These are the combined memories of the years I spent at Granny's house on Christmas Eve--sweet, precious memories of the greatest family on earth.
|View from the front window of my childhood home. The mountains are almost invisible due to oncoming snow. We could sit there and watch it cover the mountains and then drift down the hollers.|
“Oh, please let it snow.” I squashed my face against the front window and searched for a snowflake to fall from a gray Christmas Eve sky.
“Karen, you’re messing up my freshly cleaned windows. Get off…”
“Mommy, do you think it’s going to snow tonight. Oh, look, somebody just pulled into the driveway,” I squealed in anticipation of a Christmas gift.
“Who is it?”
“I don’t know. But they’re in a blue car.”
“Well, hurry and get ready so we can go on over to your granny’s and help her set up for the party.”
I wiped away the fog from the window, leaving finger swipes in the wake, and pulled on my red sweater and shoes. Mom and Dad warmed our coats by the stove. We pulled them tightly around us, filled our arms with food, pokes stuffed with presents, and my baby sister. Frigid air hit us as we crossed the porch and headed to granny’s house next door.
“It smells like snow out here. Oh, it just has to snow. It’s Christmas.”
We tromped onto Granny's porch and burst into the house, already filled with relatives and laughter. Mom put the food on the dining room table as Dad and I put gifts under Granny’s aluminum tree. A lamp with pie pieces of colored light sat on the floor and turned the tree red, blue, gold and green as it slowly turned.
We tossed our coats onto Granny’s bed and then the hugging commenced. Aunt Joyce and her family, from Cincinnati, led the group in laughter. Aunt Myrt (short for Mary Ruth) told us stories about all the wonderful things she did this past year in Lexington. Myrt has a talent for tall tales, too. Uncle Junior trapped me in a chair and came at me with his pinching fingers, like a crawdad, saying, “I’m gonna give you some sugar.” I tried to escape, unsuccessfully, as he pinched my knees in just the right spot, making me wince in pain and scream for mercy. He always laughed like he thought I enjoyed the attack. I didn’t.
|Before the party, this is what Granny's tree looked like.|
I sat quietly in the corner watching the tree as it reflected the light and colors in the room. I also perused the brightly decorated packages heaped around the tree. I hoped the prettiest ones had my name on the tag. Voices filled the house with boisterous laughter and teasing. Each time a new group of relatives arrived, the pile of presents grew until they created a mountain of bright colors, resembling an Appalachian autumn.
|Granny laid out all her presents for the family on her bed as she wrapped them. We would help her carry them to the tree.|
As the chill of the house became more obvious, we took turns standing in front of the fireplace to warm our fronts. Then, we turned around to warm our backs. We stood there long enough to heat our legs just enough to burn a little. That seemed to make the warmth last longer.
I breathed in the fragrance of burning wood mixed with fresh-cooked food now heaped on the dining table and buffet. Nothing compared to Granny’s house at Christmas.
Granny appeared in the archway and announced, “Food’s ready, everybody. Come and get it!”
Plates of food covered the table and buffet. My stomach wanted some of everything. Instead, I chose the dishes I already knew I loved—apple salad, Granny’s sage dressing, cornbread and butter, shuck beans, pea salad, and my favorite baloney salad sandwiches.
|My aunts--Mona Jo, Joyce, Mom, Myrt|
Every year, I watched Granny make the baloney salad the day of the party. She peeled the red wrapper off a huge log of baloney and cranked it through the metal meat grinder attached to her kitchen table. Then she added sweet gherkins and boiled eggs to the mix. I loved watching the ingredients squish out the metal plate, looking like baloney spaghetti. Then she added the mayonnaise, stirred it all up in a huge pale green bowl. When it was just right, she spread the mixture onto white Bunny bread, sliced the sandwiches corner to corner and put them in the fridge to get cold. There is nothing as awesome as baloney salad sandwiches on Christmas Eve--except, maybe, my mom’s family recipe fruitcake. I like jam cake, apple stack cake, fudge and banana pudding, but no dessert compares to my mom’s fruitcake.
The men of the family always seemed to get to the head of the line first. I secretly prayed there would be some food left by the time my turn came. We filled our plates and found an available seat from the menagerie of chairs and sofa placed in a ring around the living room. Laughter and conversation dimmed as fork loads of fabulous mountain food were scooped into our mouths.
After we filled our stomachs to capacity, we opened presents. As Granny sat in her easy chair, aunts and uncles passed out the gifts. I always noticed that Granny received more gifts than anyone else. Aunt Mona Jo always grabbed the gift Granny bought me and handed it to me so no one could miss it.
“This one’s for Kurn Lynn.” (the hillbilly way of saying Karen Lynn). “Go ahead and open it!” She smiled as my face flushed. I tried to wait until everyone returned to their own presents, but she wouldn’t let me off so easily. “Go on and open it. Let’s see what it is.”
I think she knew what was in the box before I opened it. Actually, I knew what was in that box. I received the same thing from Granny every year—underwear. If I hesitated, Mona Jo helped me by ripping off the paper and opening up the box for me.
My face turned the color of the coals in the fireplace as I slinked down in my chair. I wanted to slide under the chair. Actually, I wanted to put Aunt Mona Jo under the chair.
“Oh, look at what Kurn Lynn got, everybody. Drawers! Ain’t they purty? Hold ‘em up so everybody can see how purty they are.”
When the last gift had been opened and the room was littered with remnants of festive paper and bows, my aunts and mom sneaked out of the room in whispers. They returned a moment later with the final gift for Granny—a Christmas stocking. It wasn’t the normal red flannel stocking you might expect. It wasn’t a knee sock like I hung from the window frame near the coal stove in my own house next door. They brought in real nylon stockings, filled to the top with little gifts, fruit, nuts in the shells and a variety of Christmas candies. It took the four of them to carry it into the room. Laughter erupted again.
|Mona Jo, Granny, Uncle Jr.'s wife of the time, Uncle Jr., and my mom.|
The party ended with a special treat Uncle Junior brought from Chicago—pink champagne. The kids weren’t allowed to taste it. We sat and watched as the adults giggled when the bubbles tickled their noses.
Clean-up whizzed by as everyone stuffed festive debris and leftovers into trash bags. Arms filled with gifts and a variety of leftovers to enjoy on Christmas day, we made our way back across the yard to our beds in the hopes sleep would come quickly to allow Santa to do his job.
“Look! It’s snowing. I knew it would snow. Woo-hoo! We’re going to have a white Christmas.” I danced across the yard, my head bent back to watch the snowflakes fall from the sky.
Mom called back to the relatives, “Y’all be careful driving back tonight. These roads are gonna be slick.”
Ready for dreamland, I stood in front of the stove to warm myself enough to face the cold of my unheated bedroom. Stinging from the heat, I ran and jumped into bed as my dad pulled the heap of quilts over me.
“You’d better get to sleep so Santa can come, little girl.” He gently kissed my forehead and ran his hard-working fingers across my hair.
“I will, Daddy. I sure hope it snows a lot. Good-night.” I yawned and rubbed the hard knot of baloney salad sandwiches and fruitcake in my tummy. I smiled as my eyelashes fluttered and I soon dreamed of the toys on my Christmas list, deep white snow covering the mountains and trees, leftover baloney salad sandwiches, and NO underwear.
|One wonderful Christmas morning when snow fell in abundance.|
|Another Christmas with snow, glorious snow!|
Wishing you a Christmas season filled with precious memories. And please, don't forget the reason we celebrate Christmas--the perfect gift we received that offers us something even more sweet than mere memories.