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Christmas Reflections: From the Daily Globe news staff

The Daily Globe news staff (front, from left), Beth Rickers, Erin Trester, Caleb Nelson, Aaron Hagen, (back, from left) Julie Buntjer, Doug Wolter, Ryan McGaughey, Jane Moore and Veasey Conway, don festive Christmas sweaters to get in the mood to write their Christmas reflections. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

ERIN TRESTER, reporter: When I was younger, about 10, my first pet was a Dalmatian named Pepper. Pepper was full of energy, and I remember playing outside with her all the time.

The only problem was she was an outside dog. When my family moved to a different house in town, we didn’t have a large backyard, so we had to sell her. I was devastated, but knew she deserved a home where she could run around and play all the time.

So when Christmas time rolled around, a new puppy was all I wanted. I remember hounding my parents about it every time they asked what I wanted.

When Christmas day finally arrived, I was so sure I would find a puppy with a little bow around its neck. Well, I was sadly mistaken; instead my parents thought it would be funny to get me a stuffed yellow Labrador instead.

I didn’t find the gesture so amusing, but I got many presents that year and was at least happy that I got everything else that I asked for.

Fast forward a month later to a cold January day: My parents told my younger brother and me to hop in the car, but they wouldn’t tell us where we were going.

About four hours later, we arrived at a Labrador farm in northern Minnesota, where we picked up our new family member, a yellow Lab named Trooper.

I remember holding him the whole ride home, beyond thrilled.

Even though I didn’t get my Christmas wish until a little bit later, it was one of the best Christmases ever. Trooper is now 12 years old, an inside dog, and has been a part of my family’s Christmas ever since.

DOUG WOLTER, sports editor: My wife, Sandy, is a wonder during the Christmas season. For as long as we’ve been together, she has taken it upon herself to purchase gifts for parents, daughters, and anyone else on our Santa’s list.

Sandy loves giving, and she’s always been much better than I at choosing gifts. She picks them well, is careful not to overspend, and her gift-wrapping is very professionally done.

I, on the other hand, have always been hit-and-miss when it comes to choosing gifts. I’m not very good about being thrifty about it, either, and my gift-wrapping abilities are suspect.

But since our three daughters were old enough to become skeptical of the Santa Claus story, I’ve made it a point to seek, buy and wrap a special gift for them from myself. It was my way to show them that I’m not being totally oblivious to the joys of giving — at least with my own wonderful daughters.

I’ve hit on some gifts and whiffed on some others. There was the one year Shannon, Kari and Laura were in their teen-age years when I overpaid for personalized shirts, with my pet names for them professionally embossed on the fronts. I was a dumb dad to think they’d actually wear them out in public.

Most of the time they’ve loved the gifts, however. It didn’t matter if I didn’t spend much money on them. The girls simply looked forward to whatever weird, wacky, funny, thoughtful, quirky gift I could come up with, knowing that because of their mother’s can-do gift-giving spirit, I could get away with not giving any gifts if I didn’t want to.

Even now that they’ve got families of their own, the girls still look forward to dad’s Christmas gifts.

They tell me that the terrible job dad does wrapping the gifts is almost as much fun as the gift itself. I’d love to show you a picture, but you’ll just have to use your imagination.

Imagine a lopsided pile of crinkled wrapping paper, and a lot of Scotch tape — applied the way you’d imagine a trained monkey would do it.

JANE TURPIN MOORE, writer: Having an older brother whose appearance, personality, interests and general approach to life rarely resembled mine was challenging at times, to say the least, as I grew up. We were infrequent companions, more likely to avoid each other than seek out one another.

Spending extra time in his vicinity during Christmas holidays from school wasn’t always delightful, either. But the year he was 11 and I was 9, the normally healthy Philip fell ill during December — he just wasn’t himself, and he missed several days of school prior to actual vacation. He suffered with a high, persistent fever and after a while, he began losing weight and was quite lethargic and sleepy. Borderline rheumatic fever was the ultimate diagnosis, and our parents were worried.

Ironically, all I wanted for Christmas was for Philip to be himself again — his taunting, irritating, brash self.

Christmas Eve was a silent night, with Philip too weak and tired to attend church or sing carols with us.

On Christmas morning, our parents helped Philip from his bed to the living room so he could join in opening gifts. Usually rambunctious, loud and full of commentary at that time, I remember him lying languidly on the couch in his navy bathrobe, quiet and pale. When he received his major gift — an acoustic guitar — it looked awkward in his usually capable, confident hands.

A day or two later, Philip’s recovery began in earnest, and he was soon gulping food, learning repetitive guitar riffs and teasing me with his typical spirit.

My Christmas prayer — for him to return to full strength and health — was answered.

AARON HAGEN, community content coordinator: For me, Christmas revolves around church. As the son of a Lutheran pastor, we were involved in many church activities. Many times we would go to multiple Christmas Eve services with a quick supper in between.

As I got older, Christmas meant decorating the tree in our fellowship hall. As a member of Luther League — our high school group — we would be responsible to hang lights and ornaments on what I remember to be a massive tree. We had a large hall with a tall ceiling, meaning we needed a tall tree.

The church I spent my high school years had a Danish tradition of dancing around the tree and singing. That meant people were going to spend quite a bit of time looking at this tree.

One of my best friends, Travis, and I always had fun decorating. We had pretty much free reign to do whatever we wanted with this tree, but there was one rule. We couldn’t put anything breakable on the tree. For safety reasons, we didn’t want broken ornaments lying around.

Well, how do you find out if things are breakable?

You try to break them.

We went through a few ornaments doing this. Because of the height of the tree, we would have to use a ladder to get to the very top. At times, ornaments would fall from those heights. We found out pretty quickly if they were breakable. We always had a broom and dust pan on hand to clean up our mess.

I’ll never forget the fun we would have decorating that tree — and testing the ornaments’ breakability — but each year, it was a time of celebration and friendship.

JULIE BUNTJER, reporter: Christmas has always been a magical time of the year for me.

Growing up on the farm with an older brother, an older middle brother and a younger brother, I think back to the times when we all shared a large bedroom in the upstairs of our family’s old, two-story farmhouse during the winter months.

It was such a cold house, and my parents reasoned that keeping us all in one room would make it bearable to sleep under layers of blankets and quilts.

Well, come Christmas Eve, we were all too excited to fall asleep. We’d talk about Santa Claus and Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer, and wonder how long it would take for the sleigh to get to our house south of Worthington.

It became a contest of sorts to see who could stay awake the longest. And you can be sure, if one kid heard even the faintest sound of reindeer footprints on the roof overhead, the rest of the siblings would be woken up and told about it.

What were our parents thinking, letting us sleep in the upstairs on Christmas Eve? We were the ones closest to the roof!

Just as there was a contest to see who could stay up late enough to actually hear Santa Claus’ arrival, there was also an unspoken contest to see who could wake up the earliest on Christmas morning.

I’m sure there were a few years when the folks told us to “Go back to bed!”

One year, however, they were waiting for us as my brothers and I emerged down the creaky, wooden staircase. Mom snapped a photo of us in our homemade velour, footed pajamas (Jason was in the lead in green, Randy in brown and I in burgundy ... Kevin was too old for homemade velour, footed pajamas, but followed up the rear.)

 That photo is now in my collection and makes me smile. I look pretty cranky. I don’t know if it’s because I got the least amount of sleep, or that my younger brother was the first one down the staircase!

BETH RICKERS, features editor: I’m not sure what instigated this conversation, but a friend recently told me she’s spooked by the Elf on the Shelf. She described its effect on her as similar to being freaked out by the image of a clown.

 I was somewhat taken aback by this statement, as the Elf is a warm reminder of a holiday decoration that adorned my childhood home.

Elf on the Shelf, for those who may have missed this marketing phenomenon, is a doll figure that is “adopted” by a family and serves as a special scout from the North Pole, returning there each night to report to Santa. Each morning, the elf returns to its family and perches in a different place, waiting for the children in the family to find it. Elf on the Shelf has a variety of tie-ins — books, clothes, accessories, etc.

This modern-day elf has an old-fashioned look, however, and could pass as the offspring of a bit larger elf that once graced the stairway of our Galena Street home during the holiday season. When wound up, Elfie (I can’t remember if we actually gave him a name), played a Christmas tune, and his head and body moved to the music.

On second thought, the jerky way the elf doll moved was a bit creepy.

But whenever I spy an Elf on the Shelf, I miss old Elfie. I’m not sure what happened to that particular holiday decoration (he probably quit working and was relegated to the garbage can or a garage sale), but he certainly figures prominently in my childhood Christmas memories, just as the Elf on the Shelf does for children today.

RYAN MCGAUGHEY, managing editor: A friend from college once put what I saw as a curse on me. “You’ll drop your first born,” she predicted.

At the time, I thought she’d probably be right. I was, after all, a bit on the high-energy and spastic side — and that was before I began drinking coffee regularly. Her words, sad to say, echoed in my mind during my goddaughter’s baptism, an occasion upon which I declined numerous offers to hold her.

Then, nine years ago today, I had a first-born child. I will always recall taking her into my arms, ever so tentatively at first, and then within moments having that feeling of holding her be one of the most comfortable sensations I’ve ever felt.

Grace and my wife arrived home from the hospital on Dec. 24 — Christmas Eve. Our home was fully decorated for the holiday, and I will never forget having Grace in my arms and slow-dancing with her around the living room to Christmas music while her eyes gazed into the colored lights. It was Christmas. I was a dad. Talk about magical and memorable.

Shortly thereafter, I was given a T-shirt with a photograph of that very first daddy-daughter dance. The shirt’s worn out now, but the image remains as clear as ever. It returns vivdly every Christmas, as I’m sure it will for countless Christmases to come.