Many times I was sitting in the back of the red Oldsmobile Delta 88 as my father drove us to Grandma’s Christmas Eve. When I was a kid, it seemed to take forever to get there. When I was a kid, Meridian, on South Hill in Puyallup, was still lined with trees. I remember listing to Christmas music on KOMO AM 1000 on the way, and many times, to our delight, a special song would play. This song was ‘Stop the Cavalry’ – the version played by The Cory Band. This was a time before YouTube and MP3s. It was the time of the tape recorder. My Grandma got this song on tape, I listened to it many times, and just at the end you can hear the radio announcer say something like: “OK, you can stop recording now.”
Arriving at Grandma’s house we entered to the heavenly smell of cooking ribs. Spare ribs made in a stove top pressure cooker that made a loud whistle. From these ribs also came the best gravy that has ever existed in this universe. I had the gravy every Christmas Eve, but I don’t remember having the ribs until I was much older. (I spent many years of my youth being picky about meat.) When I finally did eat the ribs, I was upset with myself for all the years I missed out on eating those ribs. Eventually, the pressure cooker stopped working. It didn’t explode, it just quit. The ribs were still good, but never quite the same after that. I am planning to experiment making ribs in my Instant Pot, hoping to find something close.
The Christmas tree at Grandma’s house always had the big ceramic hot-like-hell lights, a big star on top, and a particular clip-on bird ornament with big eyes. This ornament is now on my tree, as well as others, to remind me of Christmas Eve Past. I have big colorful LED lights. They don’t get too hot and I don’t worry about my tree catching on fire.
Once I was older, after Grandpa was gone, I spent many years going with Grandma to get the Christmas tree. We would decorate the tree together. I remember a time she had me drive the truck to a place not too far from her house, Tom’s Greenhouse on 152nd street. Thankfully, we didn’t have to get on Meridian. We got there just fine and picked out our tree. A nice fellow sawed off the bottom and put it in the truck. As we were leaving, the truck died in the middle of the road. Grandma laughed. She said it had been doing that. She hadn’t mentioned it before we left. That is why she was laughing. We laughed about it for all the years to come.
Grandma was my rock. Her house was home base. I realized this as I was thinking about all the Christmas Eves Past. Thinking of all the other times coming home meant going to Grandma’s House. Now that our home base is gone, I hope we don’t lose our connection. A lesson I have learned in my 44 years is that instead of yearning for that perfect family to love the imperfect family that you’ve got.