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November 24, 2010

Beth Hoffman: An Early Christmas Memory

Posted by Anonymous

hoffman-beth_150x110.jpgBeth Hoffman --- author of the New York Times bestseller and Bets On pick SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT --- shares a Christmas memory from her early childhood…and the story of how she became a booklover.

In the early days of my youth, I lived on my grandparents’ farm. Located smack in the middle of the Ohio Snowbelt, we were always guaranteed to have a white Christmas ---sometimes so white that great drifts of snow would reach the eaves of the barn.

The house had a rickety coal furnace that belched up black smoke and sent sooty heat rising through the cast iron grates in the floor. But no matter how much coal my grandpa shoveled into that old behemoth, the house was always chilly. The only way I could get warm was to stand on a grate and let the heated air blow beneath my nightgown. And that’s what I was doing one evening in my grandma’s kitchen, when I received a gift that’s now sitting on the mantle in my small writing library.

Grandma and I talked as she pushed chunks of suet into holes that had been drilled into the logs. The suet was for the birds, she said, to give them energy and keep them warm. When she finished, she wandered into the pantry and returned with a brown paper bag.

“Santy Claus came by earlier today,” she said, offering me the bag.

I was so stunned that my voice rose several octaves. “He did?”

Grandma nodded. “He thought you might like to have this before you went to bed.”

I opened the bag and pulled out a tissue-wrapped package tied with a slender red ribbon. For some reason, I was a little afraid to open it.

“Well, go ahead,” Grandma said. “Let’s see what’s inside.”

Slowly, I untied the ribbon and peeled back the tissue. In my hands was a book. I was terribly disappointed. What was I supposed to do with a book that I couldn’t yet read? But when I opened it and saw a colorful map on the inside flap, I got a bit more interested. Being the animal lover that I was (and still am), I was soon captivated by a drawing of a chubby bear holding tightly onto a balloon that lifted him high into the air. 

The book was THE WORLD OF POOH, and Santa had written my name inside, along with the date.

Side by side, my grandma and I sat at the kitchen table, and I forgot all about the chill in the air and my initial disappointment. While she read aloud, I smoothed my fingers over the drawings, suddenly spellbound by this introduction to a silly old bear and the boy who loved him.

I’ve been a booklover ever since.

Tomorrow, Lisa Scottoline treats her readers to a special Thanksgiving tale about what it’s like to spend the holidays with the infamous Mother Mary.