Readers share their stories of their first Christmas after ______.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

This will be the first Christmas the family of Harlan Emery and Karen Hanrahan will be spending without them after Emery passed in April and Hanrahan passed on Emery's birthday in August. Their family members, clockwise starting in the back, daughter Sarah Bly, Peter Lederhouse holding daughter, Karen, 2 months, and his wife Elizabeth, holding daughter Kathleen, 2, and brother Scott Emery have decorated the Auburn home they lived in with all of Hanrahan's Christmas ornaments.

The Sun Journal asked readers to fill in the blank, My first Christmas since ___. We heard about moves, losses, lessons gently learned decades ago and the kindness of strangers.

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

"I remember some of these ornaments from when I was a kid," said Scott Emery of Karen Hanrahan's Christmas decorations. This is the first year for Emery and his nieces to spend without his brother, Harlan Emery and his wife after they passed this year. Hanrahan's daughters have decorated her former Auburn home, now owned by one daughter, with all of her Christmas decorations.

Since moving to Maine

Jenn Deschene, Auburn

This holiday season marks the first Christmas after my family and I made the big decision to relocate within the state of Maine to the city of Auburn for my husband's career advancement. I chose to temporarily put my own career on hold by leaving a position that I ultimately loved, hoping that I would find something similar in the Auburn area.

We chose to leave our friends, family and many familiar faces behind in order to start over and make Auburn our new home. We are falling in love with Auburn, as we knew we would; however making a move is never easy, especially when it means not having your family and friends nearby. This holiday season reminds us even more so just how much our friends and family mean to us as we do not get to see them nearly as often.

We will cherish the time that we get to spend with those special people over the Christmas holiday and will be thankful for what we have been given in our lives. Not only do we have wonderful family and friends, but my husband now has a new job that he loves, my daughter is enjoying her new school and teacher, and I am grateful to be able to spend some quality time at home with my 2-year-old son. We also have the most wonderful neighbors, who have contributed greatly in making our transition go smoothly.

All in all, we are especially thankful for what this move and the year 2012 has brought to our lives. The simple things are what's most important ... those being time shared with the ones that you love.

Since losing parents

Elizabeth M. Lederhouse, Oxford

This year my family and I will be celebrating the first Christmas after the loss of my parents, as well as the first Christmas after the birth of my second child.

My father passed away in April and my mother passed in August, on my father's birthday. My new baby was born in October. This year it is important for my family that we set up all the Christmas decorations my mother loved, exactly the way she set them up through the years. We are making all the traditional holiday goodies, including the recipe for a nut roll and cookies our grandmother always made.

My sister and I are trying to make this Christmas seem as normal as possible for my 2-year-old daughter. This will be her first Christmas without her grandparents, and we still want her to enjoy the day and all the love the rest of our family has. My parents will never be far from our memories or hearts.

This is a year to put some traditions in the past and say goodbye and begin new traditions that my daughters will hopefully carry on with their children.

Since getting married

Margaret E. Proctor, Wilton

My husband and I were married in May 1954, and he was drafted early in December. President Eisenhower graciously granted a three-day pass for either Christmas or New Year’s, even for those in basic training. I

met the incoming train to South Station in Boston close to midnight on Dec. 23, eagerly anticipating a joyous reunion. When he got off the train, he had four other GIs with him. He had invited them to our home for a midnight meal and then said he was going to drive them to Portland.

I was angry as I wanted time alone with him to tell him I thought I might be pregnant (I was!). He patiently told me that they had no other way to get to Maine and tried to explain that, as barracks-mates, they were now like family.

The six of us piled into our sedan at about 3 a.m. and took off. After they met their families, we headed back to Boston arriving long after daylight. We were both so tired that we slept most all day and didn’t put up our tree. I wanted us to do it together. Christmas Day we spent with my parents.

We spent Dec. 26 decorating our first tree, and he returned to camp that night. He had the true meaning of Christmas, and I learned others’ needs mattered more than my wants.

Since returning from war

Martin Savage, Farmington

When I was 16 years old, I just couldn't wait until I was 17 so I could join the Army. I became 17 on the 28th of November 1947. On Dec. 16 I was on my way to the Army —  basic training, then Japan, then Korea. (After the service) I landed in Washington state, grabbed a plane to home.

After a few days I decided to go to New Jersey to visit my brother. When I joined the Army I was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 108 pounds. When I last saw my brother, he was 6 feet tall and weighed 240 pounds. While I was away, my brother had mumps with complications and lost a lot of weight.

I got to the New Jersey town where he was working on a farm as a herdsman. I hailed a taxi and got in the back seat and told the driver where I wanted to go. What a surprise, the man in the passenger seat turned around.

Surprise again, it was my brother.

Since missing a father

Walter Webb, East Poland

It was Christmas 1949. My dad had died the last week of October at the age of 47 from stomach cancer. About all he left behind was Mom and six kids. I was the oldest, 12 years old. The youngest was my sister Dottie, age 2. Mom had had her hands full taking care of her husband and raising the children, so she had never worked outside the home.

As Christmas drew closer we kids were hard at work drawing up our lists of toys. The lists grew longer as Christmas drew nearer. Maybe because I was the oldest, I was aware of Mom’s increasing panic as she took the lists of our Christmas wants to heart. I remember her crying softly downstairs after the six children had gone to bed and hopefully were asleep.

On Christmas Eve I went to church alone. The Christmas Eve service was the responsibility of the youth group, and I was a member. The service began at 11 p.m. followed by caroling followed by a party at the youth group leader’s home. So it was about 3 a.m. when I walked up the steps at my house. I dreaded going inside, knowing that there would be no Christmas this year.

I was shocked when I saw a mound of Christmas presents on the sofa. In my absence and after my siblings had gone to bed, the Salvation Army had arrived bearing gifts. Mom and I hugged and cried, and then I went to bed.

It will always be my most memorable Christmas.

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Richard  Sullivan's picture

Spelling

Come on Sun Journal. Christmas does not end with a "t". Spell check your headlines please.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Readers share their stories of their first Christmast after ____

. . Nice ?  *<;-Q~ Santa Steve http://www.noradsanta.org/

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