Steph Rosenbrock remembers watching “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and other animated Christmas movies when she was growing up in Killeen, and a house filled with classic holiday songs recorded by such legends as Dean Martin, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams and Nat King Cole.
“Mom had a lot of records, especially the Christmas ones from Time Life,” said Rosenbrock, who now calls Copperas Cove home. “She’d have those going all the time. She would decorate the house, and she had one of those old-timey record players she would put the music on with. And she always made sure we watched all the Christmas shows – Rudolph, Charlie Brown, The Night Before Christmas.”
Steph’s late father was a Vietnam veteran who served 20 years in the U.S. Army and retired a couple years before she was born. It was her mother, though, who loved Christmas and always went out of her way to make it special for her and her twin brothers.
“It was mom’s favorite holiday,” Steph said. “She made these little snowmen (cookies) and brown sugar bears. She made pies and cakes and pecan pralines. She’s gone now, but even when she went into a nursing home, she still decorated (her room).”
Steph’s wife, Lisa Elliott, an Iraq War veteran and former 1st Cavalry Division trooper at Fort Hood who retired as a sergeant after 20 years in the military, says she remembers the excitement of waking up before dawn to see what gifts Santa left under the Christmas tree.
“It was the one day of the year you could get up at 5 o’clock and be wide awake, run out there and see all your presents, start opening them, and then go back to bed after you played a little bit,” Elliott said. “Something we always got in our stocking was one of these huge peppermint sticks that were as big around as a coffee cup and about 15 inches long. You’d have to get a hammer to bust it up to eat it.
“I remember going to my grandma and grandpa’s when we lived in Illinois. Of course, they’d have enough food to kill a person, if they tried to eat it all. We’d do turkey, or chicken and dumplings, sweet potatoes...”
“That’s my favorite,” Steph chimed in. “Sweet potatoes with marshmallows over it.”
This year will be a quiet one around Steph and Lisa’s house. With the help of Steph’s son, Jacob, they will have the usual Christmas tree and decorations throughout the house, and they enjoy making wreaths for their friends out of tree trimmings they get from a Christmas tree lot. A close friend will come over and there will be a ham dinner and eggnog. The dogs will get a new bone to chew on.
“We’re a typical American family,” Elliott said. “The holidays come along, you get a snootful, fall down and make a fool of yourself — no, not really. We don’t do that. We actually stay pretty quiet.
“I remember when I first joined the military, having Thanksgiving or Christmas abroad can be rough. I’ve spent Christmas in the desert, and it’s hard to have Christmas cheer when it’s 100-and-something degrees. One thing you learn from that, though, is that the holiday isn’t the most important thing. To me, the gifts really don’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you get ... I grew up when underwear was a Christmas gift. Back then, in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, you bought kids gifts for a practical purpose — so you’d have clean underwear and clean socks.
“The most important thing about the holidays is the people you spend them with.”
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