Christmas Memories


Rosemary Alexander-Jones

“Music is the most meaningful part of the holiday season,” Rosemary said. “I just love it!”

Rosemary has cherished music since she was a young girl. She grew up with a father who was a Methodist Minister, who often took Rosemary to the church with him, allowing her to spend time listening to the choir practice and creating many special musical memories.

“My dad would let me sit on the bench next to the organist and watch her fingers move over the keys and her feet move on the pedals,” Rosemary said. “I love hearing the Christmas music and the carolers.”

During the holidays, you’ll find Rosemary at any musical event—whether it’s singing Christmas carols with our Assisted Living residents or delighting in a performance of Handel’s Messiah in Ann Arbor.

“You hear about the 80 prophecies of Jesus coming, and it’s so beautiful,” Rosemary said.

Though music is her favorite part of the Christmas season, she has a special place for a certain dollhouse—her favorite Christmas gift she received when she was 5 years old, that went on to be saved for her kids and grandkids.

“I remember walking into the living room on Christmas day, and there it was,” Rosemary said. “A big, beautiful, intricate two-story dollhouse. It resembled Mt. Vernon with its large pillars, and it even had a mini door bell and miniature majestic doll furniture.”


gary-and-bernice-packard-editedGary & Bernice Packard

Christmas gifts are special not because of the gift itself, but rather the time and thought a loved one puts in to choosing something special just for you. For Bernice Packard, this gift was a long skirt, with swirls of pink and grey. It was very elegant and her favorite gift. Not so much because of the skirt, but rather the man who gave it to her: her father. Bernice was the eldest of four daughters, and her father didn’t usually pick out their Christmas gifts, except that year when Bernice was a teenager.

“I loved that skirt so much because my dad thought specifically of me—just me,” Bernice said. “I wore it everywhere and was so proud of it.”

Sometimes, the gift isn’t a thing; it’s a person. Home for the Holidays has a significant meaning to Gary and Bernice Packard—who have been married over 50 years.

It was Christmas Eve in 1955 and Gary had just completed basic training for the Air Force in Geneva, New York. He was hoping to come home to see his girlfriend (soon to be fiancé), but there was a horrible snowstorm, and no planes were flying. Determined to make it home to Michigan, Gary hitched a ride to Buffalo, New York, and then caught a train that pulled into Michigan at 6 am on Christmas Day.

“I remember coming off the train and going straight to spend the day with my family, then going to see Bernice, and finally falling asleep on the couch,” Gary said laughing. “I was dead-tired, but it’s worth it just to be home.”

When the couple got married the following summer and began to have their own family, they created a special tradition around Christmas: each kid could ask Santa for one book, one toy, and one outfit. Now that their kids are grown, they decide together which charity to give to instead of receiving gifts.