Christmas Eve at Grandma’s House

It’s Christmas Eve morning.

When I was a little girl Christmas Eve was the one day where my anticipation was beyond manageable. I would spend a good portion of the day asking my parents “Is it time to go to grandma and grandpa’s house?” Every year on Christmas Eve my grandparent’s basement was a hurricane of gifts. And what child doesn’t love tearing into a pile of presents!

There was so much more than presents, however.

I remember going to my grandparent’s house and helping my grandma decorate. I loved putting up the Christmas village, the ceramic tree with the lights, and the Christmas tree (which has been known to be stored with the ornaments still on the branches.)

Of course, what is Christmas without food? The meal hasn’t changed. We still enjoy ham, meatballs, potato salad, broccoli salad, and a plethora of delectable sweets: Christmas cookies, cake, pies, and candy. My grandma bakes fantastic pies! My grandpa used to buy the ubiquitous Christmas ribbons and peppermint nougat candies with the Christmas tree in the center. They also had mixed nuts, which were placed in the traditional oak bowl with the stand in the center for cracking and cleaning. And my personal favorite: punch. There’s something about drinking 7-Up, fruit juice, and Cool Whip in “my” Santa mug.

The exchanging of gifts lasted several hours. We would all take turns opening a present, which pained me as a child, but I enjoy as an adult. Grandpa was notorious for discreetly unwrapping his presents before it was his turn. Who knew lottery tickets, circus peanuts, and obscene amounts of chewing gum were that exciting.

I recall the Christmas where my cousin received a toothbrush in her stocking. She was about three years old, and this was the best present. Ever! She gleamed with excitement and ran around the room showing everyone. She’s grown now and has kids of her own, but every now and then a toothbrush shows up for her under the Christmas tree.

I remember the video my father gave to my aunt, “The Wise and Witty Sayings of Red Heads.” She put the video in and waited for it to start. And waited. And waited. After several minutes, she figured it out.

My grandpa used to hang a $2 bill on the tree for everyone. They were always crisp and new. I think that’s the only time all year in which I actually saw a $2 bill.

Often the snow would be piled deep on my grandparent’s deck, and the lake effect snow kicked in on our way home. The best way to top off the day was a ride home with big, fluffy snowflakes gently falling on a calm, silent night. (Well, outside was calm and silent anyway. Kids hyped on sugar and gifts are anything but calm and silent.)

Now my children, nieces and nephews, and cousins enjoy Christmas Eve at grandmas. As a child, Christmas Eve was all about opening gifts and gorging on punch, cookies, and meatballs. As an adult, Christmas Eve is about savoring the moments and traditions that were built on over thirty years of Christmas Eves at my grandparent’s house. For years I took for granted the traditional foods, decorations, and the effort grandma put in for the annual night of festivities.

Things have changed a bit over the years. Grandpa has been with us in spirit for ten years now. The gift giving has started earlier in the day to accommodate schedules.

But the magic remains. It’s no longer found in presents, a punch bowl, or a nougat candy. The magic was never there.

It was, and remains, in my spirit.


Christmas List

Recently I watched a video on YouTube by two boys, ages 6 and 7, who wanted to make a video to speak up for their sisters. You see, the family’s house was spray painted with hateful and ignorant comments because two of their young children have Down syndrome.  (You can watch the video here.)

Being the mother of a child with Down syndrome, I felt a huge range of emotions watching this.

First, I was angry. If I ever caught some jerk doing this, all 5’3” of me would come down on that person like a mother grizzly defending her cubs. I seriously had the urge to kick someone’s ass. (And I promise to start throwing punches should I ever see someone being this malicious!)

Second, I felt hurt. Hurt because nobody deserves to be the victim of a hate crime. Hurt because I can’t bear the thought of someone mocking my child. My sweet one-year old has the best smile. He lights up a room by just being his sweet self. It’s a hurt I can barely describe. It feels as though someone has grabbed your heart and stomach and started twisting them and won’t let go.

Third, I felt hope. After I had a moment to calm down, I realized that I had watched two young boys show more compassion than some adults. Their video has gone viral and it’s being shared all over social media.

I watched this video by the glow of the Christmas tree. And I knew what to put on my Christmas list. My wish is that every person who reads this blog post will share my list with at least one person.

My Christmas Wish List:
•    I wish that people would stop using the word “retard” as in insult. Don’t call someone “retarded” because they are slow to catch on to a joke. My son isn’t the butt of your joke. He has feelings.
•    Please don’t use the phrase “short bus” “window licker,” or the one I really can’t stand, “F$#%tard.” I’m sure my son will ride the short bus to school, but he’s no less of a person than your child who rides the full-length bus.
•    Please don’t be afraid of someone with a disability. Don’t back away from them and act like they have some contagious disease. People with disabilities are people.
•    Show compassion to others, and teach it to your children.

My hope is always that as my son grows older, acceptance will become the norm.