Let it Begin

I’m going to get Gram.
Do you want to come?

Does he need to ask?


I scramble up from the living room floor where I’ve been reading something in the newspaper. Some details are lost in the mists of time: It is, after all, a memory from the mid-1960s. But nothing about the feeling of that moment is lost: Gram’s arrival is the moment that Christmas Eve starts and, somehow, going with my father to pick her up amounts to getting a headstart.

Our family has our Christmas dinner on 24 December — a Danish tradition from my mother’s side that for the longest time I thought was Scottish, which says something about the perceived locus of power in our home. (To this day I won’t go so far as to turn down a turkey dinner on the 25th, but it’s Not Right.) The house has been smelling of turkey and shredded red cabbage (cooked in scant sugar and eye-watering vinegar) for hours, but it’s Gram’s arrival that marks the start.

Did she know that’s how I felt? I don’t know. I don’t suppose so.

Belle B. ThompsonLast Monday was the 131st anniversary of her birth — a lovely number. We’re on the road this Christmas Eve with no Danish red cabbage in sight or smell, worse luck, but it still seems right to raise a glass to Gram. And to thank God for all family anchors.

Merry Christmas!
Let it begin.

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12 Responses to Let it Begin

  1. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – There is just something about being ‘on the road’ at Christmas that brings the memories of Christmas traditions and aromas into sharper focus.

  2. Your story is inspiring and brings back similarly warm memories of my paternal grandmother. The very worst thing about the pandemic, for me, is the shattering of the ties with our grandkids that were forging such traditions as the one that sings in your memory. Perhaps, now that they have all had COVID-19 and we are fully boostered, we can get back to the proper business of grand-parenting!

  3. Jim Taylor says:

    I have a sense that we’re all “on the road” this Christmas. The old ways, the old customs, the old habits, no longer fit. (I cannot find the dark green candle with three wicks that Joan ALWAYS put out on the coffee table in our living room, for example! Bytr Covid has more to do with this change than Joan’s cable.) And so we’re having to sift through the memories to find what’s really meaningful, and build new traditions around them.

    JIm T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Perhaps we are on the road – including the folks stranded in airports and in airport hotels by cancelled flights due to air crews down with omicron. You really can’t make this stuff up – who would believe it? I hope that green candle turns up . . .

  4. Carla says:

    Merry Christmas Isabel! What a lovely memory.

  5. Lorna says:

    That is a lovely memory. Travel safely. Sending our love.

  6. barbara carlson says:

    May you make some new memories this Christmas that will be remembered in future — as good long warm hugs.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – We have some funny ones, anyway, from our Japanese dinner on Christmas Day. We were grateful to find any restaurant open.

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