Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas on the Funny Farm

I know someone did a Christmas memory post and invited everyone to link there, and I obviously missed that one. Nevertheless I wanted to share a few memories of Christmases gone by here.

Although my parents made Christmas wonderful for us as kids, my memories are interspersed with times spent at my Gram's house in the country, that big multi-acre homestead we affectionately called the Funny Farm due to its lack of animals beyond the occasional mouse.

Christmas eve was always spent at my aunt's house, and my parents would get home and get their two anxious little girls to bed and begin assembling toys and arranging our presents in the livingroom. Christmas mornings were spent in front of that ever-so-bright light on my dad's 8mm camera, as he taped his little girls expressing glee at the site before him (or faking it, if I was up several hours prior, rearranging the presents to my benefit - see my previous post here if you want to wise up to what your kids might think of!)

Sometime around noon I guess, we'd don our new turtlenecks and holiday best and head for the country for Christmas with Gram. I swear she must have spent hours making those celebrations almost magical for me and my cousins. There must have been at least twenty-five people crowded into her diningroom and she usually had tables extending into the livingroom as well. After dinner, it was time for presents. But not just presents. One year she had a grab bag and we cousins all pulled numbers out of a bag and got a different gift. I think that was the year I ended up with a $5 bill hidden in an empty wrapping paper tube. Another year she made a pinata and we all took turns swinging at it in the basement, waiting for the candy to spew all over the floor.

When I think about it, the gifts really weren't much. There was the year she gave me and my sister really nice perfume sets. One year it was a Nothing Book - much like a blank journal nowadays. The adults exchanged practical presents such as dishtowels, pot holders and Maxwell House coffee. The men would usually end up sitting around, solving the problems of the world in raised voices, while the women played cards and we kids played with our gifts. It was the togetherness, not to mention the wonderful food, that made the holiday special.

As we grew into our teens, the big get-togethers dwindled as some of our cousins and aunts moved away. My one favorite aunt, my gram's sister, continued to come. Presents continued to be silly and practical. My sister was becoming an accomplished pianist and we'd look forward to her performing for us after dinner. Then everyone would get in on the act, my Gram and her sisters singing goofy songs or playing Charades.

In 1977, our family spent the entire Christmas week and then some at Gram's, because our house next door burned down and we had no where else to go. My memories that year are mostly of generous church families making sure our family had the basics as we started our lives from scratch. I still have my Bert & Ernie pillowcase I was given back then.

During my college years and my twenties, we continued to spend much of Christmas day at Gram's, but sometime in my thirties, we started gathering at my mom's instead (which was just across the field from Gram's place). When my Gram broke her hip one year, and started feeling the effects of osteoporosis, my husband and brother-in-law would carry her across the field in a chair. I guess it was easier than getting her in and out of a car. The gift-giving seemed to center around Gram too - she was our little queen (she was less than 5' and weighed less than 100 lbs). I usually bought her clothes in the children's department!

Our last Christmas with Gram was back at her house. We gathered in the livingroom that was rarely used anymore, and she gave each of us something from her house. I can't remember what she gave my mom or sister, but she gave me a set of Norman Rockwell teacups, which I'll always cherish.

When the presents have outlived their usefulness, when the bubble bath and Maxwell house coffee are gone, when the chocolate's all been eaten and we've outgrown the toys, we realize what lasts from year to year are the memories we make together. I hope you and your family make some wonderful memories for keeps this year!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful Dianne! Your Gram sounds like a very special lady!


Stacy at Exceedingly Mundane said...

Oh, what a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing all of those lovely memories with us. How you must miss your gram :) I know you think of her often, especially when you see your teacups :)

Merry Christmas Dianne!

gail said...

Wonderful memories for you Dianne! I loved reading about it and the time at your Gram's house with cousins/family sounded magical. How fun to have her teacups!

Katrina said...

Wonderful post, Dianne. I just loved reading your memories.

It can be tempting to focus on the presents when it comes to Christmas gatherings/activities... But I really hope that I can create some beautiful memories for my children - memories that last, just like yours have.

Anonymous said...

You brought me to tears as I remember our "Most Remarkable Gram". I loved when Debbie played the piano and she sang "Secondhand Rose"...she was a joy to all who knew her.
Thanks for the great reminder!