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Yuba-Sutter celebrates Christmas
G Street, Marysville, 9 a.m.: At the Malecha household in Marysville, Christmas morning began with screams. Of the good kind.
"Mom! Santa got us motorcycles!" sons Christian and Carsen exulted as they came bounding into their parents' room at about 6 a.m., said mother Corinne Malecha, 32. "They wanted to ride them before they even opened other presents."
By 9 a.m., the motorized motorcycle for 9-year-old Carsen and motorized four-wheeler for Christian, 2, were being put to pavement, as the youngsters zoomed along the sidewalk and down the street in front of their house.
Corinne, who said she had been up with her husband until 2 a.m. helping Santa get the house ready, sipped an energy drink, but beamed as she watched.
More than once, she admonished them to watch out for drivers, parked cars and fences.
For as much fun as he was having, Carsen was a bit bashful about how excited he had been to see his gift.
"I've wanted it for two years, maybe three years," he said. "This year, I thought maybe I'd get it because my mom said, 'I might get it for you.'
"But instead Santa got it for me."
Cooking all night
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Yuba City, 10:45 a.m.: After a night of making 100 muffins, Arturo Oliva said he was tired. But he was saying it with a smile.
Before him Christmas morning in the church's community room, a few dozen people, many of them homeless, had a holiday brunch of egg casseroles, fruit salad, hot coffee and the voluminous baked goods freshly made by Oliva.
"I will always remember this Christmas," said Oliva, a prep cook at Marcello's Italian Restaurant in Yuba City, who volunteered to make blueberry muffins, lemon loaf, banana nut bread and other goodies for the brunch, open to all. "I've cooked for this many people before, but not in this time frame."
Oliva said he had begun cooking at midnight on Christmas for the brunch, which drew more than 60 people. Some were happy for a hot meal after a chilly Christmas morning in the river bottoms, while others said they were with family if they were with fellow churchgoers.
As she sat down with her fiance and her two kids, Corina Bernal of Yuba City said everything on her plate looked good. Her son, Alexander, apparently agreed, asking for more orange slices when a volunteer offered them.
Bernal said this year's Christmas was the best ever, but the reason wasn't the gifts or even the meal.
"We've met a lot of churches, and met a lot of people," she said. "We're closer to God this year."
Very last-minute shoppers
Walgreen's, Marysville, 12:05 p.m.: Judging by the full parking lot, one would never know it was Christmas. And for a few of the shoppers, the shopping for the holiday wasn't quite over, either.
On a whim, Janie Daugherty, 19, of Marysville, decided to see if she could find a gift for her stepmom on Christmas Day.
"She just had surgery on her foot, so she's feeling a bit down," Daugherty said. "This might help."
A full display in the store of gift cards for stores and restaurants gave her options, as they did for others caught between an empty space under the tree and the lack of open stores.
At midday, the very last-minute shoppers seemed to be the exception; most were buying the more everyday gallon of milk, a pack of cigarettes or a 12 pack of beer.
With a handful of just-bought gift cards, Applebee's and Babies 'R Us among them, Katrina Donoho of Marysville said she had forgotten a gift for one person, but made up for it Tuesday.
"Starbucks, then home," she said.
Honor their late mother
Sierra View Memorial Park, Olivehurst, 2:30 p.m.: Under a steady, but gentle rain on Christmas afternoon, three sisters and two of their significant others said they were thinking of Yules past. Ham dinners. Evening watchings of "It's a Wonderful Life." And, two years ago, the last time they saw their mother.
"We come on every major holiday, and we try to come whenever we can," said Sara Straolzini, 24, of Yuba City. Her mother, Teresa Yvonne Hazlerig, died in January 2011, but she has a strong memory among Straolzini and her two sisters, as they visited her grave in Olivehurst.
Deanna Hibbs, 28, of Olivehurst, said Christmas meant spending the morning at her father's home — her parents were divorced — then going to mother's later in the day. "Ham, not turkey," she and her sisters affirmed, was the traditional dinner. Hibbs' husband, William Hibbs, said the viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life," the Jimmy Stewart holiday classic, came afterward, but he typically fell asleep before it ended.
As they placed flowers and chatted about other memories — the first year after their mother passed away, the Christmas dinner was spaghetti, they recalled with amusement — the mood was upbeat, if thoughtful. Straolzini said if anyone shed so much as a tear, though, they'd all be crying in no time.
William Hibbs said visiting was establishing a new tradition in a way.
As he put it, "People think of cemeteries as this dreary place you don't want to go to. But when you know someone there, then it becomes like home for them.
"It's like we're going to see Mom at her place."
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.