The holiday season is a time of gathering with friends and family and reminiscing about past gatherings while looking forward to the next occasion that brings everyone together. This is what Evelyn Goble, as well as Reamond and Alice Cooley, fondly recall about this time of year.

All three are residents of Alterra Sterling House of Ennis, an assisted living facility which sees them celebrating the holidays with some new friends as well as their families.

For Goble, the early years were difficult as a group of 10 children faced growing up without their mother.

“Mama died when I was nearly 3, so my older siblings helped raise me while Papa worked to support us all. It may have been a sad time for him but we never knew it,” she said.

After some financial hardships and the loss of his business, their father, James P. Sims (who went on to become mayor of Ennis) moved his family from Crisp to Ennis where most of Goble's Christmas memories come from.

“I remember big family gatherings for the holidays but with 10 kids, dinner is a big family gathering,” she said with a laugh.

The Christmas season also marked her father's birthday and the family made sure to host festivities for him before anyone even considered the Christmas gathering.

“We always celebrated Papa's birthday no matter where we were, he always knew that we would all be there for his birthday and we kept those gatherings separate from the Christmas gatherings — even though they were only three days apart,” she said.

While she was growing up, her family mainly gathered at her older sister Emma's house but as the family grew to include spouses and grandchildren, the gathering had to be held somewhere that could accommodate the growing brood.

“My most favorite Christmas was the first year we all gathered at the country club. There was more room and lots of space for us all to catch up on each other's lives but also because I was grown and had a family I saw the gathering in a different way. Papa was getting older and I remember a game he liked to play when we all got together was to tell us all when we were born. He started with his own kids, but he could tell all of his grandchildren and our spouses when their birthdays were. It was his own tradition and even though there were about 50 of us, he never got one date wrong,” Goble said.

She also recalls Christmas gatherings as a child when her family was able to go outside and play in the snow to help work off some of the holiday meal.

“We had two big doors on our porch that opened to the outside and I remember the snow banks being so big that we couldn't open those doors. That is a special memory because it doesn't snow like that anymore,” she said.

Presently, Goble spends the holidays with her family members that live in the area as they gather each year to celebrate — but the gatherings also mark a special day as Goble was born on Christmas day. She will be 98 this year.

Alice and Reamond Cooley

The Cooleys have had an eventful marriage. Reamond worked for the railroad, which required that his family move quite often to accommodate his occupation. Since the town or the house they lived in changed frequently, he and his wife Alice made sure to keep some traditions constant.

“We always gathered together to celebrate on Christmas day because that is the one day that we knew we had together. Our daughters knew that the holidays would bring their father home to them and the trains would have to wait,” Alice recalls.

Reamond is very direct when he explains that his job with the railroad was “to keep the trains running” and with that responsibility came a lot of time away from home. Because of that, holidays were very special because his family would all be together.

“I worked in just about every town in the state but even as our daughters got older, no matter where we lived, our daughters and their families made their way home to us for Christmas,” Reamond said.

As the years went by the couple's daughters hosted the holiday gathering at one of their homes and made a central meeting place so their tradition could continue. However,  this year will see a change in tradition.

The Cooley's have decided that since they have made their home in Sterling House that any holiday gathering should be spent there, and they plan to have their family join them as they spend their first Christmas with their new friends.

“The weather is supposed to be wet and cold on Christmas and we would have probably stayed in because of that but this is our home now and our family will have to start a new tradition of visiting us here,” Alice said.

For all three people, the size of the gatherings and the venue have changed over the years but the sentiment behind the holidays will always remain the same. Their commitment to their families has been a lasting memory that they share and hope that as their families think back on their favorite holiday memories that their efforts have become a tradition for many generations to come.