When we recall Christmas memories we tend to think about what and whom we miss, robbing ourselves of the opportunity to close our eyes and absorb a good memory. There are many people I miss from my paternal grandparents’ duplex in Easthampton, MA, but for now, I close my eyes and I am a child whose room is clean because Santa is on his way.
We spent Christmas Eves at their house. Their Christmas tree was set up in the corner of their living room close to the console TV, glowing a soft blue from the tiny lights. I still don’t know why they used only blue lights, but it was beautiful and it makes my memory more vivid. The room adjacent was the parlor, which was set up like a dining room, and through a doorway to the right was the kitchen. All three rooms were part of a circle on the main level of the house.
My grandmother was always in the kitchen cooking. The scents of mashed potatoes, baked ham, and her homemade stuffing filled the downstairs. We waited patiently for her to say it was ready to eat. In the parlor, there were service platters and plates of cookies and cakes, and Crockpots of all shapes and sizes were filled with sweet and tangy baked beans, meatballs, golompkis, kielbasa simmering in BBQ sauce, and always some type of cabbage, waiting for us to line up with our plates.
My many cousins and I anticipated Santa’s arrival that night after we went to bed, and the adults loved to tease us about it. There was usually a baby on someone’s hip, and people hugged and clinked beer bottles with well-wishes and good-lucks. My aunts and uncles and parents laughed and chatted about what was new in their lives, and I remember a few times my Grandpa Bennie, my strong, serious, Grandpa Bennie, became emotional.
On our drive home, our eyes were in the sky and my dad would tell us he saw Santa. I still feel the nervous anticipation about St. Nick, and the genuine sense of safety and love those Christmas Eves at my grandparents’ always gave to me. I could compare my now to my then, but my then is still part of who I am, part of who I will always be. It is my almost-tangible memory forever, and for that I am grateful.