Nostalgia, The Greatest Holiday Gift

Let’s recreate nostalgic memories in a fun writing exercise.



When I teach my high school students descriptive writing, I start by reading a passage from Richard Wright’s classic American novel, Black Boy. Wright’s nostalgic passage about his childhood memories is beautiful, haunting, and absolute perfection.


Two years ago, I copied his style to create the piece below. I challenge my readers and students to do the same thing.


Start each phase with There was the—then paint a word picture of your memory.


Here’s mine:


There was the love-at-first-sight I experienced on that Christmas Eve when my tiny collie, Hadji Baba, poked his head up out of the shoe my uncle had “wrapped” him in to bestow sweet licks.


There was the aroma of pine-scented smoke emitted from my father’s antique American Flyer engine as it hypnotically chug-chugged around its track.



There was the elation I felt when my baby sister eagerly pounced upon me enthusiastically, squealing, “Wake up! Santa was here!”


There was the magic permeating the air as we pulled in front of my grandparent’s house to see the menagerie of caroling dolls arrayed in the front window.


There was the care I took to meticulously code the Sears and Roebuck catalog so that Santa knew precisely what presents I wanted.


There was the taste of the peppermint-flavored cookies that my sister and I dyed, kneaded, and shaped into striped candy canes.



There was the abandonment at my Great Aunt’s Christmas party as I overloaded my plate with cookies, candies, and salty snacks, then washed them down with sweet Shirley Temples.


There was the rib-straining laughter the first time I curled up beside my baby brother to watch Ralphie’s quest for the elusive BB gun.


There was the romance my husband and I experienced as we devoured a box of Snyder’s Hard Pretzels for our first Christmas dinner together.


There were the sixteen Christmas mornings that my Rocky Dog’s barks echoed off the walls as he played with his new Flippy-Flopper.


There was the way my daughter’s eyes lit up as she bounded down the stairs to see the Princess kitchenette Santa had left for her.


And there is the excitation I feel when Santa, riding atop a firetruck, visits my neighborhood and announces the beginning of the Christmas season.


I’d love to hear from you. Share a phrase—or two—or ten.


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