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Wendy Wustenberg has a kindergarten art project that she can't throw away. Her snowman, made of styrofoam and construction paper, always sat on her mom's kitchen windowsill in Faribault. When Wustenberg grew up, she was embarrassed by the homemade ornament, but her mother cherished it. Wustenberg lost her mother to breast cancer seven years ago. By then she had two children with art projects of their own. But she displays the homely snowman in memory of her mother, "who was a master at loving school art projects, children, learning and life. May your homes be cluttered with the gifts of young artists this holiday season."
When Linda Krienke's husband, Howie, was a child, his family's holiday decorations included a plastic church that lit up and played "Silent Night." "After his parents died, the family decided he should have it, since he became a pastor," she wrote. Krienke keeps the little church up all year in her Minnetonka home, inspired by a sermon Howie once preached: "that we should leave one decoration up to remind us of Christmas all year long."
Stephanie Yant's most cherished ornament has a tragic story. In 1976, Yant was a college student on her way to Key West, Fla., for the holidays. Her parents met her plane in Miami, but on the way back down the Keys, their car was hit head-on by a drunk driver. Yant's mother was killed instantly, while Yant and her father were severely injured. Both spent weeks in the hospital. When they returned home, there were gifts waiting under the tree, including a colorful bird ornament, chosen by her mother, along with a note reminding her to never forget Christmas 1976. "This note and ornament has become a cherished, but sad piece of my past and is the first ornament to be placed on our family's tree every year," she wrote.
Kathleen Dreis Lange's Christmas memories include shopping at the Five and Dime on 48th and Chicago with her sister, Wendy, and brother, Tim. They would pool their money and spend hours discussing the perfect gifts for their parents. But one year, "Tim broke rank and decided to buy something for Mother on his own. My sister and I were aghast! What! The three of us not give Mother her annual gift of Maybelline Cake Mascara and Brush in the little red plastic case?" Tim could not be deterred and proceeded to buy the cardboard Santa and sleigh, marked 39 cents on the bottom, with six tiny reindeer, which their mother displayed every Christmas. Lange's father, mother and brother are all gone now, but she has continued the tradition in memory of her loved ones and Christmases past. She included a postscript: "Little did we know ... my Mother did not wear mascara."