t like the serious paper with poinsettias or trumpets). The paper Santa used was Disney paper or cartoon paper designed with Scooby-Doo or Bugs Bunny - along those lines.

Birthdays were another big event. We always felt the children were sent to us by God and we should rejoice that we could be so blessed as to have them. We’d have parties at McDonalds, Discovery Zone, Chucky Cheese - wherever they wanted to go - they had gifts to open, cake to eat and all the festivities. When they got older we started taking their friends to eat at whatever restau-rant they choose and then off to a movie of their choice.

Even our wedding anniversary did not escape the dinner and movie theme. We had the children tag along with us in celebration because again, we felt they were a gift from God. They were very much an important part of our marriage, our relationship, and should not be shunned in the celebration.

I’ve heard so many say, “it’s our time to be alone, maybe I’ll get lucky, so the kids can’t go with us.”

As I have explained, “We have plenty of time to be alone for ‘those moments.’ Our children will not always be at home and we want them to know how important they are to us, how happy we are they‘re here.”

The Tooth Fairy always got slighted, with emphasis on “always.” I can only shake my head. My daughter would patiently wait weeks and weeks for the Tooth Fairy to come. If she came early enough, my daughter would get a cou-ple of dollars. I distinctly remember one time it took that nutty fairy a month to show up! I know I left perfect instructions to the house! My daughter didn’t mind though. She scored $20 that night.

When my son came along, all of our “traditions” were in place and he just reaped the benefits of each celebration. Our daughter really was our trial and error baby. The only thing we had to alter were the name tags on the Christ-mas presents. He had discovered Santa had the same handwriting as Daddy did so, I had to come up with some funky way of writing their names.

When he started losing his teeth she took her little brother aside and ex-plained the process to him. I overheard her explaining “interest” to him.

“If the Tooth Fairy doesn’t come tonight,” she said, “Don’t worry about it. The longer she waits, the more money you’ll make.”