Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

From your friends at IronGate Creative.

— An IronGate Creative Christmas story —

Well folks, it’s that time of year again! And to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, we here at IronGate Creative would like to share our favorite Christmas traditions and most memorable moments of the season. So get comfy, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and curl up with our stories. And once you’ve let us babble on about our Christmas memories, please tell us yours!

Jeff Huffine

What were my parents thinking? They wrapped all my Christmas gifts in one box! Granted, it was a tough year for my laid-off factory working father, but they could have individually wrapped that pair of jeans, socks and a shirt. I was only 10 years old at the time – old enough to know there wasn’t a Santa Clause. Still, I was young enough to anticipate a fun gift like a toy or at the very least multiple crappy gifts. (And guess what? I still do at age 50!)

I can distinctly remember being upset with my Dad and Mom that particular Christmas morning. After all, economics is a hard lesson for a little boy, especially on Christmas. It wasn’t until I was a grown man that I fully realized the lessons of that experience, which taught me that a parent has to take care of the essentials first - and that means clothing and feeding their children.

It seems at Christmas time everyday struggles become heightened. And while the anticipation of Christmas builds for many people, there are those who view this time of year in an altogether different light. They are the parents who can’t afford to buy presents for their children. Did you ever wonder why little Johnny comes to school and tells your child or another little boy or girl that Santa Claus doesn’t exist? Maybe it’s because Johnny is bitter from the harsh realities of the world and that he had no gifts – not even a pair of pants - on Christmas morning. We’re talking about protecting the innocence of our children. Experiencing hard things at a young age can build true character or it can scar you for life.

For me, there was a Santa Clause that year when I was 10 years old. It came in the form of an anonymous gift that I received later in the morning. A kind neighbor or relative who knew about our family’s situation had taken the time to give me a special toy. I was excited and surprised by that thoughtful gift.

This holiday season I ask that you bring the same excitement to someone by adopting a needy family or child. Your act of love and generosity will be the greatest gift of all.

May God bless you and your family.

Here are some possible organizations that can help:

Jeff Huffine and family.
From left to right: Colleen, Willie (father), Jeff, Becky, Charolette, Bill, Naomi, Bob, Denny and Lucille (mother).
Jeff Huffine and family.
From left to right: Shawn, Raeshelle, Alivia, Trey, Stacie, Amanda, Jake, Jeff.
Jeff Huffine mug shot

Jeff Richards

To be honest, my Christmas memories all run together. Sure, I have lots of good ones. Memories of getting up at 5 am, running into mom and dad's room to wake them up…looking for approval to open those gifts. All the decorations, presents and good food. Going to grandmas and playing with cousins…all great stuff.

But the one thing that stands out is my grandma reading from the bible. After we would eat…and prior to any opening of gifts, she would make us all sit down to hear the news….the good news. She would read the 2nd chapter of Luke, verses 1 - 20. And when the kids were old enough, she would have us read the story. At the time, it was just a long painful delay….another hurdle in the way of the toys. But she made us fully aware that this day was a birthday celebration.

I've never asked, but I'm guessing my great grandma read that story on Christmas day to my grandma too. Decades later, my mom does the same thing. My boys are just beginning their turns at the birthday story. I'm pretty sure they feel the same way I did. Reading and hearing the words, but not fully grasping the implication or appreciating the moment. That will come in time.

For now, I'm going to enjoy these moments. And, guess what I'm going to do before letting our grandkids open up any gifts…

Hope you enjoy the birthday party.

Jeff Richards and sister, Michelle
Jeff and older sister, Michelle.
Jeff Richards
Jeff and his Grandma Carr.

Pete Schaffner

The year was 1989. I was two, and that adorable sister of mine (the one in the sailor suite to the right) wasn't yet a twinkle in my parents eyes. Times were tough in the Schaffner household, and it was looking like baby Pete wasn't going to have much of a Christmas. Now granted I was two and probably too young to know the difference, but that goes against the warm and inspiring nature of this story. So imagine how heartbroken I was at the prospect of a barren Xmas tree; I digress…

The stage was set for a humble Christmas. So my father, out of some impulse surely driven by the feeling of hope that surrounds the holidays, decided to purchase a scratch-off lottery ticket on his way home from work. And wouldn't you know, it was a $500 winner! Crazy right!?

Anyway, Dad ran home, grabbed Mom, and set out to fill the space surrounding that pine tree with toys and other wondrous things. Oh, it was a glorious Christmas indeed (or so I'm told)! Again, I was two, and really only concerned with petting our cat Maggie. Regardless, a little holiday miracle had found its way into our home that year.

Now if it sounds as if this story were written tongue-in-cheek, you would be spot-on… I always put my tongue there while musing. But even if the story was false, thats not what matters. What matters is that holiday spirit that helps to keep hope alive and families pulled tightly together. I'm not a religious man, but I do believe in emotion (or the human spirit), and the power that it has. In fact I feel it now as I write these words, pulling on my heartstrings.

And with that, I wish you a beautiful holiday season.

Pete and younger sister Jessica
Pete and younger sister, Jessica
Pete Schaffner

Dustin Carpenter

Everyone should have a hero. When I was a kid, mine was Evel Knievel aka “Evil da Evil”. I remember one year I received an electric toothbrush shaped like a rocket and it came with a big ramp that it rested on. While it wasn’t a motorcycle, it had “Evil da Evil’s” picture on it and I had to have it. I learned later in life that I caused a few headaches by insisting I sleep with the box it came in.

That Christmas morning was like many others, sleepy parents tending to overly excited kids and a mountain of wrapping paper carelessly thrown about. I began with my pile of goodies and revealed the toys that would stick in my memory for years. Operation, Stretch Armstrong, Stretch Monster ( the jelly inside is a ruby color and smells funny if you are wondering), Mr. Potato Head, a wind-up motorcycle jump ramp, and of course my new toothbrush!

As most kids will tell you, I was perfectly content to spend the morning in my underwear. But then it happened. I found the package that had my very own Evil Kneival jumpsuit! Of course, when receiving a gift such as this, the only rational thing to do is strip off any and all clothing and immediately put it on. I am pretty sure if I had not outgrown it, I would still be wearing it today.

Looking back at photos from that morning, I realize now how much fun being a kid was. I had no worries, bills, or responsibilities. Having grown up and acquired these nasty things, I can better appreciate what my parents did for me. Jumpsuits, Molded plastic and the smelly jelly insides of monsters didn’t make my Christmas morning that day...My parents did. They gave that little boy what they knew would make him happy. They did it because they wanted to. They did it for me.

Dustin with younger brother Rhett, and father Rod.
Left to right: Rod, Rhett, Dustin, and Mr. Potato Head.
Dustin Carpenter

Christine Bradway

I am still a kid when it comes to Christmas, especially Christmas Eve. Years and years after I have learned the sad truth about Santa, I continue to find myself unable to sleep. I do realize that at 23 years old, not being able to sleep on Christmas Eve might sound a little silly. You would think that this heightened sense of excitement during Christmastime would have dwindled by now, or at least a little bit, but nope. It’s like I still have that feeling I did the year of My Size Bride Barbie. I woke up in the middle of the night and slipped out my bedroom door to catch a glimpse of all the presents under the tree. When, what to my wondering eyes should appear... you guessed it, a My Size Bride Barbie! Wearing a wedding dress and all! My parents woke later that morning to find that I had already spotted the doll and swapped her outfits. They had no idea they would wake up to their four-year-old daughter dressed for her wedding that Christmas!

I love almost everything about the Christmas season - the family gatherings and traditions, the movies and music, the lights and decorations, and just the coziness of it all.The days building up to it are nearly the best part with the anticipation of what is to come. However, I have seen the stress that this time of year causes many people and I realize some aren't as fortunate as others. Through growing up and seeing just how blessed I am, it reminds me to cherish what I do have and to be sure and not take a moment for granted, especially now.

So this year, just like every year, I am going to remember what's important. But that’s not to say that I will probably still get more excited than any 23-year-old should. I will put up the tree and decorations and sit and marvel at all the lights because Christmas lights are one of the best things ever! I will fight the hustle and bustle with my family as we shop for the perfect Christmas gifts. I will listen to Christmas music every chance I get and will stop to watch any and every Christmas classic on TV. I may even play the scene from Meet Me in St. Louis where Judy Garland's character sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" over and over again and enjoy it every single time. And this year, just like every year when Christmas Eve finally rolls around, I will go to my grandparents where we will eat delicious food and enjoy one of the most wonderful nights of the year together. After we all slowly leave with arms full of popcorn balls and some of the coolest stocking stuffers (like Great Grandma’s china or Grandma’s gloves), my family will head home where we will put on our comfy PJs and curl up to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. Once our eyes grow heavy, we will head to bed and fall fast asleep. Who am I kidding? I have never fallen fast asleep! After tossing and turning and trying to will myself into not caring that it’s Christmas Eve (I’m too old for that kind of stuff, right?), the morning will finally arrive. And this year, just like every year, my sister and I will tiptoe down the stairs with our gifts for Mom and Dad and place them with the others under the tree. Nat King Cole will croon about chestnuts roasting on an open fire as we sit and watch each other open our gifts, and the dog and cat will wallow around with the boxes and paper littering the floor as if they were the sole reason we unwrapped all those boxes in the first place. Later we will prepare for another family gathering where we’ll consume more delicious food, play Balderdash where Grandpa will probably win (again), and there will no doubt be a lot of laughter. I will appreciate what the holidays are all about - spending time with the ones you love.

I do realize that I'm not always going to spend Christmas Eve at my parent's house and that at 23 years old I may be pushing it as is. I will eventually have a family of my own, and we will make our own Christmas memories. But until then, this year, just like every year I will look around me and feel grateful for the people in my life who have helped make my own Christmas memories so wonderful.

Christine Bradway
Christine eating Santa's beard.
Christine Bradway

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