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Coffee with Mimi: Gradmama’s is the memory

By Mimi Becker

Contributing writer

Growing up, we lived a distance from our grandparents.  My dad had a job which mostly prohibited travel other than the regular couple of weeks in the summer.  We always went to visit our grandparents in Memphis, Tennessee and Hazlehurst, Mississippi in the summer. 

There are many memories associated with these trips and events.  Feeding Granddaddy’s fish, going to the zoo, riding horses, biscuits and honey for breakfast, Grandmama frying chicken for lunch …  We didn’t have holiday traditions with our grandparents, but we had memories.

As I married and we had a family, we were so fortunate to live very close to both sets of parents.  Trips back and forth were fairly common.  My children grew up knowing their grandparents. 

Family holiday traditions were built around the characteristics of each set. 

Louisville Grandma and Grandpa had Christmas Eve down to a science.  Early Mass, appetizers and drinks, very traditional dinner and dessert, then a gift exchange — in that order. 

Calm and order prevailed. 

Danville Grandmama and Buddy were more fluid.  They ran a popular catering business and most family members were far flung. 

A consensus date was figured out, a menu was set, assignments shared and gifts exchanged first.  It was always chaotic and noisy. 

We sometimes joked that new members would hide out upstairs for at least a couple years before braving the living room.

I recently visited with a lively and delightful group of young girls at a local school.  Conversation came around to memories of the holidays and what they will do this year. 

While their Christmas wish lists all contained some rather astonishing items, one thing was very clear:  what they remember from holidays past is visiting family.  They were very specific as to which aunt, uncle, cousin would be at which house, who wouldn’t be or exactly what reason. Some told of very sad changes in their lives in the past year. 

My own children and grandchild are close enough that we can be together at some point during the holidays. 

My youngest daughter will be able to spend more time here and I suggested we make ravioli (which is a story for another day).  Her immediate response was, “Isn’t Grandmama going to have the ravioli?” Did I detect a bit of sadness or anxiety in her voice? 

Have I created holiday monsters?  Ravioli takes all of one day and preferably some prep time the day before the really big work.  Expecting that Grandmama will make ravioli for our crowd is perhaps selfish.  Sure, she has often had ravioli for Christmas dinner. 

But, she is a busy lady and — again, someday I will tell you about ravioli — it is a project not tackled casually.  We have made a day of it for the girls in the past, but that is not to be the case this year, given work schedules and such.

One evening last week I dropped by Mom’s.  In the conversation, she relayed her activities over the next couple weeks, and the scheduling of her holiday planning.

I casually brought up the menu assignments.  Since we, that is my daughter has a Dec. 23rd birthday and our Granddaughter has a Christmas Eve birthday and my husband’s family always had Italian cream cake, could I be responsible for the dessert? 

No problem. 

And, by the way, are we having ravioli? 

Yes. 

A sigh of relief.  The ravioli will be on the buffet.

But, it really isn’t just ravioli my daughter wants.  It’s the tradition of Grandmama’s.  Through all the ups and downs of growing up, Grandmama has been a constant, non-judgmental, welcoming presence for my daughter.  The ravioli will be good —  but Grandmama’s is the memory.