When I was a child, Christmas was almost always held at my parents’ home. Due to various family issues with my parents’ siblings’ families, I was the only grandchild that both sets of my grandparents were able to see regularly.
Dad would make eggnog (nothing like the stuff they sell in the grocery store), and Mom would make just about everything else, plus pumpkin pies. This was also the time when (what was left of) the cookies and breads made their appearance. I still look forward to Mom’s date pinwheels every year – my favorites!
Grandma Millie and Grandpa John would show up early with a green-bean casserole. Grandma Millie liked to be around to give Mom a helping hand. She always seemed to love the holidays. Grandpa John would find a place to sit, usually in front of the television, if I recall correctly. To be honest, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the adults – I was usually fully consumed in playing with whatever toys Santa and my parents had provided.
My dad’s parents would show up closer to mealtime. Fuzzy always brought the pecan pie – a tradition that continues to this day. Grandpa Howard would find the other men while she joined Mom and Grandma Millie in the kitchen. I always looked forward to showing Fuzzy what I had gotten for Christmas, because she was the best at looking interested and impressed.
When I was very young, of course, Granddaddy and Ma were also at these gatherings. In my memory, I can still hear Granddaddy cackle with joy after teasing my mother or Ma. Granddaddy was fond of saying that he flitted among the pretty flowers and settled on a cow-pie, which would irritate Ma and make the rest of the family laugh.
Less frequently, various aunts and uncles would make their appearances at these festive occasions. I was almost always the only child, though. Some might think that would make Christmas a lonely holiday for me, but I was already more than accustomed to entertaining myself. Plus, once the meal was served, the adults were bound to start sharing family stories. I learned my family’s history and my storytelling skills by listening to my elders.
When the Christmas meal was over and the last of the lingering family members left, Dad would light a fire in the fireplace and we would cuddle up as a family and watch television or play one of my new games. The year I got the ColecoVision game console, I think we played video games for hours. Before that, Dad and I had wasted many quarters in the Valley West arcade. Dad was a big fan of Donkey Kong. I think we had Donkey Kong for the game console, too.
Yes, I know that Christmas is too commercial these days and that Christmas dinners are time-consuming to prepare and gone within minutes. But I still think there’s something irreplaceable about sitting down in a family home and sharing a meal prepared with love. This is how we pass on our stories, beliefs, and even our family recipes. These are the things that mean “home.”