12 days Irene Hannon

12 Days of Giveaways: Day 2: Irene Hannon

Suzanne Fun 13 Comments

12 days Irene Hannon

The Best Christmas Gift

I love Christmas.

I love what it commemorates—the birth of our Savior, which led to our redemption and the glory of Easter—and I love the special childhood memories it reawakens.

Let me tell you about one of them.

I grew up in a family that was richer in love than material blessings. My dad once worked three jobs to give us the kind of life he never had growing up in a cottage without running water or electricity in rural Ireland. And he was all in with my mom’s plan to make every Christmas one to remember for my brother and me.

During my younger years, we lived with my grandfather in an old two-story home with a slightly uneven floor on the second level, where my mom, dad, brother and I slept. On Christmas morning, my brother and I would wake before dawn and rouse my parents. After my dad checked to make sure Santa had visited, we made our way down the stairs, gaping into a living room lit only by the glow of colored lights from the tree as we took in the wondrous mound of presents waiting to be opened. The beauty and the bounty overwhelmed us.

The author with her mother on a long-ago Christmas--for SWF blogWhat made this first glimpse extra special was the transformation in the living room. When my brother and I went to bed, it bore no sign of Christmas except for the empty tree stand. After we went to sleep, my mom and dad would set up the live tree, decorate it with lights and ornaments and real tinsel, and haul in all the presents from wherever they were stashed—because Santa brought our tree as well as our gifts. When my brother and I caught our first glimpse in the morning, it was pure magic.

Mom and Dad never faltered during the day, even though they had to be dead tired. Mom always made a wonderful dinner, and Dad assembled whatever toys needed to be put together. I have no idea how they called up the stamina to be so jolly and joyous after staying up half the night.

But they were both committed to creating treasured Christmas memories we would carry with us for always.

Of course, the true meaning of the day was never lost. A crèche was always front and center under our tree, and once dawn broke and all the presents were opened, we went to church. The carols that filled our house were also a reminder of the reason behind it all—Away in a Manger, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Angels We Have Heard on High, Silent Night.

It was a storybook kind of Christmas.

But times change…and so do traditions. I lost Mom suddenly fifteen months ago, and Christmas moved to my house last year. That’s when the truth hit home. The days when trees were decorated in the dark of night by loving parents…when wide-eyed children crept down the stairs to see what goodies Santa had brought…when our family circle was complete…were gone forever.

But some things remained the same.

Last year, the centerpiece of the day was still the birth of our Savior. The familiar carols remained part of my celebration, though I sang them as a soloist at our church’s midnight service. My Christmas dinner table was surrounded by family members. Dad continued his role as the beloved patriarch of our clan. God willing, all of that will be true this year, too.

While our holiday is different now, I’ll always have the memories of my magical childhood Christmases. In fact, the first Christmas after I married, I started a new tradition. On the last night before we take our tree down, I pause halfway up the steps to savor the view in our living room—and to remember the joy and magic my parents created for us on a shoestring budget all those years ago.

Looking back, I don’t recall many of the gifts that awaited me each Christmas morning. But I do remember the feeling of contentment and serenity, the sense of all’s right the world, that pervaded our home.

Most of all I remember the love that went into the creation of those special mornings…and filled our home every single day of the year.

That remains the best gift of all.

Postscript: I wrote this post earlier today. This evening, I went over to my mom and dad’s house to help my brother continue the long, slow chore of going through Mom’s things. Right on top of her dresser—which I’ve walked past many times over the last year—we found a laminated Family Circus cartoon from 30 years ago. It shows the mom and dad standing in the doorway watching the children open their presents under the tree, and the dialogue box says, “They won’t know till they’re gone, but the best gifts are the memories they’re making.” Was the timing of this discovery coincidental? Maybe. But it felt almost like a message from Mom—as if she’d been watching over my shoulder and smiling as I penned this post, pleased that I felt as she hoped I would about the legacy she and dad left us of wonderful childhood Christmas memories that are forever etched in my heart.

More about Sandpiper Cove:

Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 7.21.52 PMHope Harbor police chief Lexie Graham has plenty on her plate raising her son alone and dealing with a sudden rash of petty theft and vandalism in her coastal Oregon hometown. As a result, she has zero time for extracurricular activities—including romance. Ex-con Adam Stone isn’t looking for love either—but how ironic is it that the first woman to catch his eye is a police chief? Yet wishing for things that can never be is foolish.

Nevertheless, when Lexie enlists Adam’s help to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks begin to fly. And as they work together, it soon becomes apparent that God may have a different—and better—future planned for them than either could imagine.

Lauded by Library Journal as “a master at character development,” Irene Hannon welcomes readers back to this charming Oregon seaside village where hearts heal—and love blooms.

Purchase a copy of Sandpiper Cove:
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | CBD

41sof8wilyL._UX250_Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than fifty novels, including One Perfect Spring, Hope Harbor, and Sea Rose Lane, as well as the Private Justice and Men of Valor suspense series. Her books have been honored with three coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, two Carol Awards, two Reviewers’ Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine, a Retailers’ Choice Award, three HOLT Medallions, two Booksellers’ Best Awards, and a National Readers’ Choice Award. She is also a two-time Christy Award finalist. In 2014 she was inducted into the Romance Writers of America’s elite Hall of Fame, and in 2016 she received a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews for her entire body of work.

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Comments 13

  1. Do we only enter this giveaway once or are we supposed to enter every day?
    To Irene : I love the memories you shared with us today. We never forget our Christmas memories , do we?

  2. What a beautiful memory. I hope one day my sons will look back on our family Christmases with love.

    My parents told me they think this is the last year they’ll be able to set up the Christmas tree and decorations like they always have. Next year they’ll begin to scale back and they want to make sure we all spend Christmas at their home this year.

    Thanks for sharing, Irene!

  3. Beautiful, wonderful memories that brought a tear to my eye. It made me think back to how my parents made Christmas so wonderful for us.

  4. Oh, Irene, this post brings tears to my eyes! What precious memories!! Thank you for sharing these! I love the cartoon your mom kept. Your book sounds so good and I am looking forward to reading it. Thanks again for this wonderful, wonderful post!

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post, Becky! I’ll never forget those magical Christmases of my childhood. Hope you enjoy visiting my special Oregon seaside town of Hope Harbor in Sandpiper Cove. Have a wonderful holiday season!

  5. Post

    Oh Irene…your postscript got me teary! What a poignant moment. Loved this story, and especially that beautiful picture you included. Thank you for sharing your family memory! Very vivid. Warmly, Suzanne

  6. I so enjoy reading books and it is such a joy when authors do these giveaways. I just recently had a APLIF 360 LUMBAR FUSION from L3-S1 so I have time to read while recovering! I want to give praise and glory to God for bringing me through it and having hardly any pain! God is good! He is the great physician! Thank you for the opportunity to join this giveaway. Merry Christmas to all!

    Teresa Sheroke

  7. Oh Irene, that was so heartfelt! It reminds me of how hard my parents worked in order to make Christmas special for us four kids. I remember one year that mother wanted a new set of dishes. Daddy put it on layaway and I went to pick it up at the department store, while Mother was at work. We wrapped the two boxes and used one of them as a base for the tree! Pretty sneaky. She was thrilled. She was trying to capture the history of our house that was built in 1836. She went back to work in order to remodel the house and make it authentic. After they sold it when they retired, it became a museum.

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