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Southwest Airlines Holiday Memories

Adventurer B
My absolute most favorite food in the word (next to cucumbers and any type of soup) is iced sugar cookies--there's just something about them.  I crave them all year long, but the time we have them in my family is at Christmas.  Of course, we can't just eat sugar cookies.  As with most things around the Holidays, it has to be turned into an event, an occasion, and, of course, a contest.  This leads to the Great Sugar Cookie Decorating Contest of Christmas Eve every year.  With shapes ranging from wreaths to reindeer to Texas stars, we stand poised with five different color icings and assorted tools like Popsicle sticks and toothpicks.  Let the decorating begin--my brother and I are serious about winning, and we come up with elaborate icing plots to take the Sugar Decorating Crown.  My sister-in-law is a total ringer, though, and has skated away with the Grand Prize for the last two years.  At the end of the evening, the "judges" peruse the cookies with serious intent and select the "best" cookies.  Somehow, there are just enough categories for everyone to win.  We are all in our 30s, but still continue to decorate the cookies with childlike enthusiasm.  Thank goodness the next generation is coming along (currently ages five, two, and one), so we can pretend we are doing this for them!  So, that's one of my favorite memories and traditions.  We all seem to have them, whether they are funny, touching, nostalgic, or groan-inducing.  Our Southwest Leaders had a moment to reflect and wanted to share some of their favorite memories with you. Happy Holidays! GARY KELLY, CEO I'm the oldest child in my family by six years.  Before my brother was born in the late 50s, I have vivid memories of Christmas.  My mother's family (parents and two sisters) all lived in San Antonio, as did we.  We had a standing routine on Christmas at my grandparents' little house in Delknap, where we would exchange presents.  My family's tradition in those days was to open presents on Christmas Eve.  My mother, father, and I would decorate our Christmas tree.  Every year, my sweet mother would fool me, take me on a drive to see Christmas lights, and then return home to have my father say, "you just missed Santa Claus."  My disappointment was short-lived, given the bounty of presents under the tree. (It was kind of nice being the only kid!) I can still remember the Christmas that the Schwinn bike was under the tree.  The other memorable present was the Lionel train set.  Our own children are grown now, and married.  Christmas is so much more fun as a parent, and we always made such a time of it.  In the early days of "Santa Claus," the girls would be up at the crack of dawn.  Now, they sleep in until midmorning after a late Christmas Eve night.  Even though they're grown, married, and live locally, they come home and sleep in their old bedrooms upstairs.  What a great, family holiday. LINDA RUTHERFORD, VP PUBLIC RELATIONS AND COMMUNITY AFFAIRS One year, before Christmas, I was home from school alone. I wanted to surprise my Mother with a home baked goodie, so I grabbed a brownie mix from the pantry. I'm not great in the kitchen, so I was closely studying the instructions on the box and carefully gathering the ingredients in the order that the instructions said needed to be added to the mix. OK, two eggs: check; 1/2 cup oil: check; 1/2 cup milk: check; and two cups water: check. I grabbed a big mixing bowl from the cupboard and tore open the box. In went the mix, and then the eggs, oil, milk and water. I was so careful to add them all in the order that the box instructed me to. Then, the box said: Mix slowly by hand until batter is smooth. So, I got busy, mixing BY HAND. My mother walked in about 20 minutes later to me, elbows deep into a giant bowl of brownie batter. "What are you doing, Linda?" "Well, the box said mix by hand," I said, "but it's just taking so long, and I can't get all the lumps out no matter what I do." I was 15. That story lives on in my family, and my mother tears up each time she tells it....Tears up because she can hardly get through it without laughing so hard she cries. The story always starts with: "For someone I thought was so bright....." LORI RAINWATER, VP INTERNAL AUDIT One Christmas, my husband and I, not having any children, dressed up our dogs and made the rounds at the nursing home where our grandfather lived.  We would go door to door and give each resident a small gift--just socks, soap, perfume...something small.  We had our Rat Terrier, Elmo, decked out as Santa, and our Brittany spaniel, Ginger, was an angel.  The center director would go with us.  Before knocking on each door, she would tell us a bit about each resident.  Before knocking on one particular door, she said "Mrs. Henderson is our oldest resident.  She is 102."   I was very surprised when Mrs. Henderson herself opened the door, rather than just shouting for us to come in.  She was delighted with her little gift and then noticed Elmo (the rat terrier).  She bent over to pet him, and spit up all over his suit!  I told her that, at 102, she could do what she wanted!  She told me that she used to have a little dog just like him, and that "I was gonna miss him when he died"!  Such sage husband and I just laughed.  We continued to use that saying often in jest "you are going to miss me when I die!" etc. Another resident's weak voice told us to come in.  The room was dark.  She had her back turned to us, laying on her side, with oxygen tubes in her nose.  But you should have seen how she lit up when she saw those two dogs!  She looked like she was ready to run a marathon.  She said her husband used to hunt, and they used to have a Brittany.  She just loved and hugged on those dogs.  The Director told us after we had left that she hardly ever talked to anyone.  Never wanted to join the other residents for meals or events.  I think she was just lonely. That was the Christmas that I felt I gave the most.  Those inexpensive little gifts, and the visits to some lonely folks really made an impact.  Now that I am older, I think I understand how hard it is to be "young of mind, but old of body".  There is no gift greater than your time.  If you can give some time, go into that neighborhood nursing center.  Sing them some songs, give them some hugs.  You will be filled with Holiday Spirit! SCOTT HALFMANN, VP PROVISIONING Sometimes the most memorable memories aren't the best!  A few years ago when my middle child (Stanton) was five, his grandmother gave all the kids (my three) one dirt bike so they could all take turns riding.  So, Stanton was out there riding out in the field when he rode across a bunch of horse apples.  The dirt bike got real squirrelly and ended up flipping Stanton off the bike into a barb-wire fence.  Stanton's mouth was all cut up, and we had to rush him to the hospital in Grandma's new Lexus to get stitched up! GINGER HARDAGE, SR VP CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS Christmas Time in childhood was magical.  We always had Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparents' home, which was only a mile away from our home on a flat West Texas dirt road.  The static elevation and absence of any trees provided a clear view between the homes.  The view was particularly helpful to a five year old keeping a watchful eye for Santa to fly through the air and land on your roof.  After dinner, it was tradition to go outside to pop firecrackers and twirl sparklers. This particular Christmas, I was convinced that I'd spotted Santa and his reindeer departing our roof.  We loaded up the cars for the drive filled with excitement (and no lit sparklers in the car).  That crisp Christmas Eve evening is forever etched in my memory courtesy of a black and white Kodak photo of my bounty from Santa:  I'm wearing slip-on clear high heels while bowling with my new miniature bowling set.  Today parents would be queasy about the combination of a five-year-old, an ignited sparkler, three-inch heels, and a bowling ball.  But somehow I survived and still carry that magical night with me. SCOTT TOPPING, VP TREASURER Without a doubt, the most exciting childhood memory around the Holidays was the annual get together with our cousins who lived far away.  Now, I watch my own kids anticipate the same event as they impatiently count down the weeks and days before seeing their own cousins.  At their age, it seemed the day would never come! DARYL KRAUSE, SR VP INFLIGHT AND FLEET SERVICES My favorite Christmas story would have to be my family Christmas of 2003.  My family owns a farmhouse that was built in 1895.  This farm has been in our family since the mid 1800's and is located just outside of a small town in Central Texas.  Needless to say, growing up, I had the privilege of spending some of my childhood Christmases there.  This house was passed down from generation to generation, and in 1996, my brother and I inherited it.  Unfortunately, over the years it had deteriorated to the point of being unable to enjoy, as I remembered it growing up.  This is where the fun started; my brother and I decided to begin the massive effort of modernizing it, so our families could enjoy it.  Proudly, in December 2003 my family held our first Christmas in 30 years in the farmhouse.  We cut the Christmas tree from the land and decorated it with antique original ornaments my grandparents had used many years ago.  We continue to celebrate each year in the farmhouse and carry on the family tradition. RAY SEARS, VP PURCHASING Shea's (my wife) birthday is December 31, so when we were first married, I started taking her on a big surprise trip each year to celebrate her birthday and the New Year.  This quickly became a tradition for us.  We love to spend the Christmas Holidays with family and friends, and then take off the day after Christmas.  Over the years, we've been blessed to celebrate in many wonderful places around the world on New Year's Eve.  One of the most memorable trips was New Year's Eve 1999.  Shea was turning 30 and the whole world was talking about celebrating the new millennium.  The pressure was on to make her birthday special!  We celebrated by taking a 15-day cruise through the Panama Canal.  We were the first passenger ship to sail westbound through the Panama Canal on January 1, 2000.  Besides being the first day of 2000, it was the day that Panama took control of the Canal from the United States.  It was a wonderful time, and we look back to the trip with great fondness. Traveling after the Christmas Holidays has been a fun tradition for us, but we're not planning a trip this year.  We're expecting a double blessing soon-twins!  Our first two children, a son and daughter, are scheduled to make their world debut on April 9, 2008.  We'll probably have to find another way to celebrate after the holidays for a few years, but we look forward to the day that we can bring the kids along to celebrate their mom's birthday and New Year's by creating new travel memories. TERESA LARABA, VP GROUND OPERATIONS In 1995, we had just moved to Dallas from El Paso.  My husband, Brad, has just begun to work on the Dallas Ramp.  He was awarded a 5:00 a.m. start time for Christmas Day.  Our two girls were ages three and six at the time.  Brad woke us all up at 3:00 a.m. so he could be there with the girls when they opened their presents.