In our own backyard... 'Going to Grandma's house' is Christmas tradition
The Christmas season is all about tradition. When I was a child, the festive holiday simply wouldn't have been the same without the bubble lights on my grandma and grandpa's tree, the Mexican Wedding Cakes my mom baked every year (and still does!...
The Christmas season is all about tradition. When I was a child, the festive holiday simply wouldn't have been the same without the bubble lights on my grandma and grandpa's tree, the Mexican Wedding Cakes my mom baked every year (and still does!) and the family trip out into the tree plantation with my dad to cut a fragrant balsam tree for our living room.
When my own kids were young, every year we read stories out of Richard Scarrie's "The Animals Merry Christmas" collection, just as I did when I was little (and still do!), and we always, always, always opened our gifts from under the tree on Christmas Eve.
And so, I trust you will bear with me - and hopefully take a trip back to the traditions of your own childhood - as I once again harken back to the first column I ever wrote for this newspaper - which just happened to be at Christmastime.....
My earliest childhood memories are entwined with happy thoughts of traveling to Grandma's house in Excelsior. The excitement of our family's annual pilgrimage in that direction was due partly to the reality of the trip itself - and partly to the sweet anticipation.
For weeks ahead of time, my sister and I would carefully labor over our "wish lists" to Santa, drawing inspiration from the Sears and Montgomery Ward Christmas catalogs. By the time the lists were completed, the catalogs were usually dog-eared and rumpled. But we became suddenly shy as we were taken to visit the jolly 'ol elf himself, yet somehow our lists always found their way into his wise old hands, and we felt certain our wishes would be known.
My mother would always take us Christmas shopping on a weekend in early December. We'd saved our allowances for weeks, and with shopping lists grasped tightly in hand, we would pursue our secret errands up and down the main street of town all on our own, enjoying the thrill of a few minutes' independence that mothers today would likely never dare allow their children.
The gift wrapping went on behind locked doors, with all of us smiling broadly as we proudly distributed them under the tree.
My excitement over the impending trip to Grandma's house was too much to contain, so I usually shared it with my doll. I lovingly prepared her wardrobe for the journey, comb and recombed her hair, scrubbed her pink cheeks until they would have ached if she had been a real child, and chattered right out loud to her about Santa and Christmas and the joys of "Grandma's house."
The morning of the trip, we were always up early. Though everything was packed the night before, my mom spent the last minutes making our lunch to eat on the way and brewing a thermos of coffee that later filled the car with its cozy aroma.
The delicious warmth of the car ride that followed came partly from the heater in our family Ford - and partly from the excitement of sharing this annual adventure once again.
My grandparents' house was decorated for Christmas, with each cherished ornament always in its accustomed place, nestled among the festive bubble lights that I could l have watched for hours.
Grandma always made ham for our Christmas Eve dinner, which she served with mashed potatoes, sweet pickles and coleslaw. Even the food was dearly familiar. We would have been disappointed if it had been any other way.
The gift opening, Santa's arrival and Christmas morning were always a happy blur which went by much too fast, but it remained deeply engraved in our hearts and minds nonetheless.
All of that was a long time ago. In my adult years, no matter what hardships or disappointments have come my way, I have always tried to hold fast to the childlike enthusiasm of that magical time - and to keep moving toward "Grandma's house" in my mind.
Pine Journal columnist Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: email@example.com .