I grew up on the opposite corner from my grandparents in Elwood, Indiana, and spent a tremendous amount of time with my mother’s parents, Grandma Donna and Grandpa Leroy, who still had sons, ten and twelve years older than me, at home.
It was still a noisy busy house with teenagers coming in and out, the sound of pool table balls clanking together, the huge St. Bernard named Clyde, friends and neighbors pouring in for visits, and a lot of activity in the kitchen. I loved my daily weekday outings with Grandpa Leroy where he always introduced me as, “The Boss,” but I especially loved my time in the kitchen with Grandma Donna where she kept me busy helping but I am sure, just staying out of her way as she moved about in her gally shaped kitchen that stretched the length of the house.
The best part for me was listening to Grandma’s stories about our family’s history. I don’t recall whether I asked for those lessons, or whether she repeated them to keep me occupied, taking a pause, now and then as she concentrated on a recipe’s requirements.
I remember helping her with the dough for the bland Christmas cookies, colored in green and a red that dissolved into more of a pink, and a slight hint of almond extract to give them a boost in taste. I don’t recall them being sweet or sugary, but somewhat dry and crunchy. Grandma Donna made tons of them as gifts in merrily designed boxes or tins, and always kept enough for us to last throughout the holiday season.
I loved Grandma Donna’s cooking and baked goods, but those cookies, at least for me, seemed to be lacking in taste bud exhilaration. As I got older and would stay up late on Saturday nights to watch old black and white movies with Grandma or work on music arrangements while she played solitaire, we’d fix tea or hot chocolate, dipping those cookies in the sweetness. That was about the only way I could choke them down.
Grandma always had the candy dishes filled throughout the house and I especially loved the kind as shown in the photo.
One Christmas Eve, Grandma Donna and my younger brother, Destin, who was seven years old, were doing some last-minute preparations before the following day’s family gathering. Grandma said, “We need to still fill up the stockings at least one more year because Dama Jo (our younger cousin) still believes in Santa Claus.” My brother’s jaw dropped. He still believed.
I admittedly do not enjoy expending the energy on holiday preparations and tend to simply let it all happen with no “bah humbugs.” However, I do love the memories associated with my grandmother during this lovely time of year.