Christmas tree lights, out of focus

Christmas lights on tree, out of focus (Image Source / December 21, 2012)

Books often play a big role in people's holiday memories. Some of us receive a gift book that becomes a cherished memento or starts us on a lifelong love of reading. Or a family reads a certain book each year as part of their holiday traditions. We asked you to share some of these memories with us, and so many of you responded that we won't be able to publish everything. What follows is an edited sampling of your heartfelt comments. Thank you for gifting us with your memories.

Pam Becker, Tribune Newspapers

Long-lost treasure: For most Italian families, Christmas Eve has always been the biggest night of the year; 1943 was no different. As tradition went, gifts were opened after midnight; that was when my sister and I opened our big gifts. I was 7 years old that Christmas, and my sister was 3.

On Christmas morning we would get books, small gifts and candy in our stockings. That year we received two special books: "The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams and "Little Sunny Stories" by Johnny Gruelle. My mother read these stories to us almost every night.

When I got old enough to read, I read them so often, I had them memorized. When I was 16, we moved to a two-flat; our dolls and storybooks were put into a large trunk in the basement and were soon forgotten.

In 1961, my husband, three little boys and I moved to the first floor of that house; my parents still lived on the second floor. I remembered the books and wanted to read them to my family. The trunk was still in the basement; however, when I opened it, it was empty. My mother said she got rid of all that junk. I was heartbroken.

Through the years I searched for "Little Sunny Stories" in bookstores, flea markets and thrift shops to no avail. ("The Velveteen Rabbit" was a classic that I could buy anywhere.)

Two years ago, on Christmas Eve, my second son told me he had a surprise for me. Everyone watched while I opened his present. When I tore off the paper and opened the box, there was the book, "Little Sunny Stories." He had found it on the Internet. Sixty-seven years after receiving the first copy, I received a second copy of my beloved lost book.

— Carmelita Rock, LaPorte, Ind.

A cup of Christmas kindness: One of my favorite Christmas books is "A Cup of Christmas Tea" by Tom Hegg, illustrated by Warren Hanson. My late husband read about this book, and we decided we would like to have it. So my husband gave it to me for Christmas 1982.

It is a beautiful, simple story of a reluctant nephew who is invited by his great-aunt to visit and have a cup of Christmas tea. The text consists of short rhymes on each page, accompanied by lovely small watercolor pictures.

As I read it, even today, it touches my heart for the elderly who live limited physical lives but still eagerly show interest in everything, and it's positive and encouraging. His visit brought back his memories of the sights and smells of Christmas past. He sees the real "Christmas miracle" of a soul who keeps Christmas deep within — a great-aunt whose body, though nearly spent, is yet whole and eager to chat and share a cup of Christmas tea.

— Dorothy Koopman, Western Springs

Adventure ahead: When I was about 10 and already indulging my love of reading mysteries, there was a purple, flowered suitcase with my name on it under the tree. It was really heavy. When I undid the zipper and lifted the cover, I found a dozen yellow, hardcover Nancy Drew books! To this day I remember the thrill of that sight, knowing hours of adventure and intrigue were waiting for me.

Nearly 50 years on, that gift remains my best-ever Christmas gift. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

P.S. I still have those books.

— Kate Fellowes, Cudahy, Wis.

A boy and his dog: When I was a girl of 7 or 8, I received a book for Christmas titled "A Dog of Flanders" by Marie Louise De La Ramee. I loved that book! My mother read it to me over and over until I learned to read it myself; every time I read it I cried. It is the story of Nello, a young Flemish boy, and his beloved dog, Patrasche, who live in Antwerp, Belgium. It is also a story of faith, love, kindness, poverty, cruelty and redemption. As our family grew, I shared this book with each of my eight children, who love it just as much.

Seventy-five years later I still have that book. Several years ago the book was made into a movie, and I attended the Saturday matinee, which was full of children. I sat in the back row all by myself — and, yes, I cried.

— Dee Lisy, Westchester