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by Sandi Austin

During this time of year, there’s nothing that warms the heart quite like memories of our childhood at Christmas. And as we look back on those years, family traditions stand out among those memories. There’s something comforting about them.

Certain fond memories of my Christmases while growing up in Aurora have stuck with me through the years. For my father, Christmas was his time to be creative. Since taking up photography as a hobby, he started making personalized Christmas cards from the Barstad family – Al, Rose, Sandi, Karen and even Charlie and Chico, our parakeets, if they happened to “photobomb” us during photography sessions. My father set the camera timer and got us all posed before the “click.” There were always retakes, of course, but he patiently tried until he got that perfect picture. He then would disappear into his darkroom and emerge with the finished product. It was always fun each year to see how he was going to portray us. 

After the cards were in the mail, it was time to find the Christmas tree. My father led the yearly expedition to the mountains to find that perfect one. If the weather permitted, my mother packed a picnic lunch so we could eat outdoors while taking in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

When the tree was set up in the living room, it was the start of our traditional chili/decorating night. My father turned to the kitchen to make his famous green chili while my sister, mother and I pulled out the tree decorations and got to work. We always looked forward to stringing up our bubble lights and turning them on. It was always so magical for my sister and me to watch the bubbles after they warmed up. When the ornaments were strategically placed, the real work began – hanging of the tinsel. My sister and I had a method. We spent a good deal of time placing all the tinsel, one strand at a time, until they were perfectly hanging from the branches. We just knew Santa wouldn’t be happy with tinsel just thrown all willy-nilly onto the tree. No messy, tangled tinsel was ever seen on our Christmas tree!

Of course, the shiny tinsel was quite the temptation for Charlie and Chico, our naughty feathered friends. When the tree was all done, it was game on! Christmas was an adventure for them. They would swoop over to the tree and steal a piece of tinsel once in a while. When they weren’t stealing tinsel, they were on a branch, chirping away as they admired their reflections in the ball ornaments.

It warms my heart to think back on some of my favorite Christmas moments from my youth, especially since both of my parents are now gone. They live on in my memories. As you all reminisce about your favorite Christmas moments, I want to wish you peace, joy, love and happiness this Christmas!

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