When I think about Christmas, I think about my Nana. She was the holiday. She was the one to deliver us our holiday tins filled with homemade chocolate chip cookies & fudge. She was the one who cooked up a storm & served us a buffet on Christmas Eve. She was the one who loved giving gifts, more than she loved receiving them. Those memories will have a place in my heart forever.
Halloween was when we would get a call from her asking my brother & I what we wanted for Christmas. Boy, did she plan ahead. But in her eyes she just wanted to make it perfect. In her small home in West Virginia, raised by her grandparents, they didn’t have much. But they had each other. And Christmas was a special time for them. You could say, since she grew up with very little except a farm full of animals, she wanted to finally give back the way she always wanted to in the past. So, like one of Santa’s elves she would head out early in search for the perfect gifts for her grands.
Christmas Eve was the main event though. She lived for this day. “Dinner” started as early as 3p.m. so a little before that time, we would head over to her house in our best festive attire. When I was a young child like about 3 or 4 this meant a frilly dress & matching sunhat with a giant bow. My cousin, M used to call me a Bow Hunk. As the years went on we started to be more casual, but Nana would always wear either a valor sweatshirt & pants or some holiday pullover from Macys. Perfect for the most comfy hugs.
I swear this woman should have been a professional cook. She really missed her calling. As soon as you walked through the door, you could smell the aromas of smoked turkey, ham, mashed potatoes & gravy, stuffing & green beans. She was the queen of a southern meal. As you made your way to the dining area which was closely adjacent to the kitchen, you would find a small, round table in the corner with a white table cloth draped over it. On the table held her famous deviled eggs in her perfectly shaped egg plate (which I own now). My mom’s side of the family: her brother, sister, their wives & husbands & all my cousins would gather around the dining room table or her booth style table in the kitchen and feast for hours. Best believe she encouraged second helpings & even thirds.
Now that we were stuffed, it was finally time to exchange gifts. We would spend a good 20 minutes deciding who was going to play Santa, knowing damn well it was always going to be my Uncle (my mom’s brother). He is such a character & loved teasing us all the entire night. Did you know this gift exchange would go on for 5 hours? Crazy right?! But that was us. We would take turns opening each gift one at a time. It was slow but I saw it made my Nana happy so it was worth it.
The kicker was always who was going to be the one who gave Nana the best gift. It would always be a struggle, to the point where we made it a yearly tradition. We would tease each other with comments of “Oh Nana doesn’t like gift cards anymore, she wants a real gift!” One year they all chipped in & bought her a TV & she jokingly called them all stupid because her small box television set with a dial still worked. The winner that year, was a homemade sign for her garden. Go figure.
As ridiculous as it was, you had to love her for it. And it’s made Christmas very memorable. The years play in my head like an old fashioned movie projector. The year I got a kitchen set when I was 2, the year we put on a puppet show for everyone, the year one of my cousins & I sang our hearts out to songs on our new karaoke machines, dressed in our new frilly pajamas.
It isn’t until those traditions are gone, when you truly appreciate what you had. I remember our last Christmas with her. We had all grown up, four great grands added to the mix & we were all huddled in her finished basement exchanging gifts like we always had. At that moment, I didn’t know that was the last Christmas Eve I would be sitting in her house. The last time I’d smell the aroma of Pall Mall Reds wafting in the air. The last time I’d here the words, “This one’s for you, Miss B”. The last gift I received from her was a makeup palette. She knew me well.
She told us after she went, she wanted us to go to dinner, have the best crab dip in town & reminisce about our memories with her. She wanted us to laugh, not cry, but to remember the good times. So, the following December, a few months after she passed we all gathered at a local restaurant, talked about her, ate some crab dip & *clinked* our glasses together in a toast to our one & only Nana Do, for she loved Christmas & us most of all.
Have you checked out Blogmas Day 6?
Don’t forget to follow me on my social media accounts: I will be posting tons of festive photos on my Instagram & stories as well as creating holiday boards on Pinterest.