Last night at my mom’s house I was looking through a Southwestern-type catalog and saw a jacket that reminded me of my grandmother. I looked up at Mom and almost asked how Grandmother is doing.
She died two years ago. It’s funny how that happens.
Grandmother’s birthday is November 8, and in our family, her birthday set off the holidays. First came her birthday, and then, Boom! We were launched into Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve. And Grandmother loved the holidays.
You think your Christmas sweater is sparkly? Not as sparkly as Grandmother’s. Think your eggnog is spiked? Here, try one of hers. Grandmother was, without a doubt, the loudest, most elegantly dressed, foul-mouthed broad in the room, no matter where she was. She smoked cigarettes. She always wore a hat. She drank Skyy Vodka and club soda, Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages red wine, Sunny Delight and coffee. I never saw her drink water.
She had a business card that read: Jo McBride, Professional Party Attendee, 24-Hour Service, Free within 200 Mile Radius, With or Without Clothes.
When I was a kid, during the summertime, I would fly out to see her in Loveland, Colorado. During one visit, when I was eight, I asked her, “Why do you always wear black? You should wear different colors.”
“I’ll have you know I am one of the best dressed ladies in Loveland,” she declared. “And, I’m not going to let some little hick from West Virginia tell me what to wear.”
We went out that evening to her favorite restaurant, The Summit, to meet up with some friends on the patio.
“You look lovely, Jo,” said our dining companion.
“Grandmother always looks lovely,” I said to the gentleman. “She’s the best dressed lady in Loveland. She told me so.”
That’s the only time I ever saw her speechless.
• • •
Even without Grandmother’s birthday celebration, the holidays still come, blowing in with the wind every November. We don’t have to travel far for Thanksgiving – my in-laws live next door to us and my mom lives in White Sulphur, so it’s pretty easy. Tom cooks the “yard bird,” as he calls it, and his giblet stuffing, and I make some kind of pie or roasted vegetable something-or-another. My mom, mother-in-law and sister-in-law handle the rest of the sides and dessert – mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato pie, rolls and butter, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and chocolate cake. Oh man, I just can’t wait!
Sometimes, we just dig in. Our family is not one for prayers, so a lot of the time we just let Papa Steve bless our dinner with the requisite “Over the teeth, through the gums, watch out stomach, here it comes!”
However, our children seem to be a lot more sentimental and well-brought-up than we grown-ups are, and these days they usually insist we hold hands and go around the table stating what we are thankful for. It’s always a bit of a challenge to come up with some profound thing to say because my mouth is full, so I usually say I am grateful for all the people around the table, and for our health, and I mean it – we are blessed in so many ways.
For their part, the children usually get the Thanksgiving-gratitude-thing really going, as they look at the world the way children do, with wonder and innocence and humor. Our little cousin always elicits a laugh with his gratitude for Angry Birds and Mario Kart, and our girls charm us with their appreciation of their friends and family. The little one usually says she’s thankful that Christmas is coming, and we all laugh in appreciation and agreement.
Papa Steve often raises a glass to toast our being together. We eat till we’re past full, and then he and Tom watch the football game as we ladies divvy up the leftovers in the warmth of the kitchen, lights aglow against the darkness outside.
So, here’s to our bounty this season: to wood on the pile and tread on our tires. To our health and our happiness and to the blessings around our tables. To warmth in our hearts and stillness in our minds. Here’s to Grandmother, and Mom, and Terry and Steve, to Tom and Jen and the kids.
And, here’s to you. May your holiday be filled with warmth and love, peace and gratitude.

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