The Gift of Giving

The Christmas Trees with Presents

This weekend a majority of us will celebrate the most popular holiday in the world. It’s called Christmas. It is the time of year that reunites family and friends to enjoy time together and enjoy the company of loved ones. Many people, myself included, remember that this is the time of year that we reflect on those that are not with us anymore. Whether it is an uncle that wore the crazy holiday tie or a Grandma that went out of her way to make sure her grandchildren received a special sweater to keep warm in, we have them in our thoughts. I am guessing that all of us can remember someone or some memory that can either bring a smile to our faces or a tear to our eye. It’s nice to think of those we lost during this time of year because they are the ones we shared the best of times with. This week I am thinking of a few relatives that always made my Christmas special.

First I would like to tell you about my Grandma & Grandpa Bujak. They always had their home decorated to the nines. They always worked so hard on making the holidays special for anyone that stopped over during the season. They always had tons of lights, decoration and plenty of food for everyone. My grandparents were the type that would have ‘extra’ gifts to give those that came by so they didn’t feel left out when the rest of us were opening gifts. It might be some cologne from the drug store or some wool socks but they never wanted anyone to be left out.

My grandparents loved to party and loved to entertain. One memory I have is using Grandma’s phone in her bedroom to call the Santa Hotline to see where Santa was at in the country. I am sure it cost my grandparents a few bucks because the number was a “976” higher rate phone number prefix but no one got mad at us, at least from what I remember. But hey, an 8 year old had his needs!

Today as I write this, I wish we had both Sally & Leo with us to celebrate Christmas, but I have the memories. Grandpa Leo died first, then Grandma Sally a year later from cancer. I miss them and still remember their phone number to this day.

Merry Christmas Grandma & Grandpa. I miss you very much.

The second person I’d like to share a little about is my mother-in-law Pat. She has a special place in my heart because she made me do the one thing that I thought I would never, ever do. She asked me to put on a Santa suit and play Santa for my nieces and nephews – and I did it. I did it because Pat asked me to. I would have done anything to help her out because she always gave to everyone. I would put this “Made In China” nylon suit on in McHenry and drive to Palatine as Santa. Everyone would honk and point – but hey, it was for the kids. Even if in one particular video you can hear Santa clearly say “Santa needs a scotch”, I played the part. I was more like the Grinch but I did it.

Elvis Presley Christmas Photo

With Joanne’s mom if you needed it Pat got it for you. Sometimes even if you didn’t need it you got it. I loved spending my Christmas with my wife’s family when Pat was alive because I always got a great laugh out of the gifts I would get. One year I got Elvis pajamas! I wore the crap out of those.

I like Elvis and Pat knew it – so I got Elvis Pajamas! That’s just how she was. She always took care of all of us.


The sad parts that I remember are seeing how sick she was during the last Christmas she spent with us. She could hardly take a breath. She was very stubborn and did not want to be in the hospital during the holidays. So, through all the pain she made it. Then shortly after New Years, she went into the hospital and never returned. She had an incurable cancer that spread into her lungs. She left us a tad before my oldest, Justin, was born. Today, we still celebrate Christmas with my wife’s family but it’s not the same. As you might have read in one of my earlier blogs, Joanne’s younger sister Val has Down Syndrome and each year she toasts her mom at Christmas. It always makes us sad because to Val, her mom was her world. Like my grandparents, I miss Pat very much. I can only hope all three of them are sitting somewhere at a table drinking Highballs together enjoying the sounds of Christmas.

I will wrap up with one quick note; I am sure many of you have similar stories to share so please do just that. I read every comment on our site!

I hope all of you have an incredible holiday season. You have helped us raise so much money the past few years that I wanted to say thank you once again. You understand the gift of giving and we at Walla-Pa-looza are indebted to you. 

So, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Craig, Joanne
Justin, Andrew and Lewie

2010 Wallace Christmas Card


  • It’s been 15 years without my dad and it stings the most at Christmas. I think that’s because that’s where most of your greatest memories are found. Unlike Jo’s mom, my dad was gone in a flash. I often have said that I don’t know what’s worse – not being able to say goodbye or having to watch them knowing they are leaving soon. Touching…. and I’m babbling. Sorry.

    Craig, Joanne, Justin, Andrew …. and okay even the barking pup – HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS! It’s been great getting to know your family (and harrass Craig) – have a wonderful day and a kick butt rockin’ New Year. Keep making those memories!!!

    Comment by Wendy — December 24, 2010 @ 10:07 am

  • My Mom has been gone for three years and my Dad for one, it has left a big hole inside. I try to fill that hole by helping others and by keeping their memory alive for my boys.

    My Mom would always put an orange in our stocking’s to fill out the toe so I am carring on her tradition. Gibson and Gavin ask every year why I do it and I let them know it is to remember Grandma.

    My Dad use to wear lights on his handle bar mustache and would get a kick out of surprising people with them in public places. He had a switch in his pocket to turn them on and off. Dad would always tell kids he could turn them on by snapping his fingers. He enjoyed performing magic so had the knack to convince them.

    You have brought tears to my eyes and made me remember so many other joyous times and traditions. Thank you!

    Merry Christmas to all!

    Comment by Maria — December 25, 2010 @ 10:18 am