This year, the Appeal is once again soliciting holiday memories from readers, continuing an 11-year tradition.
Past years have shown that many people have those cherished, humorous, strange or even sad holiday reflections to share. Some are about special gifts, acts of kindness or unexpected visits.
Whatever they may be, we're asking you to send us your holiday memories no later than Dec. 14. You can mail them to us at P.O. Box 1948, Carson City, 89702; drop them off at 580 Mallory Way, e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fax them to 887-2420. No matter how you get them to us, make sure they're labeled as "Holiday Memories."
It's OK to include a photo. We also ask that your stories be true, legibly written, and no longer than 500 words. Please include a name and phone number.
We'll publish as many as we can in the days before Christmas.
You'll notice above I said this will be the Appeal's 11th year of printing these holiday memories. But it hasn't been 11 consecutive years.
Oh, no, I broke the tradition last year, my first Christmas as the editor at the Appeal. It wasn't intentional ... I don't have any inherent Grinch-like qualities. It's just that I didn't know about the tradition.
But I do know a good idea when I see one, and that's why we're continuing this one. That and a little urging from readers like Donna Batis-Wungnema, of Carson City.
She wrote: "It was very sad because everyone and including me looked forward to reading these stories that readers wrote. These slice of life stories really uplifted the readers' spirits not to mention putting a smile on their faces (including mine).
"There is so much sadness and darkness in the world today and I just thought maybe putting these stories back in the Nevada Appeal would bring happiness and light back into the readers' hearts. I hope you have a change of heart and put the Holiday Memories back in during the holiday season."
Interestingly, her story (actually the surge of guilt it prompted) reminded me of one of my earliest holiday memories when I, fresh from being told the news that Santa Claus is not real, proceeded to loudly share that truth with my young nieces and nephews at a family gathering, whether they were ready to hear it or not.
I don't remember how many children I brought to the brink of tears before I was brought under control.
Still, I maintain that I am basically good at heart, and the bulk of my holiday memories are Waltonsesque. I grew up in a large family (in fact, the same size as the Waltons, I believe). The vast majority of my Christmas memories are just plain happy, and if I were forced to stage a typical scene, it would be a room with a large Christmas tree that seemed small in comparison to the piles of presents around it. Tables held trays with every kind of Christmas cookie and candy imaginable.
But the best thing was having everyone in my family there, and each ring of the doorbell brought more relatives into the chaos. It was no small feat to get everyone together, and the rare pictures that have all my family members together were invariably taken at Christmas.
It must have been good, based on the efforts we sometimes made to get back there. I remember one year when I was working on an oil-exploration crew in Oklahoma and suddenly found myself with five days off over Christmas. A friend and I decided on a whim to drive a thousand miles back to Wisconsin - and then promptly drove into one of the worse and largest ice storms I've ever witnessed.
It was glare ice through Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin, and we spun many terrifying doughnuts on the trip before we finally pulled into the driveway for a two-day holiday before turning around and driving the thousand miles back to work. Worth it.
One distinct memory is a year when I must have been going through a Thoreau stage and I spent the days leading up to Christmas at the family's log cabin deep in an isolated forest. And by cabin, I mean a single-room, mouse-infested log shack far from any unnatural sounds or lights.
For some reason, I decided to decorate the cabin with Christmas lights that I would power up with a portable generator, even though there wasn't a single soul but me who would ever see them. It snowed softly that night, diffusing the lights, and I recall standing there amazed at the beauty.
And then, as if on cue, members of my family drove up the long road in the darkness to the cabin, and they stood there with me, looking at the lights. Even though we didn't spend Christmas there, it stands as one of my favorite holiday memories.
One of my least favorite was probably the year of the toothpick. And by toothpick, I'm talking about the toothpick I stepped on in the living room that drove itself so deeply into my foot that it was impossible to remove. And we tried everything, including having a brother use pliers to clamp on to the exposed end and pulling with everything he had. Finally, there was no choice but to hobble into the emergency room and explain my situation to the poor nurse who was unlucky enough to have to work on Christmas. She took down the information and walked into the room behind her to explain it to the unlucky staff members back there. It was then that I heard their uproarious laughter.
Oh, the indignity. The entire affair was terribly upsetting, almost as if someone had told me that Santa isn't real.
So now it's your turn to send us your memories. As you can tell, I haven't set the bar very high.
• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at 881-1221, or via e-mail at email@example.com