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Another Christmas has come and gone, and before it’s just a blur, I want to reflect on the highlights — good and bad.

This was our year to celebrate at my parents’ house in Jonesboro, which is always fun. My brother and his wonderful family live in Jonesboro, too, so it’s perfect.

My mom always makes everything look so festive, with special touches everywhere, including beautifully decorated Christmas trees that have decades-old family ornaments mixed with new ones.

As I write this, we have been back only one night, and I don’t even have my treasures all unpacked.

It isn’t Christmas until my mother says, “This is a sin,” or a similar sentiment. Our tendency to go overboard on presents is a longstanding tradition that my mother swears every year that we’re going to stop.

My outstanding memories of this holiday include:

• A surprise gift — My husband gave me a beautiful bracelet, while I gave him socks, undershirts, khakis (that didn’t fit) and a fleece pullover. At least I did give him a pair of socks that said Trophy Husband on them.

• Another surprise gift — My brother and his wife and my husband and I went in on a new set of golf clubs for our older son. We gave our granddaughter, Kennedy, a kids set, and my husband included a note for her daddy that he could pick out his own. He was thrilled. Come to find out, he’d wanted a new set for years but hadn’t wanted to ask.

• More surprises — I collect signed books, and my mother got me a signed John Grisham book and a hard-to-find signed book by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. My sister-in-law gave me an awesome piece of artwork from an artist I didn’t know about but now love.

• Most sentimental gift I gave — I spent many hours making a book of photographs of my brother and me through the years. First, I had to look through 275,000 photos to pick the ones I wanted. From me holding him as a toddler to us at his high school, college and med-school graduations and recent photos, I easily filled a book. I titled it, “My brother, my friend.”

• Most sentimental gift I got — My favorite movie is The Shawshank

Redemption, based on a Stephen King novella. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched the film, and my brother loves it, too. When I had thyroid surgery, my brother was in his surgery residency in New York City and came to spend the night with me in the hospital. We watched The Shawshank

Redemption together. He got us matching T-shirts that said “Andy & Red’s Boat Rentals, Zihuatanejo, Mexico.” However, the company said they run small, and they were right. Mine fit “like a wet suit,” as my older son described it. It’s going back for a bigger size.

Also, my son and daughter-in-law got David and me books, “My Grandma” and “My Grandpa,” which have questions about our lives so that Kennedy will understand more about us and who we are. I will try not to embellish.

• The great stocking search — My mother has replaced our stockings a few times over the years as her decorating style has changed, or when we’ve added people to the family. On Christmas Eve, she couldn’t find my husband’s stocking. He got his stuff in a Walmart sack. Don’t feel sorry for him; she helped buy him an Apple watch, and I’m pretty sure she likes him better than she likes me.

• The excitement of children — My nephews exclaimed when they ripped paper off prized presents such as Legos, Paw Patrol and Dude Perfect merchandise. Kennedy hugged her stuffed puppy that came with a kennel and toys and loved using the magic wand to turn the Christmas tree off and on. And it was fun watching them all run and play together.

There was some arguing, but mainly laughter, and sweet kisses from the boys to Kennedy when she cried. She leaned in and gave everybody goodbye kisses and said, “Wuv you.”

My dad taught my younger son, Scott, to make my late Nano’s sour-cream pound cake. It was my son’s idea to learn by his PawPaw’s side, and the cake turned out just perfectly, he said.

I sat by myself with a cup of coffee early Christmas morning, looking at the lighted tree and thinking about how blessed I am to have such a wonderful family.

There are some things that can’t be bought, and those are the best memories of all.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

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