UNITY - As a kid, as a young adult and even today, my maternal grandma and my mom set the tone for a lifetime of perfect Christmases.
The first ingredient was the most important and it always included as much family as could possibly be managed, in everyone’s busy schedules. Growing up we often headed to my Grandma’s for the holidays. I don’t remember being as excited for Santa and presents as I was to meet up with our cousins and, of course, Grandma’s warm hugs.
Entering my grandparent’s home that smelled sweetly of fresh baking was the first shot of Christmas comfort received. Mom unpacked while the kids excitedly headed to see Grandma’s live tree and breath in that fresh pine scent while gazing with wonder at the bubbling lights or the trails of tinsel that wrapped around the gold and silver ornaments.
A meal was soon served after arrival and it was always a feast that included fresh bread, grandma’s perogies and cabbage rolls and a dozen other bowls of delicious additions that was sure to fill the tummy.
Following the meal, as the moms helped with clean up, dads headed to a comfy chair and the kids jumped into the game’s boards. It didn’t seem like long after a meal that grandma was bringing the kids their own bowl of chips and dip and a glass of pop, something that was a rare treat in those days.
Christmas morning always included a family photo that everyone dressed up for. Until we were in our teens, mom would always sew matching Christmas outfits for us to pose in and these pictures are such treasures today.
My grandma would always spend extra time brushing our long hair, sitting up and giggling with us until late into the night. Her hand-sewn gifts every year were highly anticipated and greatly treasured as they were always in the latest fashion of pjs, onesies, housecoats or new outfits and her sewing talents were admired by those who benefitted from them.
It seemed like before we knew it, we were on the way home and although the departure left one feeling melancholy that the fun family times were over for another season, we left with the warm and fuzzy feelings that only Grandma could instill
My own mom was so much like her. She spent hours sewing, baking, cooking, decorating, and crafting ensuring we were included in all of these Christmas creations to learn how to do these things after we left home. One year, she hand painted a beautiful nativity scene across our entire front room window and while we were amazed at her talent, we were equally proud that so many in the community remarked on its beauty. It was easy to feel the love she put into every creation and every gesture.
December was full of family fun whether it was in the kitchen, at the kitchen table, decorating assistance, company preparation or any other tasks that meant we were helping with something special come Christmas time.
I can’t honestly say I cannot single out one perfect Christmas out of the 18 I lived at home as I don’t recall any of them being less than perfect, thanks to the endless efforts mom put in to make it that way.
Once we moved away from home before we played hosts ourselves, that trip home for Christmas was nothing less than magical. From the first step in the door to be greeted by the family dog, to instantly smelling the latest, freshest kitchen creations and the warmth of the fireplaces wafting around you, one just stood there to soak it all in one sense at a time. The sights, sounds, smells, and visions of the love mom put into hosting Christmas made each trip home for the holidays feel like the dreamy feeling of watching the scene in the classic movie when Bing Crosby sings “White Christmas”.
We were excited to head into town to meet up with old friends and feel the familiar places and spaces we grew up as well as embracing the warm welcomes we received, shopping at our favorite stores, or admiring the continued efforts put in the town’s, and residents’, festive decorations.
I couldn’t pick a perfect moment, a perfect food, or a perfect gift because the entire experience mom created out of love was beyond perfect. I recount these holiday experiences to our kids many times, sighing as I go back in time highlighting all of the efforts mom put into this perfect Christmas for her family.
As adults with families of our own, we have often utilized grandma and mom’s tips and tricks for creating our own perfect Christmas. And it’s because of these memorable times with our family and extended family that we are able to emulate these wonderful women in our own festive occasions. Each Christmas is complemented with stories of grandma and mom since their passing, ensuring everyone can know and feel the love they left us and the time-honored traditions we will continue.
Writing this generates all the feels as I can easily recall how much this holiday was anticipated and never because of the gifts or expectations but because the entire event was molded into a perfect experience that would create a highlight memory for years to come. And all because we were loved by incredible women who loved to create an overall perfect Christmas that didn’t come from a store but was created from their hearts.