Tahlequah Daily Press

December 24, 2013

Locals recall celebrating family

The final in a three-part series about Christmas wishes

Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — For many people, the most important aspect of celebrating Christmas is paying homage to the birth of Jesus.

Gift-giving is a tradition most everyone appreciates and partakes in to share in the holiday spirit. Mass, nativities and church Christmas programs are also important aspects of many celebrations.

Gathering around the nativity after midnight Mass during childhood is a favorite memory for Kae Jefferson.

“We prayed after my parents told us the story of the birth of Jesus and the Jan. 6 epiphany with the wise men’s arrival with gifts. It was so special and I was awestruck every year,” said Jefferson. “I yearned for Jesus from an early age.”

James Cochran enjoys watching people’s special Christmas happiness and cheer and  remembering the birth of Jesus Christ. Happy memories of Christmas for Cochran always drift to his mom making peanut brittle and baking homemade bread.

“She used to make two or three loaves of bread a week and one sweet loaf with cinnamon,” he said. “I miss the whole Cochran family getting together at Grandma and Grandpa Cochran’s little white farm house for Christmas. It was standing-room-only and wonderful.”

The excitement on his kids’ faces when they come down the stairs to see what Santa left for them also warms his heart.

Blake Cochran, a junior at Tahlequah High School, likes spending time with his family, especially at Christmas.

“It doesn’t matter what we do, it’s always fun,” he said. “Sometimes we go skiing in Colorado, and sometimes we visit grandparents in Arkansas.”

This year, they’re going to Arkansas to see Blake’s mother’s parents.

“I’m glad to go see all of them,” he said. “We watch football, hang out, and my grandma cooks a big meal for the whole family. I like it all!”

His job decorating consists of bringing the boxes of decorations down from the attic, then put them back up.

“My mom and sister do the decorating,” he said.  

Amy Cochran said her mom is really traditional, but Amy likes to blend both traditional and modern traditions.

“Mom always makes the same sugar cookies. She’s made them every single year of my life, and probably before,” Cochran said. “I like to change things up a bit every year, I’ll put the tree in different places. We may open gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. And I change up the decorations. Last year, I had two wreaths on the front doors and this year, two bows, like a present.”

One thing she does every year is emphasize that Christmas is about family.

“My siblings get married, or move, but for me, it’s a time to think of my family,” she said. “I treasure a fourth-generation, small, gold ornament from my great-grandmother.”

Cooking holiday treats is at the top of the list

Cooking treats with her family tops the list for Tiffany Cochran, a freshman at the University of Oklahoma.

“Some of my favorite memories are making caramel with my dad and snow ice cream,” she said. “And when we were small, and lived in the country, he used to pull us behind a tractor in the snow on a big piece of metal from the chicken house.”

Good food, sweet treats and Christmas go together as much as any tradition.

Becky Boney said her family always make cookies.

“We make chocolate chip and sugar cookies and set some out for Santa,” Boney said. “My family meets on Christmas Eve and has ham, mashed potatoes, potato salad, all the good stuff.”

A diamond ring was her favorite gift as a child.

“Granny Vaughn used to send everybody a dollar. She didn’t have a lot of money, but she always remembered us, and we looked forward to getting that dollar,” Boney said. “Mom gave us Lifesaver card books; remember those?”

Many people who received a treasured gift as a child still have that item. Nita Murchison is among that number.

“We moved to Siloam Springs when I was small, around 1933, and mother knew I really wanted a Shirley Temple doll but didn’t know how she was going to afford it,” Murchison said. “Mother went to the store and found one half-price.”

Cheryle Trammel also cherishes a gift from her childhood.

“I have a stuffed poodle I got when I was 6, something I really, really wanted,” Trammel said.

She’s looking forward to watching her grandchildren – Kurt Trammel, 4 and Kannon, 5 – open their presents.

One of Mayor Jason Nichols’ favorite memories is of the music at Christmas.

“When I was 7 or 8, a group came by our house, singing Christmas carols. Mom wrapped us in a blanket and we sat on the porch for about five minutes. I’ve never seen anyone do that since,” he said.

This Christmas will be bittersweet for Dena Hubert. She lost her grandpa in February and her brother last December.

“It’s going to be our last Christmas with grandma, too. She said she just can’t do big Christmas anymore,” Hubert said.

Every Christmas for 45 years, they’ve gone to the home of her grandma and grandpa, Margaret and Sherman Clots. Her grandparents had 22 great-great-grandchildren, and Hubert has four grandchildren.

“The only gifts exchanged were what we brought for our grandparents. It’s what Christmas was meant to be. Grandpa would play guitar and my aunt would play the piano, and we would all sing Christmas carols. The five original kids would talk about favorite stories,” she said.

“Grandpa would sing the Christmas song he learned in California.”