When I visit my mother, sometimes I drive by the house where my grandparents used to live. It’s a small farm set back from the road, nothing fancy. When the trees are bare, I can see all the way back to the barn. I spent so much time there growing up; summers picking vegetables in order to earn our way into the swimming pool and random Sundays around the dinner table.
But, it’s the holidays that I’ll always remember in that house. The Sunday after Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Christmas, we’d pile into the family van and drive to my grandparent’s house, my father turning down the car stereo as we pulled onto their quiet street. He did it every time and to this day, I still really don’t know why.
The moment you walked into the house, you were hit by the heat of the wood burning stove, even if it wasn’t that cold outside. Over the years, we learned not to wear anything heavier than a t-shirt to our grandparent’s dinners. We’d make our way to the basement, which was equipped with a full kitchen, where most of the dinner would be prepared. The turkey would be roasting in the oven, while the filling* baked in the oven upstairs.
My mother and her sisters would help get everything ready while I’d run around with my cousins. When we got older, we’d steal away into one of the bedrooms upstairs to gossip and talk about boys until called for dinner.
There would always be two long tables running almost the whole length of the basement and one table off to the side for the “children.” Which in our family meant the unruly teenagers all got to sit together. We’d laugh at our great uncle Walter’s inappropriate jokes and giggle at the way my aunts would bicker.
It was the best time. At the dinner after Thanksgiving, we’d exchange names to tell us who we needed to buy a gift for. At the dinner after Christmas, my uncle would hide little trinkets and we’d all participate in a scavenger hunt. We took it all very seriously, as there was a prize to be had at the end.
When those dinners ended, the holidays never felt the same. It was inevitable, people get older, houses get sold and things change. But, without those dinners, a part of Christmas was always missing for me.
As I sat on the side of the road and stared at the house where so many of my memories live, I couldn’t help but feel a bit misty. I pictured us in that basement, its Linoleum floor printed with a shuffleboard court. I can only hope that the people who live there can still feel the spirit of our family at this time of year. That the years of good times and laughs have imbued the place with some of the magic I used to feel being there.
I know whoever sleeps in the blue room will never know how many secrets those walls heard and I know that the new owners will never get to see my grandfather in his customary blue pants walking the lane to the barn, his trusty Border collie Honey trailing behind him. But, I hope they love the place half as much as we all did. I hope they are busy making holiday memories of their own, to go along with all of ours.
Happy Holidays, everyone. May you feel the magic of the season, no matter where you are.
*Here is a recipe for filling. It isn’t my grandmother’s recipe, as we never use one. It’s one of those things you just know in our family. But, this will give you the idea. J