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A precious memory

To the Times of Ti:

Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa Cottrell's! Such a precious memory. Let me tell you about it. 

We grandchildren always stayed all night Christmas Eve, sharing beds , and giggly excitement . My grandparents’ Christmas tree was never decorated until after we were tucked in. And how we put off going to bed! Every Christmas Eve, Grandpa would say, "Hark! I hear sleigh bells! You children hustle and get to bed. Santa must be almost here!”

Of course that did the trick. We certainly didn’t want to be caught by Santa Claus! So teeth were brushed at the old-fashioned marble corner sink, flannel pajamas donned, and into quilt-laden beds we popped. I never quite understood where my aunt and uncles slept those Christmas Eves since we occupied their beds, two children to a single bed. 

I remember gazing out the big bedroom window in my uncles' room one crisp starry Christmas Eve, all cozy under the quilts. The twinkling city lay below. Santa’s reindeer were somewhere up there in that expanse of cold star-drenched sky. I know I heard the tinkle of bells! Then I fell asleep. 

“Merry Christmas!” The very rafters echoed the Quilts were tossed aside. (I remember the, cold linoleum floor.) 

Grandpa Cottrell’s rule was that the children couldn’t come downstairs until they were fully clothed and until all the other relatives had arrived. Some of the longest moments I’ve known came those Christmas mornings as we waited at the top of the stairs in the hall. Always the first to arrive, as we strained at the top landing, were my father's parents, and my Grandmother Whyland began calling “Merry Christmas” even before she was out of the old Buick. The whole block resounded as she called her happy wishes all the way into the big front hall, those cold Christmas mornings Mother and Daddy were there at last, but what kept aunts and uncles so long? 

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