By Mark Ambrogi
The more Margaret Hentz reminisced about her mother’s Christmas letters, the more she knew there was book waiting to be written.
Just before Christmas last year, Hentz’s book “Christmas At My House” was published.
Each year from 1946 to 1966, Hentz’s mother, Harriet, wrote a narration of how Christmas had just been celebrated by their family in their hometown of Colebrook, Conn. The letters stretched from when her oldest brother was born until she was 10.
Hentz, who lives in northwest part of Carmel near the Westfield line, said her mother stopped writing because likely Christmas became too difficult with her father drinking worse and worse.
“I think Christmas got too painful for her and she starting working full time,” Hentz said.
Her father eventually left the family in 1974, divorced her mother and later died of a heart attack a few years later.
“I put excerpts of her original letters in the book but I describe more of the Christmas background to enhance what she described,” Hentz said. “My family was in the logging business so when we went to cut down the Christmas tree, we literally went into the woods that my family owned. We had a lot of Christmas traditions. My mother would knit Christmas stockings and we talked about exchanging gifts with neighbors.”
Hentz, a corporate librarian for Dow Chemical Company, worked on the manuscript on the book during her Christmas break for more than a decade.
Some of Hentz’s Christmas memories are bittersweet.
“With my father being an alcoholic, Christmas was not always a good time,” Hentz said. “A lot of good memories but some other memories are reflecting in what my mother wrote about are some bad memories. But she still made Christmas special.”
Each chapter of Hentz’s book is from a different year.
“It helps people bring back memories of how they spent Christmas,” Hentz said.
Hentz, 57, has two older brothers and an older sister who died three years ago.
“We would each write our rendition of how Christmas went,” Hentz said.
Hentz said she has tried to continue some of the traditions her mother started like knitting Christmas stockings for nieces and nephews since her mother died in 1991.
“I cook some of the foods she talked about in the letters,” Hentz said.
Hentz, who is married but doesn’t have children, said her nieces and nephews have enjoyed the stories.
Writing has always been a love for Hentz, who would write short stories as a child. She wrote a three-page story on her pet pony when she was in second grade.
About six months before her Christmas book, Hentz had written her first book “An Angel Named Jake” about a yellow labrador who Hentz and her husband adopted when the dog was seven years old.
“The book talks about the adventures we had with him the following six years before he died,” Hentz said. “The theme is connected with people we still keep in contact with. When we got him, he had been neglected and not treated well. His choke collar had to be surgically removed. He just seemed to love everyone even though he was not treated well when he was growing up.”
The books are available for purchase at amazon.com at barnesandnoble.com. Hentz is considering making a children’s book version of her stories with Jake.