Murdo girl…Our Magical Christmas Eve

I am going to post “Our Magical Christmas Eve,” which is the story of the wonderful experience of the Sanderson family’s celebrations when I was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. This is my absolute favorite story of my absolute favorite memory. I hope you enjoy it.

Merry Christmas to to my brother Billy, The M.E. and Mary Sanderson family, and cousins everywhere. This story was inspired by a recording of Stephanie Miller-Davis describing her favorite Sanderson family memory.

The first link takes you to my recording of “Our Magical Christmas Eve,” and the 2nd is a slide show of our Christmas Celebrations in the late 50’s and early 60’s

Grandpa Sanderson, Mary Francis with the bow and Stephanie Miller next to Grandpa

Our Magical Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve! I’ve been waiting all December, day after day.

It’s only morning.

So many hours to wait. Mom says don’t wish your life away.

The clock is ticking, but the hands are stubborn and slow.

The sun is shining on drifts of fresh, white, glistening snow.

It’s finally noon.

Mom makes minced ham sandwiches, but I turn up my nose.

Tonight we’ll have real ham sandwiches on little potato rolls.


We’ll eat chips, homemade cookies and fudge. Mom made peanut brittle.

I don’t really like it, but I’ll probably eat just a little.

Grandpa’s car will most likely get here about four- thirty.

I sit by our picture window and watch. I wish he would hurry.

I see his car! He’s wearing his cap with the furry flaps over his ears.

I’m so excited. I run to the door and wait until he appears.

Cousins Terry, and Jeff H. are with him. It’s so cold Grandpa will say, “Whooee!”

They’ll come with boxes to fill with gifts from underneath our Christmas tree.

My brother Billy puts his coat on. They all carry heavy loads to Grandpa’s car.

Off they go to each family’s house. They don’t live too far.


I hate waiting.

Billy is home! He says they had to make two trips and his feet are cold.

I run to to my room and change into my Christmas dress without being told.

We’re almost ready.

It’s time to go. I can’t be still. How much longer will it be?


It’s the beginning of a Sanderson Christmas. It’s magical.. you’ll see.

All the Sanderson families who live real close around,

Take turns hosting Christmas Eve, where love and food abound.

Some go to their Churches first, to sing a Christmas song.

We know the Lutheran’s program will be really long.

I’m glad I’m a Methodist. We had our program last week.

I was nervous. I could sort of sing. I didn’t have to speak.

Everyone will dress up tonight. They’ll wear their best

Pretty skirts, high heels, suits, ties and all the rest.

We’re the Francis family. Our names are Bill, Loretta, Mary and Billy.

We’ll be the first to arrive. We hate being late. Dad thinks that’s silly.

This year, Christmas Eve is at the Miller’s house. We’re on our way.

This is what I’ve waited for all the live long day.

We say Merry Christmas to Aunt Elna, Uncle Jerry, Andrea, Greg, and Stephanie.

I look at all those presents stacked almost as high and wide as I can see.

Uncle Wayne, Aunt Emily, and Terry we know will soon be here.

Uncle Wayne always says, “It looks like it’s been another good year.”

The Sandersons, Aunt Irma, Jeff H., Mark and Uncle Jeff aren’t here yet.

Oh yes! After church, they probably went to get Aunt Tet.

Aunt Tet Sanderson

I’m hungry. I find Mom helping Aunt Elna. I think they’re pretty sisters.

“You should have eaten your minced ham sandwich.” Mom quietly whispers.

Elna Miller, Mom and Dad

We’re all here!

Aunt Irma starts her 8 mm camera. We all squint at hot white lights lined up in a row..

She says we can see ourselves many years from now. I guess that’s good to know.

The gifts from everyone’s house make the biggest tree seem small,

But to all of us excited kids, the tree looks really tall.

The Haverbergs..Aunt Helen, Uncle Bob, Bobby, Blake, Sue, and Trice live in Michigan. Grandpa says that’s a fur piece!

The Leckeys, Aunt Ella, Uncle Al, and Valerie, live in Pittsburg PA. I wish all of them would just come here and stay.

I guess they know we all miss them this time of year.

Grandpa says this coming summer, they’ll all be here.

Grandpa and Grandma Sanderson remind us not by words, but silent smiles,

Our family is together in spirit, and our love travels all those miles.

The younger cousins dress up in sheets that magically transform us

Into cherubs directed by Andrea in a delightful Christmas chorus.


The pictures are taken, the food is eaten, and the time has come.

My cousins and I pass out all the presents one by one.

If they hand me a package, I open it right then and there.

All I can see is smiling faces, and Christmas paper everywhere.


There is only a little time left for my cousins and me to play.

We all say our goodbyes. It’s time to end this live long day.

When we get home, I see my stocking hanging on the fireplace.

I know there’s nothing in it, but I check it just in case.

Santa comes tonight! I hurry off to bed and try to sleep.

I say my prayer and ask the Lord for my soul to keep.

I soon drift off, but I’m awake at four a.m.

Mom and Dad are still sleeping. I don’t wake them.

Billy is sleeping in his room downstairs. I wait for no one, and head for the fireplace.

I look in our stockings filled with candy and nuts, and some oranges to take up space.

It’s still dark, but I can’t wait to see Santa’s gift for me this year.

There she is! Just what I asked for. It’s Suzy! In the darkness I hold her near.

She’s beautiful. Now I wait till it gets light.


I’ll call my cousins to see what Santa brought them in the night. .

In a month or two we might forget all those gifts we couldn’t wait to open.

Years from now

We’ll remember..a magical Sanderson Christmas with gratitude unspoken.


I love this picture of Grandma throwing her head back in laughter at something Andrea, (in the yellow dress), said or did.



In 2009, we all met in Deadwood at Blake and Melanie’s beautiful Martin Mason Hotel for a family reunion prior to visiting Horse Creek. I brought the camcorder Gus had given me to record Mom’s memorial in California. I asked Cousin Valerie and her daughter Caitlin to interview family members about their favorite Sanderson family memories.

Later, as I listened to all the great stories, I was struck by what Stephanie said. She described standing in the kitchen helping her Mom make the little baked ham sandwiches for the Christmas Eve celebration. She looked out the kitchen window and saw Grandpa’s car pull into the driveway. He and some of the older boy cousins were there to bring all the Christmas presents from everyone’s house. She remembered there was a light snow falling. The sun made it glisten. She described the moment as magical.

I’m dedicating this story to Stephanie’s memory. I hope I was able to capture some of the magic we were all so blessed to experience.

Merry Christmas with love,

From Cousin Mary

**I took the stills from a montage of Aunt Irma’s recordings. Thank you for sharing them Mark.**

12 thoughts on “Murdo girl…Our Magical Christmas Eve

  1. scoper07 December 16, 2016 / 4:53 pm

    Wonderful poem Murdo Girl. Nothing like wonderful memories to get one in the Christmas spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lifelessons December 18, 2016 / 5:36 pm

    Hi Mary! I finally found it, but on YouTube! Then after I listened, forgottenman found a link to your blog and sent it to me. I loved hearing your story and window-peeking into your family Christmases. What special times you had with the extended family and it is especially fun to hear all the names of those I knew. What a lot of work you did… Good job! How long did this take you to do? Merry Xmas to you and all the Sanderson/Miller/Francis clan. xoox

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mary Francis McNinch December 18, 2016 / 8:34 pm

      Thanks forgottenman…I emailed my cousins the same link and none have said they had a problem with it. I’m sorry you had to go to so much trouble. I am really not a tech genius by a long stretch, so it most certainly took me longer to put it together than it should have. It’s a story that I’ve thought about for years. Out of the 13 Sanderson grandchildren, we’ve lost one..Stephanie. Aunt Irma, Aunt Elna, and we count Gus, are the only ones of that generation still living. Thank you for reading my way of preserving those times. I hope your big celebration is wonderful. I know it will be. I’ll look forward to seeing the photos. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the DVD’s get to your friend in time. They are easier to see if you adjust most of the color out of the picture. Merry Christmas my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lifelessons December 18, 2016 / 10:20 pm

        I’m sure all your “kin” will treasure your efforts and you know me. I just love to view other people’s lives and your family was such an interesting one. We were sealed up in that tiny town. How could we not know everything about each other? And yet we didn’t.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Mary Francis McNinch December 18, 2016 / 10:41 pm

        I have wondered about that so many times myself Judy. I thought I knew everything about everybody, but I didn’t.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. grinchy44 December 19, 2016 / 8:43 pm

    Great poem and pictures!


  4. Mari Jackson December 23, 2017 / 7:18 pm

    Beautiful memories of a beautiful family.. it’s all so precious now, decades later!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary Francis McNinch December 23, 2017 / 10:18 pm

      I can still feel the magic of those Christmas Eve gatherings, Mari. Merry Christmas to you and Eddie and your family and grandkids. I often think of our time in Murdo and all of the fun we had.


  5. sanjuan831 December 23, 2017 / 10:47 pm

    Wish we could do that kind of Christmas Eve again. Thank you for the wonderful sweet memories.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.