Holiday

Memories of Christmases past

Area celebrities recall baking cookies, sharing with others, listening to Nat King Cole and other joyful moments

December 02, 2007|By Arnesa A. Howell | Arnesa A. Howell,Special to The Sun

Whether from the evening glow of the Christmas tree or the candles of Kwanzaa's kinara, there's a warmth surrounding the holidays that evoke a spirit of family, love and giving thanks.

For many, that means sharing in the joys of giving to both loved ones and the less fortunate through food, fellowship and music. So, in the celebration of the season, several area celebrities took the time to reflect on their fondest holiday memories and traditions. Here, their reflections:

JOYCE J. SCOTT visual and performance artist

From making pipe-cleaner ornaments with her mother, Elizabeth T. Scott, to playing the tambourine during church street ministries at the age of 3, visual and performance artist Joyce J. Scott has countless fond memories of how she spent the Christmas holiday as a child.

But one memory stands out above the rest: heart-shaped ice cream treats.

"I remember my mother would bring from work ice cream in the shape of hearts and Christmas decorations, and she would put them on the windowsill outside of my room so when I woke up on Christmas Day, I could open the window and have ice cream," says Scott of these "tiny charms" in holiday shades of red or white that her mom brought home from her job working in private family homes.

"I would get up and look out the window at all the back yards - sometimes with snow and there might be cats and dogs running around - and there would be this special present," says Scott, 59. "There would be this little jewel waiting for me. I would just stare at it for a little while, and then open it up.

"And I remember walking to the Christmas tree with ice cream dripping from my face, and there would be this mammoth tree with lots and lots of presents under it because I was a little princess.

"It's the idea of it warming your heart, and it is a heart. I remember these tiny tokens of joy."

She now continues that tradition, of sorts. A bowl of colored Christmas lights brighten her window during the holiday season alongside her African sculptures. And if you take a peek at her windowsill on New Year's Eve, you'll find 12 pennies, heads up.

"Each penny represents prosperity of each month of the next year," says the artist, who performs and exhibits her works internationally.

Although Scott's father, Charlie Scott Jr., passed away five years ago at the age of 81, her mother Elizabeth, 91, remains a constant in her life.

"There's nothing like working with someone you love," says Scott, who cherishes the memories of quilting with her mother, also a celebrated fiber artist. "I call them magic carpets because you can be wrapped up in them and have a dream, and be taken off to some special place. It's like being wrapped in the arms of your mom."

JEFF MAJORS harpist and inspirational jazz and gospel composer

As a young boy growing up in Northwest Washington, Jeff Majors learned early that the holidays were about more than material items.

"My fondest memory as a child is knowing that we did not have a lot as we saw on television but there was a warm and giving spirit between my father as well as my mother," recalls Majors of his parents, Pauline Fitzgerald, now 86, and the late Major Graham.

What he cherished most was the sense of family belonging and that his parents were present in his life during those special celebrations.

"That meant to me more than anything else that I could have received," says the harpist and inspirational jazz and gospel composer, who planted his roots in Baltimore in the early 1990s.

But Majors' parents would bestow upon their only child two gifts that he would forever treasure and share with others: the joy of charitable giving and the love of music.

He fondly remembers Christmases with Nat King Cole playing on the family's record player, the sweet smell of his mother's freshly baked sweet potato pies, and gospel songs from the choir of a nearby church resonating through the back alley of their home.

"My mom was a musician and played the trumpet, which is how I got into jazz and gospel. And my father was very impressionable on me - he donated children's clothing and food in the neighborhood," he says.

Today, the host of TV One's The Gospel of Music With Jeff Majors combines those gifts with his free concert tour for the homeless, which takes place in Baltimore on Dec. 8.

This is the second year he has spent the holiday season helping the homeless through this benefit, which includes food and clothing drives.

Says Majors: "It's really important to share during the holidays what God has given me."

NICOLE ARI PARKER actress

For Baltimore-born actress Nicole Ari Parker, Christmas has always been an important time for family. Although Parker's parents - Susan and Donald - were divorced, they came together to create Christmas memories that their daughter would forever cherish.

Parker, who splits her time between homes in Atlanta and Los Angeles, remembers spending Christmas Eve with her mom, wrapping presents for families that "could use some extra help."

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