Childhood Christmases in a (chest)nut shell

Childhood Christmases in my mind were perfect. Except for that one Christmas that we aren’t going to talk about today. It was as if everyone knew how difficult the rest of the year was so they did everything possible to make two days of the year perfect for my brothers and I, our birthdays and Christmas.

My grandparents had a small Thomas Kincade like house. It was warm and cozy on the inside while cold winter storms raged outside. Icicles hung from the porch and garage roofs dripping droplets of shattered ice onto the walkways, one last obstacle against the warmth that beckoned from within. Upon entrance, steam whisked away into the frigid air from the kettle of boiling potatoes next to the open door. The aroma from the ham cooling on the stove top next to the potatoes was intoxicating. Grandma had a counter full of food, homemade pies and cookies too. Every year grandma had a chest cold. She coughed and coughed though she didn’t seem to mind. Soon Aunt Grace showed up with her brother Harold. Aunt Grace always brought cranberry sauce and the fruitcake that my brothers and I didn’t like to eat.

I was always first to ask if we could open our presents right away. Grandma always said “no”, but we could look inside our stockings that were hung over the fireplace. My brothers and I each had a stocking that contained our favorite candy. There was a tiny stocking for grandpa hanging in the corner that held one peanut. What drew our attention the most though were the boxes of wrapped gifts under the tree. We were always peeking in hopes of finding a big box with our name on it. My grandparents cut their own Christmas tree from their tree farm. It stood on top of a large round end table in front of a big picture window. The tree was always lopsided in some way or another, but we never noticed. Grandma always covered the trees with tinsel and old fashioned ornaments.

After lunch, we all sat in our places that we sat in every year to open gifts. Uncle Harold sat in the rocking chair near the fireplace. He always laughed a lot on Christmas day. We didn’t see him a lot the rest of the year because he was always working. I sat on the love seat near the tree. In my memory, there was always 3 feet of snow on the ground with an inch of playful snow that swirled around in the wind. After we were done opening gifts, we would have a fire in the fireplace. Christmas day was the only day of the year that my grandparents used the fireplace.

We always stayed at my grandparents until it got dark. We played with our new toys. The men slept in their chairs. Aunt Grace always made sure that the dishes were done. Grandma put away the extra food and took down the fancy table with the red tablecloth. It was Christmas perfection in a nutshell. Even if Matt had a meltdown on Christmas day, I never remembered that. I couldn’t remember that. To me it was always perfect and magical.

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