SIKESTON - There's always that one Christmas that stands out above the rest, a special memory that will last a lifetime.
For Lena Matthews, it was the year she received a doll and a doll baby buggy.
The youngest of seven children, Matthews said the family didn't have a Christmas tree. It was the steps to the house she still lives in, that were symbolic.
The children would have to stay in bed until morning, recalled 92-year-old Matthews. She slept downstairs when she was young and would hear her parents quietly call off the names of the children as they put each person's gifts by the steps where the stockings were hung.
"Then in the morning we would run down and get them," she said. "In the night I never got up because I knew better, so I would wait until morning. I remember a ring in my stocking one year. I was so surprised!"
Wendi Limbaugh had a tough time narrowing her special Christmas memories down to just one.
"My family really gets into the season and Christmas spirit," explained the 29-year-old. "My mom and dad do everything to make every Christmas one we won't forget."
But if she had to name a single Christmas she said it would have to be the traditional Christmas present everyone opens Christmas eve after church and the family dinner.
"Our Christmas PJs," smiled Limbaugh. "We all wear them to bed and mom takes our picture in the morning. I am the oldest of six kids so the picture is always funny - eight people with bed heads and matching PJs! I don't think I will soon forget this and now all of us girls are married with children so our Christmas picture is a lot bigger - about 15 bed heads," she quipped.
"I don't think Christmas has anything to do with money or what you get. Christmas is about Christ being born for us, about family and all their love and about what you give out of love for others. I hope someday Christopher, my son, will remember what Russ and I do to make Christmas special for him, just like my mom and dad have done for me."
Heather Payne's most memorable Christmas was in 1980 when the family moved to the Caribbean. Living on an island, she pointed out, there weren't many presents to be had.
"The people who lived in the house before us had left a silk tree in a box. We had to wash it and hang it out on a line," laughed 32-year-old Payne who was age 10 at the time. "It was one of those trees with all the pieces. We made velvet bows because we didn't have any ornaments. After we opened what little presents we had we went to the beach and had lunch. My mom still has pictures of that tree hanging out on the line."
It was the silver Christmas tree in her grandparents' home that Anne Berbling remembers. Describing the pair as a very modern couple in the early 1960s, the tree featured a revolving colored reflector that changed the tree from blue to red to green to gold.
"It was decorated with only uniform red glass ornaments and I would spend all day when I visited them replacing the boring plain ornaments with Grandma's pretty glass ornaments, clusters of grapes and things," said Berbling. "I must have been about four. Grandpa would 'fix' my decorating back to the proper plain ones later. I never knew how that happened at the time. I don't know what happened to my grandma's ornaments, but I think that's why I love the gorgeous Radko blown glass ornaments available now."
Berbling says it was always officially Christmas to her when the lights went up at the Bloomfield Courthouse and along Main Street. She recalls the strings of lights draped from the edges of the courthouse, all the way around the building and across the street leading up to it.
"You have to go up a slight hill when approaching the courthouse from the front and when it would come into sight, I was always absolutely in awe," Berbling said. "It was gorgeous. The downtown looked like a fairyland and I never got tired of seeing it. They don't do it anymore, I but still have to look every year to see if just maybe..."