For as long as I can remember, we've celebrated Christmas in all its grandeur, with baby Jesus, the Bible Christmas story, children's Christmas programs at church, choir cantatas and Santa's big gifts.


We've enjoyed traditions that were mostly created by my mother, like fruit cakes, Russell Stover's candies,  hard ribbon candy in our stockings, along with Avon bubble bath.

Mama WAS Santa in our house and we never missed a Christmas without her playing the part.  Presents all wrapped up under the tree and the big Santa gift for which we'd stay up all night waiting for the chance to sneak into the living room and see.  Did the jolly good guy bring us what we asked for?

Most of the time, the answer was yes.

And all of the time there was a huge Christmas dinner fit for royalty.  Either a turkey with all the trimmings or a ham with sweet potato casserole if we'd had turkey for Thanksgiving.  There were always desserts and scrumptious fruit salads.

We even remembered to leave Santa a plate of cookies and some milk.

My mother left us a couple of years ago, in fact, this will be only our second Christmas without her.  But the baton has been passed to my sister, Laurie who is two years older than me.  She continues all the traditions Mama started, only we have a new one now. Visiting Mama's grave at the cemetery in Alabama.

If she were here this year, I'd tell her all about Operation Santa Claus, and how the people of Shreveport-Bossier came to the rescue of 975 children and provided toys that only Santa could have brought.

I'd tell her about visiting Shriner's and Christus Schumpert Sutton's Children's Hospitals Shreveport with the police, fire and sheriff's departments, and Santa, delivering toys to children and putting smiles on the little one's faces.

I'd tell her this year's Operation Santa Claus has changed the way I think about Christmas. It's still all about giving, but now it's about giving to others in need.

Mama gets to spend Christmas with Jesus himself, the person whose supernatural visit to earth changed the world.  She gets to hear the real Angels sing on high,  and visit with her mother,  who left us in June and other family members who've passed over.

But even though she's no longer physically with us at Christmas time, she's still very much with us in spirit and in our hearts and memories.

Her traditions have become ours, and someday our children will pass them along to their children.  Only this time, Operation Santa Claus will be right in there with the services at church and the stockings hanging by the chimney with care.

I wish you a Merry Christmas with these pictures of the Shreveport Fire truck loaded down with the toys you donated and bought for Operation Santa Claus. Toys that are headed to all those 975 good girls and boys in Shreveport-Bossier that were needy this year.


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