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December 13, 2008

Karen Robards: Christmas Memory

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That old saying "One man's rags are another man's riches" is certainly true for today's guest blogger, Karen Robards. Here, she recalls the sympathy her brothers would feel for her every Christmas when they were children as they opened their presents, clueless to the fact that she was given exactly what she wanted.

When I think back on childhood Christmases, two images immediately come to mind: my three pesky little brothers, and the most wonderful stack of gifts in the world, waiting just for me.

To begin with, as the oldest child with a brother who is five years younger and then twin brothers who are seven years younger, I was never alone on Christmas morning. In the wee small hours (we're talking two a.m. here), my brothers would come and drag me out of bed to go with them to the Christmas tree (sorry to tell family tales, but they harbored an abiding fear of Santa Claus, from whom they thought I could protect them). When we crept into the living room, the tree was always sparkling with tiny magical lights and Santa had always come, leaving mountains of presents for my brothers, who fell upon them gleefully, and a large stack of books for me. I'm sure I had other gifts, but I don't remember them. What I remember is GONE WITH THE WIND, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, THESE OLD SHADES, A WRINKLE IN TIME. Over the years it added up to hundreds of books. I eagerly devoured them all. One of my brothers (they're all grown up now, with families of their own, but I see them all the time, along with the little sister who came along when I was fifteen) recently said to me, "We used to feel so sorry for you at Christmas. All you ever got was books."

But books were what I wanted. They opened the door to a magical place that I still live in a good deal of the time. My own three boys always find stacks of books under the tree, and they're familiar with that magical place as well. Giving them the gift of being readers is one of the things I am most proud of as a mother. As for my own mother, every time I remember those stacks of books at Christmas I thank her for the lifelong gift she gave to me.

Tomorrow, Clyde Ford shares what inspired him to write the book he is most proud of, THE HERO WITH AN AFRICAN FACE.