When I wrote briefly about family recently, I got immediate response from my cousins of memories of Christmas at our Grandmother's house. In today's life, we have difficulty finding a time and place to get even small parts of our family together, so I thought I would reminisce about these Christmases that still bring so many good memories.
But first a little background on my grandmother.
She was very young when she got married, either 15 or 16, finding her true love early. She had a bunch of kids while balancing running the house and working in the fields, all during the most difficult economic times our country has ever known. When we asked dad what it was like to have lived through the Great Depression, he said they were already so poor by that time they had no idea it had happened.
While they moved frequently during those years, by the time I came on the scene, I only remember two different houses, the little one, and the big one, which isn't saying much since the big one was 4 rooms, maybe 5. There wasn't much use for a bathroom, as there was no running water.
There seems to be some disagreement as to whether there was a big tank that held rain water in the back but I am pretty sure that was where we filled a bucket with water which was brought in, placed on a special table by the stove and the communal dipper was replaced along with a special cup towel to keep what out? Germs?
During the summer you kept all the windows open and I vaguely remember one fan but if you were hot, you could always go outside, right? In the winter, you did not have to worry about being cold, even though the walls were very thin and I am pretty sure there was no insulation, but there were at least 2 space heaters that were on full blast once the temperature dipped to the least chill and if that was not enough, she usually had the burners on the stove wide open as well. How the whole thing never caught fire has to be some sort of miracle.
Grandmom's house was surrounded by gigantic oak trees and plenty of sandy soil, which provided a wealth of entertainment for all the kids. It was just the right kind of soil that allowed you to dig your toes into the dirt and feel the coolness below. In the fall, there was no lack of leaves to rake up and eventually burn, sometimes sparking interest from the local fire department, and at least once, coming awfully close to the propane tank also. So in the summer, you went to bed with a fine layer of sand and in the fall, you went to bed with your hair smelling of burning leaves.
I mentioned the lack of a bathroom and not sure how long it took to get indoor plumbing, but I do remember when the out house was expanded to become a two seater. The walls were covered with a variety of writing including words of wisdom, memories, poems, and how to find a final resting place of a stray bird, which included directions such as regular steps and kid's steps.
Because Grandmother always wanted everyone to come visit, she made sure she had a way to have a bed for everyone, even if there were only 2 bedrooms and most families had 4 kids and there could be several families there at once. On each bed, there were at least 3 mattresses which were pulled off and put on the floor and covered with kids and quilts.
If grandmother knew you were coming and got to go to the grocery store, she would have all the food she had bought sitting on her kitchen counter, to show you how proud she was that you were there. Among the items was usually at least one can of salmon or mackerel and the rest of the meals were supplemented with fresh food out of her garden.
This wasn't just a little patch of a garden, this was a good size garden and it always had potatoes, onions, green beans, tomatoes, and in good years, corn. I almost forgot the okra and I guess there were other things but the idea of all of those things, fresh from that garden, brings back so many great memories of sitting around the table with family.
Of course it is all about family which was the most important thing to grandmother.
For Grandmom, there were two holidays each year, one was her birthday, and the other was Christmas. Attendance at both was mandatory. Of course you wanted to go so that didn't matter. Getting there, however, was a different story.
With all the thousands of trips we all must have made, I don't remember too many that involved accidents or car trouble, in spite of less than stellar vehicles and little two lane roads. It got fairly complicated when we got jobs, especially retail jobs, to convince your boss that you had to be off early to get to grandmother's but it would not have mattered what time you got off, you still knew you would head to grandmother's.
But since it is Christmas night and I, in my role as Santa, had a late night last night, I will write about Christmas at Grandmother's tomorrow.