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November 29, 2009

Mary Burton on Rekindling Fond Holiday Memories

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Mary Burton --- whose latest thriller, DYING SCREAM, hits stores tomorrow --- describes the simplest gifts that conjure fond memories of Christmases past.

Freshly baked cookies, cider, a roasting turkey, and evergreens always send my mind racing back to Christmas as a child when the holiday was infused with so much excitement. In a blink, I’m lying awake in the pre-dawn hours of Christmas too excited to sleep, straining to hear the sound of Santa’s sleigh. Finally I drift off only to awake and discover my stocking at the foot of the bed stuffed with goodies and candies. And then I’m waiting at the top of the stairs, my toes tapping with anticipation, as Mom shouts up to me, “Oh, Santa has outdone himself!” Finally, she sounds the “all clear” and I race down the stairs to see what Santa left under the Christmas tree.

There are a few gifts that still make me smile ear to ear to this day: the bright yellow motorized mini-bike with the black seat and wickedly tall handlebars that made an awful noise, kicked out a good bit of smoke, but moved so fast; the Easy Bake Oven that ignited my love of cooking that is still with me today. And of course, the simpler gifts that I still treasure: THE SECRET OF THE OLD CLOCK by Carolyn Keene, which was the first book in the Nancy Drew Mystery series. Those books hooked me on mysteries and suspense. THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett and A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle stoked my imagination and made me dream of being a writer.

When I want to rekindle those fond memories, I simply go to my bookshelf and pull out another old favorite Christmas gift: my copy of the JOY OF COOKING, which is so well used it’s held together with duct tape. As soon as I start baking gingerbread cookies or cinnamon bread, the house fills with those familiar delicious scents, and Christmas returns once again.

-- Mary Burton

Tomorrow, Jill McCorkle and Kat Martin share the classic stories that truly touched them during the holiday season.