Christmas, for me, has always been a time for family. Over the past few years, circumstances have forced these traditions to change, but I will always remember a time when Christmas was spent solely with my grandma.
Ever since I can remember, Christmas morning was a time for presents with my mom, dad, and two sisters. Not long after we were finished, my family would get in the car and drive to Grandma’s house, a place I always loved to be, no matter what time of year.
Christmas was her favorite, and I never remember a time when I didn’t love to spend it with her. She always cooked more food and bought more presents than she should, but she didn’t care how long it took to prepare or how much it cost. All she cared about was making her family happy. We shared a bond through love of her famous pumpkin pie. Her pumpkin pie was and will always be my favorite. No one to this day has made one anywhere nearly as well as hers.
Decorating the Christmas tree was her favorite part. Her trees never lacked an inch below 10 feet, and were always hand-picked out of a farm – never fake. One Christmas I remember her star not fitting right because the tree was touching the ceiling. Ornaments adorned the beautiful tree, and while everyone else was looking at the numerous presents underneath, wondering which ones were bought specifically for them, I was looking at the glowing masterpiece that she had created on her own.
When she became ill with cancer, Christmas changed for her. Her holidays were spent with fake trees, not being able to cook much (if any), and no us. Being eight hours away in Fort Myers, Fla. to get the best care that we could find her, it was very hard to load a family of five into the car for any long period of time. Christmas traffic made the trip almost 13 hours long. Spending a Christmas in Fort Myers meant that we had to give up our own Christmas morning at home. As much as we wanted to continue spending our holidays with her, we weren’t ready to give up our own family tradition. Instead, her holidays were spent with my aunt and uncle who lived with her.
In 2014, my grandmother passed away. That year was the hardest Christmas I’ve ever been through. We had spent many Christmas’ without her, exactly three at that point, but we had always received a Christmas call saying that she loved us and she wished we were there. We’d always been able to see her or at least talk to her, and that was the only thing any of us wanted to do that day. As soon as the morning wow of Christmas and presents wore off, all of us were heartbroken that she was gone.
We’ve had two Christmas’ since she’s been gone, but her memory lives on. My family still makes it a point to always get our living tree together. A whole day is set aside each year just for decorating. There are no phones, no social media, no hanging out with friends – just us in our house, watching Christmas movies and decorating everything, top to bottom. Every year I make her pumpkin pie, just for her. I haven’t gotten it to taste anywhere near hers yet, but it gets better and better every year.
My grandmother was the most loving person I have ever met, and my favorite memories ever are with her. Life without her has not been the same, but life with her was a beauty to experience. She always brought joy to my life without even realizing it. After her death, our Christmas traditions changed, but my favorite Christmas memories are still ones that I got to spend with her.
By Caitlyn Atkinson, student reporter
Thomas County Central High School