“A Bracelet for Christmas” by Jacqueline Freeman Wheelock

Merry Christmas! The magical countdown to December 25th is here, and I am beyond excited to be included in Volume Three of this year’s A Cup of Christmas Cheer. Allowing my memory to roam freely the paths of my childhood beneath the live oaks on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and to be given the opportunity to set many of those memories into a Christmas story was more wonderful than I could have imagined.

The setting:
The story is set about twenty miles inland from Pascagoula and Moss Point, Mississippi, two Mississippi Gulf Coast towns adjacent to each other and sandwiched between Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Wheelock PolioThe story:
In 1957, two nine-year-old girls reach for the same Baby Ruth bar in the town grocery store and discover they have many major things in common, except one: Maureen is black and Ellen is white. Finding that they live less than a mile apart, they make a way to become fast friends, and in their secret “island” hideout, they dream together of a future which they hope includes an enchanting Christmas bracelet Ellen has discovered in a jewelry store in town. They dream . . . until the dreaded polio sets in.

Which of the two beautiful and vibrant girls will be stricken by the disease? And, more importantly, how will it affect their relationship and their Christmases?

The inspiration:
My father, the fictional “Pawpaw,” was notorious for driving self-rigged clunkers in edgy ways. But riding into town with him was always so exciting that my siblings and I waived the possibility of danger in favor of the thrill. At some point on one of the trips, I recall seeing a little girl (My memory says it was on a large billboard.) with a lovely face and polio braces on her limbs. The image has remained with me all these years and has finally ended up in a story set during my favorite time of the year, Christmas.

The takeaway:
I’ve always believed that the openness of children reflects what the Christ child brought to the world and still desires for the human race: unconditional love. It is my hope that Ellen’s and Maureen’s victory, though against strong odds, demonstrates that precious godly mandate to “love one another as I have loved you.”

Christmas traditions:
In addition to the mouthwatering standard fare of turkey, dressing, and all the trimmings, I like to prepare Gulf Coast favorites on the days just prior to Christmas Eve, such as seafood gumbo, deep-fried shrimp and oysters, and battered-and-fried veggies.

Wheelock Gumbo

A pot of my Mississippi Gulf Coast Christmas gumbo to warm the heart

Your turn:
During the days coming up to Christmas, what special dishes do you prepare that family and friends look forward to? Or what dishes do friends and loved ones prepare that you treasure the most?

My giveaway!

The winner will receive a $20 gift card to the Hallmark store. Happy hunting!

Wheelock Giveaway

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Once there, follow the directions to enter. Drawing ends Nov. 30th.

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Congratulations to Vicki, winner of the giveaway!

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Wheelock HeadshotThe storyteller:
Jacqueline Freeman Wheelock is a multi-published author whose works range from “Christmas Lights” in Christmas Stories From Mississippi to her memoirs in Children of the Changing South: Accounts of Growing Up During and After Integration. Her first novel, A Most Precious Gift, debuted in September, 2014. She and her husband Donald reside in central Mississippi. They are the parents of two adult children and one granddaughter.


27 thoughts on ““A Bracelet for Christmas” by Jacqueline Freeman Wheelock

  1. One of my favorite Christmas treats are the many hors d’oeuvre trays at the various parties we attend this time of year. I hang out nearby and graze. Yup. I could make a meal of hors d’oeuvres–and often have. 🙂

  2. I make pineapple glazed ham and pineapple cookies and homemade fudge to keep on hand for get together so.

  3. My husband’s grandma used to make an amazing dessert called mint freeze. It had layers of mint ice cream, hot fudge, and all other forms of sugar. Yum! 🙂

    I really enjoyed reading your story, Jacqueline. It was beautifully written, and the message is timeless.

  4. Your story sounds wonderful, Jacqueline! And so does your Gulf Coast Christmas Gumbo! I’d love to have that recipe! 😊 I’d love to surprise my son-in-law with it!
    We haven’t decided on everything for our meal yet, but two things I know we’ll have are dressing and mashed potatoes. My granddaughters have taken that part over and we can’t have Thansgiving or Christmas without them!

    • Janet Lee, the gumbo recipe is yours for the asking! And you can never go wrong with dressing and mashed potatoes.

  5. For 50 plus years, my grandma made 7 Layer Cookies every Christmas. She passed in 2011 at the tender age of 99 1/2. I now keep that tradition going.

  6. My mother always made peanut butter balls. They tasted better than Reese’s. I also loved her sugar, peanut butter, and no bake chocolate oatmeal cookies. Oh, and her peanut butter fudge was famous. It stayed soft and tasted fabulous. As you can tell, I have a well-developed sweet tooth! The story sounds fantastic, but then everything you write is!

  7. Hi Jacqueline, your story sounds like a great read. One of our family favorites is baked mashed potatoes with marshmallows on top. And one of the favorites we assemble is a pickle tray with gherkins, mustard pickles, olives, etc, and other pickles we don’t eat throughout the year, because usually we stick to bread and butter, and dill pickles.

    • Sounds wonderful. Cauliflower as a rice substitute has made a big splash in our house lately.

  8. Baking! I absolutely love making pies. This past year I started growing my own rhubarb, for strawberry and raspberry rhubarb pies and crisps. My favorite though is apple pie. Unlike a lot of people I know, I love making my own pie dough. It takes a slow and gentle hand, but I won’t do it any other way. Then come Christmas it’s gingerbread cookies and houses, a family tradition I LOVE!

  9. One of our holiday favorites (for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas is Cran-raspberry Mousse (the recipe can be found on Ocean Spray’s website–a light version as well). Except we add fresh raspberries. Mmm Just beware, if you decide to add frozen raspberries. The extra moisture in the icy berries MAY cause your mousse to not set up properly (it took us several years to figure out what the problem was). Even when it doesn’t set up, it still has that great tart/sweet taste–just more like a smoothie. 😉

  10. I’m so sorry to be late reading your blog post. What a way you have with words! I love your idea for The Christmas Bracelet. My mother always fried oysters for our Christmas Eve dinner. Your gumbo looks delicious. I’m sure everyone loves it. Have a wonderful Christmas celebration.

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