News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

December 21, 2010

MS. TAKES: Christmas is always great for memories

TERRE HAUTE — Nostalgia always kicks in about this time of year. I have quite a few years to get nostalgic about.

Recently someone asked several celebrities about their best Christmas gift ever. If ever a question was designed to kick-start nostalgia, that was it.

No contest for me. My best Christmas present ever was a rag doll Mom made for me when I was about 5 years old. I named her Miranda because that has always been a favorite name, but I called her Mandy. She was made of unbleached muslin and her eyes, nose and mouth were embroidered on with black yarn. I suppose that was what Mom had left in her sewing basket. She was wearing a blue gingham dress, and it was love at first sight.

My brother, Ed, thought she seemed colorless and tried to spice her up with a liberal application of Mom’s lipstick. What with the dirt she had already acquired from my TLC, she forever after had a rust-colored swath under her mouth. Later that summer, Ed tried to get her to pedal his tricycle and, when her foot got caught, he attempted to yank her free by getting a good grip on her head. He tore a gash in her neck. Mom stitched her up with a patch of much-brighter unbleached muslin and told me that Mandy had been given an operation for goiter.

I’m not sure what eventually happened to Mandy, but I don’t have her now. I wish I did. I suppose it was something like Puff the Magic Dragon, I simply got too old for dolls.

At least I remember lots of our family Christmas customs. We were always at home. My only surviving grandparent lived with us, so none of that “over the river and through the woods” stuff. Santa brought our Christmas tree, along with everything under it, on Christmas Eve after we were in bed. Christmas morning was a miracle. Not only was there a glowing tree, but there were heaps of goodies under it.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but now understand why Dad had to tip-toe downstairs first “to be sure Santa has come,” before we were allowed to go down.

When sons Number One and Number Two were small, we stayed home, too. Now that they are older, we do Christmas dinner “at grandparents” followed by a sort of second gift orgy for the grandchildren.

I know that Christmas Eve has been the gift-giving tradition in other families. To each his own.

I no longer believe that Santa brings the tree. Ours is up and glowing.

Liz Ciancone is a retired

Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to

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