Mom in her rose-bud flannel pajamas. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Mom in her rose-bud flannel pajamas. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Hummel figurine Mom got in Germany in 1970.

Hummel figurine Mom got in Germany in 1970.

One of the hand-stitched wall hangings Mom made for each of us.

One of the hand-stitched wall hangings Mom made for each of us.

Dear Mom,

A Christmas tradition in our family is to watch the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.  There are many memorable lines, but one of my favorites is the blessing Mary Bailey gives to a family as they move into their little house .

The couple stands at the threshold of their new home, and she presents them with three things: “Bread, that this house may never know hunger. Salt, that life may always have flavor. Wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”

Three genuine, inexpensive and heartfelt gifts ~ perfect blessings to be incorporated in a Christmas movie.

Bread, salt and wine…and in our family, after a big  Christmas dinner with special dishes we all love, we also have a specific dessert: Birthday cake with white icing and candles. We sing “Happy Birthday” to the Baby Jesus, and the kids make the wishes and blow out the candles.

We don’t have an abundance of commercial decorations or give extravagant gifts. In addition to lights, a tree is decorated with homemade and collectible ornaments, a poinsettia plant or two adorn tables, and maybe a fresh wreath with a red velvet ribbon hangs at the front door. The Hummel figurine of the Christ Child and little animals sits on the mantel. Each family still has a handmade wall hanging you stitched for us almost thirty years ago: “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him.”

The gifts are often practical, personal, and memorable. This year, Mom, your ten-year-old great-granddaughter, Grace, gave you flannel pajamas that match hers, so you can be slumber party buddies even though you live two hundred miles apart. I let you open this one present early. The night was cold and dreary, and you snuggled under the blankets wearing your rose-bud jammies while Grace wore hers and snuggled under the blankets on her own bed.

And–spoiler alert, so we won’t let Grace see this post until after Christmas–she’ll be receiving a pink pillow made from one of her favorite T-shirts. Zoey was the kids’ little pug dog who died several years ago, and Grace’s T-shirt was her favorite because it looked just like Zoey. Now the memories will sweeten Grace’s dreams as this pillow joins the others she’s received as presents. Brother Gannon’s favorite sports sweatshirts will be his new pillows.

Maybe Christmas, the Grench thought, doesn’t come from a store.  ~ Dr. Seuss

In our family, Mom, we would say that the Grench is absolutely right.

Grace's pillow gift of her dog Zoey.

Grace’s pillow gift of her dog Zoey.

Poinsettias are the December flowers of choice.

Poinsettias are the December flowers of choice.



Filed under "Christmas Memories With Mom", Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, sewing, special quotations, spending time with kids, Things to be thankful for

74 responses to “BREAD, SALT AND WINE

  1. What a lovely post – full of wonderful ideas from remote / virtual pajama parties, new home blessings and proof that Christmas doesn’t come from a store! Thank you and I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas. 🙂 Helen

    • Thank you, Helen. Our area is predicted to have freezing rain turning to blowing snow later today, so we’ll probably have a cold, white Christmas. But we’ll all be together, so it will be wonderful, too.
      Merry Christmas to you, too!

  2. Lovely traditions – I love the idea of the grandchildren’s pillows. The Hummel figure? Has just brought back a memory for me of one my Mum had – of a little boy walking along carrying a large bag. We had wonderful times with him – imagining what was inside that bag. Wishing you and your Mom and all your family, a very Happy Christmas. ‘See’ you in the New Year xx

    • Oh, I’ve seen that Hummel figure, and your game of guessing what was in the bag is wonderful! Until recently, I hadn’t realized the Hummel creator was a Catholic nun. Now, seeing the woman’s touch explains the children’s sweet faces and playful poses. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Jenny!

  3. Don

    The simplicity of your celebration is touching, Marylin. That blessing you shared from the movie is wonderful. So simple yet so profound. The humanity of your posts always shine through in such a remarkable manner. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Don. This Christmas has been extra special. After Mom’s hip surgery in September and the recuperation period, she actually seems more energetic and happier now. To see her enjoy the pajamas from her great-granddaughter was a true ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ moment.

  4. Oh dear Marylin, what a beautiful post, written with such love for all your family and showing the true meaning of this Christmas time as spent with family and loved ones – and most certainly not from a shop 🙂
    How lovely does your mom look in her rose-bud flannel PJs, and to know that her great-grandaughter has the same ones too, what a gorgeous photo of her, she looks so happy and cosy! One year I gave my mum, daughter and I matching red flannel PJs with reindeer on them and we wore them until lunch time 🙂

    The wall hanging that your mom made is exquisite and the most beautiful Christmas decoration to grace your home with. You mom is one talented lady! I still hang homemade decorations that my children made for me so many years ago on the tree every year! It’s the best part!

    I’m so glad that I was able to read your post before signing off until the new year so that I can wish you, your mom and all your family a very Happy Christmas (as we say over here!) filled with joy, love and laughter and a New Year filled with every blessing. It’s been a joy to meet you Marylin, to read your blog and to be able to share with you this journey. ‘See’ you in 2014 🙂

    • I love the story about you, your mother and your daughter wearing red flannel PJs until lunch time! It’s memories like those that we hang on to.
      It’s be delightful getting to know you this year, Sherri, and I look forward to reading your posts and hearing about your writing progress in 2014. Merry Christmas and a very happy, successful New Year!

  5. Wishing you all many blessings for the Christmas season. The way you celebrate the birth of Christ sounds lovely; warm and full of love for each other and the baby who is the reason for the party 🙂

  6. As sweet a story of family traditions as is possible to be Marylin. You have exceptional memories to carry forward generation by generation.
    May you all have a Wonderful Christmas and a great New Year.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

  7. I love that Grace and her great-grandma are slumber-buddies!

    What a lovely post, evoking what’s important about Christmas. Very touching!

    • Thanks, Tracy. How’s that embroidered table cloth coming along…or is that not a good question to ask during the last minute Christmas details?
      May your Christmas be bright and beautiful!

      • Might actually make it (this year) for the table cloth; it’s 3/4 done (and I’m a quick stitcher…)

        But I have knitted hats to finish for gifts (and the cloth is not designated as a gift…)

        It might have to wait until next year. Because I just can’t bring myself to get in the mood of stitching Christmas themes in Jully. (Next year, for sure.
        so maybe she’ll be a 4-year project)

      • I agree. It would be hard for me to do a Christmas pattern in July. But when it IS finished–even if it’s a 4-year project–please, please post a picture!

  8. A very moving post and one that reflects the true spirit of Christmas. I hope it is a happy and peaceful one for you all.

  9. Lovely letter to your Mom. I think your family has really captured the spirit of Christmas family time. It seems your Mom was the source of much wisdom.
    Have a blessed time

  10. Amy

    That is a pretty flannel pajamas, I love your Mom’s smile! A beautiful letter to your Mom. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Marylin!

    • She wasn’t sure why she had a present–even with the lighted Christmas tree she doesn’t really understand–but when she put on the pajamas she understood how good they felt. It was an early Christmas for me, just watching her.
      Merry Christmas to you and yours, too, Amy.

  11. Such great memories. It’s wonderful that great grandchildren are kept connected with your mother, especially when they don’t live close.

    • And you know, Kate, they really do step up and connect through writing her letters, visiting, and making things for her. That was why I began this blog, so they would understand and appreciate their great-grandmother before the dementia, and their responses have been beautiful.

  12. Shared family traditions are such a gift and though your mom may not be totally aware of them now, she was part of their creation. Slumber buddies….I love it!

    • It is cute, Lulu. Grace is only ten, and her brother is nine, but they create loving and sweet things for their great-grandmother. They’re children but already creating their own traditions and memories. I love it.

  13. Your mom looks so happy in her new flannels…that smile is what is all about, and you are so right, it is not the expense or size of the gift that matters. Yes, and poinsettias are just the brightest winter flower! I have lots of silk ones about, but can’t give living ones either. Our local Lowe’s store has already done 50% on beautiful ones. For mere $3.00 each, I toted in a couple more before last night’s rain and ice again. Wish I send one over to your house this morning!

    • That’s so sweet, Claudia. Thank you. Are you getting this ice and snow yet? Southeast Kansas, or at least as I remember it growing up, could have some impressive ice storms. Though once when I was eight or so, we had 26″ of snow, and that was quite an adventure.
      Merry Christmas, Claudia!

  14. Jim

    Circumstances didn’t allow GracieBeth to go along with her mom on the most recent drive to visit her great-grandma Mary. Grace felt pretty bad about it. She did indeed come up with the idea of connecting at distance to Mary by wearing those rose-bud flannel jammies on the same night. Pretty creative and thoughtful kiddo, I would say.

  15. juliabarrett

    Just watched the movie last night, Marylin – I’m glad your mother is doing a little better. She’s such a lovely woman. Merry Christmas!

    • Thank you, Julia. She is really doing better. Maybe it’s the extra oxygen from the daily walks as part of her physical therapy, but her color is better and she’s interacting more. And the cuddly pajamas from Grace made her very happy.
      Merry Christmas to you, your family, and Jake!

  16. Thank you so much for sharing your family’s Christmas traditions, Marylin. We, too, watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and try to keep things simple. There is a BIG stockpot under the Christmas tree for me…I love to make soups and my old pot just was not big enough…especially since we now have our daughter and grandson to share the dinner table with us most nights. Have a beautiful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    • Colorado’s loss was New Hampshire’s gain, Vivian. I know how special this is for you, to have your daughter and grandson at the dinner table with you most nights. It IS a wonderful life, and we wish you all a joyous Christmas!

  17. How lovely to read about your family traditions. Years ago, our daughter bought us a video of It’s A Wonderful Life. As you point out, the story embodies much of what’s important at this time of year–family, simplicity, and peace. To remember what Christmas is all about in the midst of all this commercialism is a gift you and your mother are continuing to give to the younger members of your family. Yesterday, our 17 year old grandson was over to help me make Christmas sugar cookies. We’ve been cutting out and decorating them every year since he was three. The fact he still wants to do them with me, with Christmas carols playing in the background, is a joy I can’t describe. We’re hoping our other daughter and family (two granddaughters) can make it out here on the 23rd for celebrations, as the youngest came down with chicken pox three days ago. Merry Christmas Marylin to you and your family and all the best in the New Year.

    • Diana, if a 17-year-old grandson still wants to make Christmas sugar cookies with his grandmother, then that grandmother is a very special, wonderful lady! It sounds like a perfect day, one that you both will remember and want to repeat.
      I hope the chicken pox is no longer contagious by Christmas, and your family can all be together, enjoying the delicious Christmas sugar cookies!

  18. Marylin, how sweet that your mom received matching pajamas. And Grace’sgift is adorable. I love your mom’s banner and that your family celebrates the true meaning of Christmas. We’ll be singing happy birthday to Jesus too, and we’ll have a cake as well with our grandchildren.
    Jesus is the reason for this special season. Merry Christmas 🙂

    • There’s nothing like grandchildren for choosing perfect flannel pajamas and making precious wishes before blowing out the candles on baby Jesus’ birthday cake!
      Wishing you and yours a joyous Christmas!

  19. Beautiful blog, Marilyn. Traditions are still honored in you home and you can feel the warmth of the love you have for your dear mom and lovely family. Blessings to you and yours this Christmas.

  20. What I love about your blog, Marylin, is not only is it a beautiful tribute to your mother and a great connector for her great grandchildren, but you always strike a lovely memory for me. Each time my parents traveled to Germany, my mother would return with several Hummel figurines. She has quite the collection, which my sister and I will cherish in the future. Your mother looks so happy and cozy in her new rose-bud flannel pajamas…a long distance slumber party…priceless!

    • You know, Jill, there really is something wonderful about Hummel figurines. Mom has a Hummel circle candle holder with three little children playing instruments and singing, and the children look so sweet and really into the music. So of course the Hummel creator is a woman, a nun!
      The long distance slumber party really is priceless.
      Grace was so cute to come up with this plan. Only a 10-year-old would concoct such a thing!

  21. What amazing traditions. The holidays have become so commercialized it’s almost hard to believe people still have them.

  22. You know, though, I think more people have holiday traditions than we realize. Or at least I hope so. It really is a family bond, and so much more fun, when we have simple traditions that make for relaxed, meaningful holidays.

  23. The long-distance PJ connection is precious. Mary’s thoughtfulness has been handed down so beautifully to her family. Merry Christmas, Marylin. It sounds like you and yours will be spending it in a Wonderful way.

    • That’s exactly what I thought when I heard about Grace’s plan, Darla: my mother’s gifts of thinking of others and doing thoughtful things has now also been passed on to her great-granddaughter. Grace choosing matching pajamas and planning the night they’d both wear them, THAT was my best Christmas present.
      I’m wishing you a warm and wonderful Christmas connection, too, Darla, and a writer-wonderful New Year!

  24. While I have watched It’s a Wonderful Life, I was dumb enough to not have paid attention to that memorable line of bread, salt and wine. How touching and symbolic. It is a beautiful post as ever, Marylin. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!

  25. Now that you know the blessings of bread, salt and wine, if you know of someone moving into a new house or apartment, take them some of each and say the blessing. I’m amazed at the touching and happy responses people have when they receive the small gifts.
    Thank you for the comment, and a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours as well!

  26. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of my favorite movies, Marilyn. The line you quoted is one of the reasons why. I love the simple, heartfelt blessing.

    I also love your Mom’s new jammies. They look nice and toasty warm. Blessings to you and your family this Christmas and New Year.

    • Thank you, Judy. I once heard a panel discuss significant Christmas movies, and of course IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE was at the top of the list. Two of the speakers said it had all the basic personality types covered. They both thought Clarence was the epitome of the helper and nurturer, willing to do anything to make life better (and get his wings). Clarence is important, but actually, I think Mary Bailey takes the prize, in a more subtle, strong, behind-the-scenes way.
      Mary Bailey would have changed the world, one kind deed and encouragement at a time.
      Christmas blessings to you and your family, too, Judy.

  27. Molly

    Grace has the heart and soul of a much older lady…she often thinks up these wonderful ideas, that you would expect to come from someone much older and wiser. I truly believe that while she was in heaven she met, and spent ample time wtih her great-great grandmother Grace. I think that the original Grace influenced Grace’s sweet disposition, and her strong will and soft heart. Although my Grace has an assortment of me, her dad, her Mor-Mor and Grandpa, and her Mor-Mor-Mor…she does seem to bring to live the stories we have heard about the original Grace.

    Then there is Gannon…Grandpa’s saying of “HE IS ALL BOY” couldn’t be more correct. Although he wasn’t in on the choosing of the flannel jammies for Grandma, he was busy getting three presents for three little girls who are very important in his life. (YES HE IS ONLY 9) First there is the little girl that he has had an incredible crush on for several years. So she got a stained glass angel ornament with her name on it. The christmas card that he wrote her, said something to the exent of “Dear Lily. Merry Christmas. You are a very special girl and a gift from God. Thank you for helping me get organized at school. You are very kind! Love Gannon”

    Then there were two other girls who had to receive Christmas presents – they are not girls that Gannon has had or may never have crushes on – but they are good, solid friends who stand by his side all the time and are true to him. Gannon picked out very stylish, and personality fitting winter hats for them. One got a K-State beanie style hat with the yarn puff ball on top, and the other a pink and grey flannel “Elmer Fud” type hat lined with fake animal fur. When he gave them their gifts – each had a note that said ” Merry Christmas to a wonderful friend. Thank you for being my friend and standing up for me against David and Caden when they were bullying me. ”

    Although I think that Lily is a beautiful girl, is very sweet, and extremely smart…the other two girls, Chelsea and Jordan, have won THIS momma’s heart forever. Anyone who will help take care of “my baby” is always good in my book!

    Ok, well this has obviously has become a rambling comment….but thank you, Mom, for making us all think and tie in thoughts and memories.

    • I’m so glad you shared this, Molly. These are the blog posts–and comments–that years from now all of us, especially great-grandchildren Grace and Gannon, will read and say, “Oh, wow, I remember that now!”

      Between Grace and Gannon, they have all the best qualities of all of us on both sides, especially the qualities of their Mor-Mor-Mor: goodness, kindness, humor, faith, and generosity. If it weren’t for the dementia, she would be very proud and grateful to have such wonderful little redheads carrying on what she began.

  28. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. One of the tradition I keep is to serve a round of real cheddar cheese in remembrance of my Grandparents I never met: (my mother once told me this is what her father always gave the family every Christmas which was a treat). And, to always bake a cake for baby Jesus’ birthday.

    • Mary, what a wonderful tribute to the great-grandfather who provided such a treat for his family every Christmas! We have such abundance now that sometimes we forget the simple heartfelt provisions that meant so much to our ancestors. I hope you tell your family the story your mother told as you set out the real cheddar cheese on the table.
      And the birthday cake for the Baby Jesus–oh, yes–singing “Happy Birthday” at Christmas is as important as singing carols!
      May you and your family enjoy every hour together, and every bite of your traditional foods!

  29. dianabletter

    Marylin, I can only ditto what everyone else wrote (you have so many fans!!) about your wonderful traditions and family connections. It was a pleasure reading all about the heartfelt, handmade gifts and special memories. Thanks so much and happy holidays! Diana

  30. Thank you, Diana, and the best to you and your family as well!

  31. jakesprinter

    Happy Christmas Marylin 🙂

  32. I love the fusing of the generations in your writing and obviously in your heart, Marylin. May your New Year be happy and full of continued rich blessings to sustain during the challenges.

    • Thank you so much, Shel. This is a fusing of the generations, and it’s been encouraging because Mom’s great-grandchildren are very willing to step and be part of the process. A very happy New Year to you, Shel.

  33. Beautiful photo of your Mom Marylin! Love the Dr. Seuss quote… it’s so true. Hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

  34. Pingback: Sweet Sharing Wordsmith Award 2013 - Sweet Sharing

  35. HI Marylin

    Thanks you very much for stoping by at my blog & leaving such a lovely comment . I am truly touched.

    You probably liked my post so much because you too are an amazing parent . I think you could relate through the feelings that I tried to reflect on my post .

    We parents are so protective about our kid that we want nothing but the best for them .

    My blog website has completed 3 months . I want you to be a part of this celebration . Hence I have nominated you for Sweet sharing’s Wordsmith award. I hope you will acknowledge it & be a part of my blog forever 🙂

    • You do have a lovely blog, and yes, I sense how much you want the very best for your children. I no longer accept awards, but I appreciate your kind nomination. Thank you for thinking of me.

  36. We watch It’s a wonderful life every Christmas Eve, Marylin. There are many things I love about the movie, but I agree with you that the house blessing is one of the best moments. I love your take on Christmas and the way you always show us creative ways of celebrating life.

    • Thanks so much, Andrea. Your comments are much appreciated.
      Also, I do love that scene with the bread, salt and wine blessings, and I keep thinking I’ll remember to do that as a hostess gift for an anniversary or new house or apartment, but somehow it doesn’t happen. I need to make that a goal for 2014!
      Happy New Year, Andrea!

  37. Jane Thorne

    I love your blog Marylin and my heart was so touched when I read about your Mum’s and Grace’s matching pyjamas…such a loving thing to do. i bet Grace loves her pillow. Much love to you all these holidays and all the very best for you all in 2014. Much love Xx

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