My grandma was a doctor’s daughter, one of seven children from a big brick house in a tiny Canadian prairie town. When we were kids my brother and I cross-country skied across the frozen barley field from our farm to hers. As we neared her yard, we saw her silhouetted through the picture window in the living room. She dropped everything to come and watch for us. Sometimes she even did a little dance and my grandpa chuckled from his brown armchair in the corner. When we walked in that door, we were all that mattered.
When my grandma was a little girl in the 1920s, her family got the Eaton’s catalogue in the mail. One year her own grandma, “Namma”, ordered a box called a Lucky Pie from the catalogue. Little did she know she would set in motion a Christmas tradition that has spanned almost 90 years in our family.
(A Lucky Pie is a big wrapped box with ribbons sticking out of the top. Each ribbon connects to a small wrapped gift inside, one for each person attending Christmas dinner. Each person’s name is on a card taped to the end of their ribbon. There is often an extra ribbon or two, just in case an unexpected guest shows up.)
When I was a little girl, everyone gathered in a tight circle around the Lucky Pie and grasped a ribbon, right before dinner was served. All eyes turned to my grandma and when we were quiet she started the chant: “One for the money. Two for the show. Three to get ready and go man go!” We pulled with all our might, excited to see what treasure was at the end of our ribbon. Sometimes the ribbons would all get tangled up and we’d laugh and laugh as we sorted it all out.
The presents were little toys or knick-knacks my grandma had collected all year and stowed away in her hall closet; mini-flashlights, Nestle rosebud chocolates, tiny Swiss army knives or brightly coloured nail polish. My uncle Andrew always told us we could swap gifts with each other if we didn’t like what we had received. You can imagine the chaos that created between my brother, my cousins and I.
Last year was the first year that both my children were old enough to participate in the Lucky Pie. As their tiny hands held the name tags, I swear I could smell the Yardley lavender soap my grandma always used. I yearn for just one more hug from her but she has been gone for more than four years now.
Some days I’d love to still be that little girl with braids in my hair, cocooned in the safety of my grandma’s house. But it’s my turn now to carry on our traditions. When I think of her example it helps me suck just a little more patience out of a trying day with my own children; to give another hug instead of an admonition.
Whenever we left her house, my grandma would stuff the pockets of our puffy winter jackets with Christmas oranges, never letting us leave empty-handed. She taught me what it means to love unfailingly.
*This post was first published last Christmas at Momma Be Thy Name.