Thinking about past holidays, I get a wonderful feeling reminiscing on the time spent at my grandparents home. On Christmas Eve, the entire family would arrive full of Christmas cheer. Everyone would have presents in tow. Each year we all had new outfits to wear. We went all out to celebrate the most special day of the year. Clad in patent leather party shoes, taffeta dresses with bows, suits, and ties, the excitement could be felt when you entered the room. My grandparents greeted each one of us at the door with hugs and kisses. The uncles teased us about Santa skipping the house or forgetting our presents. The aunts would try to smooth over our worries by telling us it would be okay. We kids were happy to be together - playing, giggling, and giddy with anticipation. Those are perfect memories.
I have to remind myself that my grandparents lived in a 1,000 square foot, two bedroom, one bathroom house. My grandmother called it her “Little Bungalow.” Think about it...25 of us squeezing into this tiny home for the holidays? My grandmother put up a tiny tree which sat on top of her record player. Not a single present could fit underneath it. The presents would be piled up next to couches, on the floor, and everywhere else you could imagine.
The dinner table took up most of the kitchen. Bowls and platters of food covered the table’s white and flecked gold surface. It was a well-orchestrated symphony to prepare a meal in that tiny kitchen. Everyone would try to make way for everyone else to get in the food line. You had to snuggle up to the cabinets to let the person with their full plate make their way back to the table. If you forgot your silverware or napkin, it was passed through the crowd (sure to be touched by everyone). You sat wherever you could find a spot: the floor, the arm of a chair, a stool. It didn’t matter because we were all together.
The special highball glasses were brought out for the adults, and I loved seeing them (probably where I get my love of glasses and dishes). There were six multicolored, sparkling highball glasses that were in a metal rack. My grandma also had the best penguin ice bowl, which was set out next to the glasses. Distant relatives would show up late but would still be welcomed with open arms (and maybe a bit of teasing from the uncles). The laughter and cajoling would continue into the wee hours of the night. Past holidays were remembered, and new memories were created.
The size of the house didn’t matter. We all piled in and we were happy as could be. We were a family, and my grandmother was over the moon to have us all under one roof! There was laughter, joy, and messiness as we littered the house with wrapping paper scraps and cookie crumbs. But my grandma never minded. We always did the dishes and tried our best to clean up, but she would always scold us and say, “Leave it be. I’ll tend to that later.” Looking back, I can now see that she just wanted to spend that precious time with us. Every year, no matter what, we were loved and we were welcomed!
What I have learned: It’s not the size or the grandeur of the space in which you gather that matters. It’s the way you treat your loved ones that leaves a lasting impression.
Tania Farran is an educator, mom, business owner, and an author. Her blogs tell about balancing all of these things in life! Laugh or cry with her and maybe learn a thing or two.