The stockings are hung, school is almost out for winter vacation and there is a crispness in the air in western Tennessee. The forecast calls for snow Friday night, but sadly, I don’t think our first holiday season will include a white Christmas. It may be a wet one though.

Martin, the town in which we live, has had a very rainy year…when the last storm hit Friday we were only two inches off the one-year record of 78 inches.

Can you even imagine?

After being here for a few months I can better understand why no one has sprinklers installed in their yards, yet still have lush green lawns. The clean air has another benefit… far fewer sinus headaches!

Moving means a bunch of different and new traditions to experience. Christmas in the South is something to see. And all of it reminds me of celebrating on the West Side. Wreaths on old-style lampposts lining Main Street and the downtown. Lights strung on houses and business alike. And, of course, a beautifully decorated tree in the town plaza. For the record… Newman’s tree wins on scale alone, plus I have more than special affection for the lady who decorates it!

Since I won’t be expecting a houseful of family members this year, I may try to pare down a little and start a few new traditions of our own. Homemade personal pizzas might be on the menu for Christmas Eve, but I think Vince will be pretty firm on me making a ham and crunchy potatoes on Christmas Day. Obviously, I don’t think I’m the only one who is missing my mom’s cooking!

As someone who loves to have all of the family together for every holiday, it has been a little harder getting completely into the Christmas spirit. Of course I knew this Christmas would be more than a little hard. Obviously, moving to Tennessee meant missing important holidays, baby showers and birthdays. It also means missing the little moments and visits with friends and family that always happen over the holidays.

That does make the holiday a little bittersweet. Thankfully, the kids’ excitement of our first Christmas in Tennessee is wearing off on me. I really want our Christmas to be filled with fun memories that they will appreciate when they are older, just as I appreciate all the things my parents and family did to make our holidays special. That is something I treasure.

Luckily, the house will be a little fuller for New Year’s. Vince’s daughter Sarah and her fiancee Trent, along with their two dogs, are coming to check out the new place and spend a week with us while the boys are on break. I’m crossing my fingers that Joseph and the boys can make it too, but that might be too much, even for Santa.

Plus, there’s that whole naughty or nice thing…and well, you know. I have my moments!

We may have to settle for FaceTime visits with more than a few people this year. And I will be more than thankful for that.

Merry Christmas, everyone… from all of us in Tennessee! I hope your holiday is filled with love, laughter and joy… and that everyone gets something other than coal in their stockings!

Staff columnist Toni Butero can be reached at or by calling (209) 862-2222.