It’s the little thing that count: the Christmas family memories

Grainne McCool with her sister Louise, above the girls, when they were small at Christmas.
Grainne McCool with her sister Louise, above the girls, when they were small at Christmas.


By Grainne McCool @GrainneMcCool

MANY family budgets get blown out of all proportion at this time of year.

Money that isn’t there gets spent on that all important present.  Is it really worth the debt?

As a young girl when my family consisted of just my big sister Louise, myself, mum and dad, I remember one particular Christmas morning so very well.

I think I was about 3 or 4-years-old.  At the time we lived in a small, one bedroom house in the village of Quigleys Point, Donegal.

I was a real tom-boy even then.  All I wanted from Santa was a tractor and trailer.

I remember praying so hard for months that Santa really would grant this wish.

This memory returned to me today as I spoke with my friend about Christmas shopping.

She was telling me about the technology devices her children were looking for, alongside a number of best-selling toys.

I said to her that I’m lucky now as the boys are grown and I don’t need to buy so much.

I began listing the main gifts the boys would be getting and then proceeded to list the little things I’d buy for their stockings (yes even in late teens and twenties the stockings are still filled!)

It was then that the memory struck me.  I didn’t have a stocking as a little girl.  It wasn’t something my family did differently.

On Christmas morning I awoke to find my blue tractor and trailer sitting beside the bed.  The trailer was filled with apples and oranges.  I was so excited.

A little tractor just like the one Grainne received that made Christmas so special.
A little tractor just like the one Grainne received that made Christmas so special.


Even now (over 40 years later) I can still feel the excitement I felt on that morning.

The apples and oranges were such an extra treat that it just made my Christmas.

My sister and I immediately began eating an apple as I proudly drove my new tractor around the bedroom.

Mum and dad sat up in bed next to us and I could see the excitement in their eyes.

I must admit that I don’t recall what my sister got that Christmas.  My tractor, trailer and fruit was such an appreciated gift, that I don’t ever remember feeling that excited again as a child.

What this memory instilled in me today, is that it really is the little things that make all the difference.

Even now as my boys are grown, they always go for their stockings on Christmas morning.

There might be a bottle of aftershave among some socks and sweets.  It’s never anything extravagant.  But to this day it’s the little, unexpected gifts that seem to mean so much.

As I embark on my Christmas shopping over the coming weeks, I’ll be putting much more effort into a select few little, inexpensive things, that I know will be very much appreciated this Christmas morning.

My husband will do the same for me, and I for him.  I have a selection of play-dough figures which I’ve made up from sets (£1 each) that himself has bought me.

Mind you there better also be the Edel McBride dress I’m seeking!!

I’ll be buying him a few £1 treats also.  These always give us such laughter and entertainment on Christmas Day.  

The bigger gifts get left aside and there’s ‘I can’t believe you actually bought this’, to ‘what am I supposed to do with this’, but nothing will be cast aside.

The shelves will be filled with even more clutter.  And this clutter is not for throwing out: this clutter builds our family memories.

My sister will cook the turkey dinner this year and she and I will proceed to exchange some small, silly gifts also.

We always talk even now about that tractor and trailer from all those years ago.

It’s part of the annual Christmas chat.  We’ve learned from experience that those expensive presents don’t make memories.  The little ones do.

As Christmas fast approaches, it’s important to bear in mind that sometimes it really is the little unexpected, inexpensive gifts that leave a lasting memory.

I still see those apples and oranges, and I hope this memory never fades.

One thought on “It’s the little thing that count: the Christmas family memories

  • March 2, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Lots of good golf courses to cohose from, just a bit north of Dublin is a very good classic links course called Laytown/Bettystown, very friendly, very good value for money. Your best bet would be to e-mail Eugene, use the link at


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