My cousin Michelle sent an email out to a few family members yesterday about Christmas memories at my Grandma Meyer's house. What ensued was a long thread where everyone chimed in with bits and pieces.
When I was thinking on these things, I could really see her home and the yard with all its outposts start materializing again. Long-gone buildings I had forgotten had started to rebuild themselves; an avocado green kitchen was redesigned - down to the root vegetable wallpaper and the pencil marks of children's heights on the doorframe.
I would like to update this post often as other memories come rolling in.
I was driving out to Ron & Karen's yesterday, and I started to have flashbacks of Christmas past. Now not very many families can say they spent Christmas Eve & Christmas day with their Gram & Pop. I guess we just had so much fun that we did it twice. First of all as a child, going to your grandparents house was special no matter what the occasion but for me Christmas was the most special time of the year. I can always remember being so excited to see the green roof top come over the horizon ...I knew then we were almost there. Here are a few other things that I remember well about Christmas time. I hope it sparks a few of your own memories...
1) Gram had the coldest bathroom ever, when Pop would go into the bathroom to take a pee...he would yell "seat's cold". Let me know if you don't get that one.
2) Even in the winter time, Gram would run around in one of her short sleeve jungle bunny dresses, Pop usually wore what he wore to work, and my uncle lurch will more than likely have shorts on....and no shoes required.
3) The kitchen table was always the center piece of adult conversation. Filled with hard liquor and food. The kids would be elsewhere in the house, usually destroying something....usually my toys...since their toys had already been safely taken to their cars.
4) Christmas slush. I can remember the first year I got to try some, Ithink I was 12, which is legal drinking age in the Meyer family.
5) Sometime in the evening a prank call was usually made by my cousins Amanda and Stephanie. It's a very good thing that I didn't see them more than I did...they were a bad influence on me. I mean look what they did to Duane ; )
6) Gram's Christmas tree & ornaments. I loved her Christmas ornaments, they were old and nothing expensive, but to me they were the coolest things in the world. To this day if I see an old fashion glass ornament I think of her...and the year that Toot got a bundle of switches.
7) The wood stove in the living room. Why could we not resist touching it. It was really hot, and we used it to burn all the wrapping paper and boxes after the unwrapping....The Meyers were Green before Green wasn't cool. No landfills needed.
8) The year it snowed hard, and we stayed overnight. I got to sleep with my Aunt Kris, she was like my older sister ...so she did what her older sister did to her...act like there was a monster in the bed. I also remember that night because all the brothers and sisters went to Midnight Mass and we got to stay behind and play.
9) The year my Gram played Santa...and I sat on Santa's lap, came back and told my mom...Santa looks a lot like Gram.
10) The year that I didn't believe in Santa anymore. I can remember going out on the back porch and seeing all these presents just sitting there, and then about an hour later someone made a loud knock on the door...like Santa had "left them"....It lost it's thrill...I was sad.
11) Rat & Sissy sitting in the corner of the kitchen curled up together, and laying on the old rags that was their bed.
2) The smell of instant coffee.
I was thinking the other day...what is going to happen when all the Aunts and Uncles are gone....am I still going to get together with my family on Christmas Day...who will carry this tradition on? Being the oldest of the cousins is it my role to make sure this happens? As much fun as we all have together...I'm sure it will be easy to do.
Thanks for the memories. I could come up with lots more.
1. Do you remember my dad playing Santa? Nice.
2. Family Christmas exchanges?
3. Getting together on Christmas Eve and then again on Christmas Day.
4. I would so look forward to going to Gram's on Christmas Eve that I would curl up in front of the fireplace at home and take a nap. No wonder I had so much energy to tear up the rest of the night.
5. I do remember all the alcoholic beverages on the kitchen table. Food did not seem to matter to us as much did it? What happened there?
5. Ah, yes the woodburner--that's all you have to say.
6. After the best grandparents in the world passed away, the anticipation of gathering at Lurch and Maggie's. They always had the place looking so inviting and beautiful.
7. The year Michelle told Manda and me there was no Santa Claus. I was so distraught. I eventually asked my mom (a memory I can still recall so vividly because we were in the bathroom--which happens to be my mom's focal point of the household, not because she is using the bathroom, just because that seems to be her place of refuge. Shane is probably the only one who can relate to me on that.) an she was pretty upset with Michelle having told us that, but did tell me there isn't a Santa and not to tell my brother. I cried like a little bitch that night. THANKS!!!!
8. The year I still believed in Santa and shortly after we had returned fromGram and Pop's house, mysteriously there was "Santa and his reindeer" on our roof. It was a white Christmas that year, but I eventually wised up years later to find out it was Kris and BRAD on the frickin roof. Once again, probably from the Christmas slush.
9. When the bathroom was closed because of frozen pipes, we used a child's potty that was centered in the kitchen, on the other side of the microwave. I can still see myself looking down in that potty and seeing poop curled around that small bowl. Then probably climbing on the hutch and stealing some gum from the corner.
10. Going to Grandview on Christmas Day. As a child, it seemed so far away. Beck always had the most beautiful house there. I can still picture and smell it. Is that weird? Michelle playing the organ after dinner. And sometime throughout the day, fucking up some of you and Rita's stuff. Also, Beck's bedroom and the room with all the dolls in there. I still think there must have been locks on those doors when we were expected. That we is referring to Amanda and Stephanie.
11. Why did the three families who lived so close to their parents house still drive there? Was it to see how many cars could fit in the drive? And so Lurch could drive either through the field or the wrong way on the shoulder of the highway?
12. I do not remember the prank phone calls, but not surprised that it happened. That was just something we did on a normal basis, why would Christmas be treated any different?
I too wonder about the future. I still want to carry on all the traditions that were created for us to remember and enjoy. Things I will cherish the rest of my life. One of the biggest reasons I want to find or build a bigger house for us. Yeah, it sounds stupid to want a house that is bigger than we need because Shelby will be leaving us in a few short years, but my hope is that she will always have a home to come back to, and all of my cousins to help her throughout life, and somewhere to come celebrate the wonderful family that we have. We are so lucky. I could just cry thinking about it.
I thought Pop said the WATER was cold...anyhow, I think the legal drinking age at the Meyers' was about 5 or 6. At that age I remember going with Pop to Grandma Meyer's house whenever he needed her to cut his hair. After awhile, she would give Dad a glass of wine with us looking on. She would then say "yah Atolf, it would be okay if I gave them chust a little glass of vine, wouldn't it? A little bit wouldn't hurt them." Dad would always agree. And Grandma Hoing practically bottle fed me on coffee when I stayed over there when I was 5 or 6. Just think how much taller I could have been had it not been for that! A couple years later we would get to sample her homebrew. Ah for those old Cherman Grandmas.
You are right...it was water....thanks for the correction.
Then, to Duane:
Do you remember the year you got a hot wheel, and wore a head band likeRambo?
I honestly don't remember much about the Christmas parties. I must have been too young or have a horrible memory.
I do appreciate reading your thoughts though.
I remember Duane's headband! I can see his fine spiky hair sticking up from it.
I have just a couple of thoughts before I start work today...I could spend all morning reminiscing.
1. In Gram's attic there was a big stuffed purple dog (I think it was filled with styrofoam pellets) that had a felt mouth, like something you'd win at a fair. For some reason, there was always a pearl-tipped pushpin in it. I used to think that pushpin was the neatest thing, like some kind of treasure. Lord knows what it was doing in that dog.
2. I can remember the dusty wood smell of Gram's attic. I think that smell was the reason I bought my last apartment - the back porch smelled just like it.
3. As for Christmas, Mom had this zany tradition with Gram for St. Nick's Eve. Manda and I would write out our letters to Santa, and when it got late, Mom would walk us over to the rabbit hutches out in front of Gram's shed. Manda and I would check the next morning and the letters would be gone! We thought - or at least I did - that Santa materialized in the night by the rabbit hutches to get our wishes! I think at least once that our stockings were in those hutches the next day, too, but most of the time they were at home in our room. Mom still stuffs the stockings she sewed for us when we were little and puts them under the tree. Some years I still get them in the mail around St. Nick's!
4. Gram would always sit with us to look at the Sears Catalog. Actually, she'd lie on the couch and we'd brush her hair and give her a "toothbrush pedicure" while she looked through it. I would flag down dolls and toys that I liked, knowing that I couldn't have everything - I just liked to dream! She would surprise me with one for my birthday and Christmas. I still have them at the house. I remember I loved this red haired porcelain doll with a white dress and cape. I carried it around all Christmas Eve and I remember hugging Gram when she was sitting at the head of the table (near the hutch) with the adults and telling her how much I loved it.
5. My birthday is December 22, and most years I had school on that day. Dad would always take us over to Gram's very early in the morning - maybe 5? - and I remember one year, I was the only one there, or I got there early, or hell, maybe it was a Saturday, whatever. I had to be probably 6 or 7 and Gram surprised me with my birthday present - a fisher price flashlight that had colored gels to rotate over the light. I remember sitting on the table, and she was standing across from me by the stove, just as excited as I was. It needed batteries, and it had to be opened with a phillips screwdriver. When she was trying to open it, the screwdriver slipped and stabbed her in that papery skin between her thumb and forefinger. I felt so bad! I started crying and saying I was sorry, and she was muscling through and saying it was nothing, that I shouldn't worry. We put peroxide and gauze on it and taped it up. I was so embarrassed that my gift hurt her. To this day I think of that moment every time I ask for a gift or something. I always feel guilty about making people go out of their way. I know people aren't going to stab themselves, but I can never forget that feeling.
6. I remember Gram's ornaments, too! The round bulbs with sparkling stars indented into them. My favorite ornament of hers was a little half-walnut shell that was a little cradle for a hard, popcorn-sized baby mouse with a little smile drawn on it. It had a blue blanket glued over it, and a pink bric-a-brac handle. The outside of the shell still had the "Diamond Walnuts" stamp on it. We hang that ornament on our tree now.
7. I remember the Christmas Eve when Dad came home tipsy from his work party and left the truck in gear. He was in the living room when the truck started rolling down the driveway, across the highway, and into the field. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but it was hilarious! Dad was embarrassed, but he was tipsy enough to laugh at it. I remember Mom tsk-tsking about it. Later we went to Gram's party and told everyone about it.
8. I loved having Christmas parties at our house. It wasn't Gram's, but I think Mom wanted us to continue the tradition in her memory. I know Mom loves to entertain, too. I thought it was fun to have everybody over, to have a clean basement at least once a year, and to see the adults enjoy themselves. I don't know why we ever stopped, either. Mom still makes all the food; seriously, we have way too much every year. At Thanksgiving, Dad always urges Mom to lighten the menu for Christmas. It's like his annual holiday missive: "I hope she doesn't make too much food this year. It's wasteful." Honestly, I would love it if people just popped in on Christmas Eve. We could take it. Hell, we've helped out people who've run out of gas before! Let's have a new tradition!
9. I remember when Lacy and Kara were toddlers at Gram's Christmas. They had on very frilly dresses, like little puffballs. The babies are always the most fun at Christmas!
10. Remember how we called the hill behind Gram's house "The Snake?" We used to sled down that hill using old ceiling tiles, even in the summer.
11. This isn't Christmas related, but Gram used to sit on the swing every afternoon and wait for the mailman. Shane and I would play in the dirt pit under where the tire swing used to be. She used to sing Allelujah, and would call the mailman a slowpoke or a pokey joe if he was running late. (Incidentally, I associated those words with a kind of breakfast sausage, "smokey links," and found it silly that Gram would call another person that.) When he finally came, Shane and I would race down to the mailbox to fetch it for her. I have a few memories of Pop sitting out there with her, with his big outie bellybutton sticking out like a dinner roll.
12. Remember the playhouse we made out of the old truck-cap in the yard? It had built-in cabinets and a click-on ceiling light? I loved playing in that thing, until a big garden spider built a web out in front of it. I couldn't go in it ever again - I hate spiders!
13. Remember the Just Say No Club? Ha!
14. Remember picking honeysuckles and strawberries in that field on the northside of Gram's house?
15. Shane and I used to play with his Ninja Turtles under the sink in the cold bathroom. The pipes made it look like a sewer. I remember the glass-tiled tub, how some of the tiles were cracked, and Gram wanted us to be very careful around them. I remember the cabinet above her toilet that she kept Avon bubble bath and lotions in. I used to think that spiders lived in the potted plant structure that she kept in the corner. I had nightmares that Manda and I were held hostage by the spider kingdom in there.
I'm kind of in the same boat as Duane...I don't remember much about Christmas at Gram's. I remember the attic was the coolest attic in the world. It was always fun going up there because there were so many interesting things to see. There was also the summer kitchen (I think that is what the hut in front of the house used to be called...but whatever that was called...) Shane and Laura would always go up to the upstairs of that hut to see the "spooks". Haha you couldn't get me to go up there for anything! I do remember sitting on top of the big propane gas tank and watching my dad and uncles tear it down.
I also remember that one building where the roof was accessible from a tree growing nearby. I'm not sure what it was called, but we could only get on the roof. The inside of the building itself was always flooded and whenever went in there. Right by that building there was a busted TV. I remember Laura and I fighting over who was going to use it for their science project. Because you know we were both electronics experts by age 5.
It seems like Duane was always playing with fire. He'd always start fires in the trash burning center. To this day I can always remember singing "We didn't start the fire...DUANE DID!"
That hill that ran by Grams backyard and eventually to Charlie's house. Shane and I used to race our bikes down that road. Actually I can remember we played on that road quite a bit. We used to find paths of flowing water along the road and call them "hospitals". I'm not sure why, but I think it had something to do with the fact that there was water. Then there was that tunnel that ran underneath 162. Shane, Clint, and migrated all the way through it to the other side...there was a big pool of water and we peed in it to mark our territory.
I definitely remember the Just Say No Club. The "clubhouse" was underneath a couple of cedar trees (I think they were cedar). It was nice, shady, and secluded...except for the door that lead to the bathroom that was never opened...there were steps leading up to it. Shane would always write Just Say No Club on each of the steps with a rock, and then someone would walk on them and he'd have to do it again. I suggested making a sign to put outside instead, but that never happened. Then there was that time where we made a "sink" which consisted of one of us pouring water into this bowl and the water would run from a bowl down this pipe we found and then onto the ground. I wrote a letter to the editor about it...groundbreaking technology for 5 yr olds for sure.
Duane made the Just Say Yes Club once...but that clubhouse was down near the tunnel that went under 162. The JSYC was a little more selective though. We had to pass some tests to get in...one I can remember was how we had to smell this wood and say what it smelled like. It smelled like coffee.
Someone lit a firework that zoomed straight into a mailbox on the forth of July once. I don't care who you are that's funny right there.
This had to have been the last Christmas at Gram's house, but I remember Kara walking around looking for Cassie saying "Mere Assie....Mere Assie". I think Cassie was one or two at the time.
I dont' remember much about Pop, but Mom says he used to let me play with his cigarette lighter. I used to call his cigarettes "cigars" (pronounced like siger). I also remember watching him cut down a tree.
There was ALWAYS something to tear up in that shed that stood away from the house by that field. I don't remember much about it, but it was the prefect place for a bunch of kids to play in.
I think Mom may still have some of Gram's old ornaments. I know her TV still sits in our basement. Mom hates it though because it won't quit working, so there's no reason to get rid of it.
I definitely remember the woodburning stove. Pop's chair was right by it, and if you were sitting in it he would stand there and whistle until you got out. Seems kinda possessive haha....maybe that's where I get it from? I also remember Rats and Sissy. I can't tell you what color they were, but I think they were wiener dogs. Ha I also remember how cats would get stuck in the wall. There were always a bunch of cats underneath the front steps leading up to the front door. I think Mom and Dad have one of those steps underneath the deck at the house.
That's what I can remember for now. Like Laura, I could spend all day thinking about these kinds of things.
Well...if we aren't going to keep it just with Christmas...here are a few.
1) Every time I see or smell pink Dove soap, I think of Gram.
2) Cold Cash in the freezer, and I remember her green billfold.
3) I loved that even on the hottest day of the year, at night when the fan was turned on in kris's bedroom it would suck air through the house and itwas very comfortable.
4) Goober Peanut Butter & Jelly, Big Red, and the Schwan man. Oh and all the root beer gallon jugs in the attic.
5) The red berries that used to grow on the evergreen bushes.
6) The Rose of Sharon bushes, by the house next to the water hose...that I was always fearful of keeping on too long.
7) I always loved when Gram would come to our house, always early, and one of the first things she wanted to do was clean my mom's refrigerator.
8) We had a holiday tradition the day after Thanksgiving...Mom, Toot, and Grandma and I (sometimes Kris) would go to Evansville and go Christmas shopping. We would always go to Target, and to this day the smell of popcorn, and slurpies reminds me of those times. It was also a chance for me to cuss and not get into trouble. Do you remember the Go To Hale sign next to Target?
9) Riding in cars with Pop. I remember when I would come home from Grandview with Pop on a Friday afternoon and spend the night with them. He would always stop at the Red & White Store and get groceries. He would let me pick some candy out. Which w usually consisted of Garbage Can sweetarts or the there was another kind that was in a plastic coffin. I remember he would listen to would listen to AM radio, and I can remember staring at the gum that was stuffed where the glove compartment knob used to be.
10) I remember one night mom, grandma, and Kris and I wanted to borrow his car (The Dart I think) , and he said ok...but don't "Cowboy it".
I could go on and on. I really think I'm going to make a book.
Um, that building with the roof accessible by trees? The root cellar. I remember very well the tarpaper on top and the apple tree in front; and I remember talking about the science experiments, too! I went inside it a couple of times, but we found wasps nests in there once, and I couldn't get the nerve to go in it again. Shane would always dare me to and call me a "pussy" - before we knew it was kind of a bad word. I would also occasionally find empty vials of insulin buried in the ground there. I think it was just trash that happened to get stomped into the ground on the way to the fire pit, but I thought they were treasure. Back then, I loved little bottles and boxes - Gram would always let me look through her jewelry drawer at all her clicky ring boxes.
Remember her locket with Pop's military picture?
Remember when Gram would clean out her insulin syringes when she was done with them, and we would fight over who got to play with them? We used them as squirt guns.
I remember Dusty sitting in Gram's rocking chair and crying because Shane and I were saying "grass" nonstop, which he thought was a bad word.
Pop's chair by the woodstove? I remember the smell of his cigars, and the smell of the natural gas from the stovetop. When I was little, I had a lisp, and I had to go see a speech therapist at school. (Just a sidenote: Calling it a "lisp" is pretty cruel. I had a lithp? I had to thee a thpeech therapitht? Who'th name wath Mitheth Thternberg? Jerkth.) I remember sitting on Dad's lap in Pop's chair before school, when he would go through my speech words with me. Like Mrs. Sternberg, he kept telling me to tuck my tongue back behind my teeth, but all that would do is turn my lisped S's into dreadful forced hisses. Even then, Dad kept insisting that it was an issue of mind over matter. I eventually thuktheeded.
Shane and I used to build a tent behind Gram's rocking chair by midmorning everyday. I know this because she would be watching Price is Right and Young and the Restless while we did it. We used the soft yellow blanket (I think Manda has it now), and tucked it into the cushion on the back of the chair, up into the chain loops of that bordello style light fixture by Kris's bedroom door and over the loveseat. We put pillows up to baricade ourselves in. We would also take big cabbage leaves from the fridge, hunker down in our tent, and nibble it like rabbits. Dorks.
Shane and I used to play in the kitchen everyday after lunch. After we'd eat our Banquet boil-in-bag salisbury steaks (over a slice of bread - my favorite treat to this day!), we would pretend to be dragged down under the table by witches. We would escape and lure the witches into Gram's dryer.
I remember Gram making pink lemonade. I thought she was magical.
I remember sitting on the washing machine by the fridge and making meringue pies with her. Again, I thought she was magical when she showed me how to whip egg whites. I thought, "Man, you can make whipped cream out of egg whites? Now I can have whipped cream everyday!" She loved making coconut cream pies and lemon meringue pies. They're my favorites now, too.
Remember when she'd make teddy bear pancakes? It was a tradition that she would come to our plates and cut the heads off first, making this sick screaming noise. It was hilarious! You don't have to wonder where we got our twisted humor from.
Gum on the hutch.
We used to make her turn out her dentures and chase us like a monster.
I think she had a crush on the Schwann's man. I loved Strawberry Fruit Bars and Gold'n Nugget Bars - the original Snickers Ice Cream Bar, if you ask me.
She kept chicken bones in a big ice cream tub in the back porch fridge. Michelle, Manda & Steph told us that it was our dead cousin Jonathan. Clint got freaked out the most.
One time we gave Clint orange juice and Ex-Lax and told him it was chocolate. We put the juice in a champagne glass like it was a treat for him. We all watched him eat it. Gram was pissed!
We filled one of those pumpkin trash bags with newspaper and phone books and kept it in the Just Say No Club as a beanbag chair. It was there for years, and it was nasty. No one used it after the first rain.
I used to take fern fronds from the tree outside the JSNC and make "soup" in one of Gram's pots - using our innovative "faucet" water. People, we were scientists!
I thought the closet under the stairs was the scariest thing ever. I'd never gone in there, but Manda and Steph kept "warning" us about it.
I remember holding baby rabbits in our laps in the living room.
Gram had a cat that would rush in at the same time every morning when she opened the door. It would hop onto the hutch, then walk over to the dryer, then onto the counter where it started eating the food out of the big yellow cup she soaked it in. I always thought that was the way you prepare dry cat food - by soaking it in warm water. Turns out, she was just nice.
I definitely remember when you gave clint ex-lax hahaha.
We always had an obsession with Freddy Kruger (see attached file if you dont' know who I'm talking about...well actually it's a pretty safe assumption that you do know who I'm talking about...I just wanted to send out a picture with this email). One time Laura and Shane told me that they saw Freddy Kruger walkign down the road from Shane's house to Gram's house. To combat Freddy Kruger, we ate a bunch of Mr. Freeze things (flavored water that you froze...when you ate them some of it melted which resulted in there being a bit of liquid at the bottom of the package after the frozen part was gone). We combined all of the leftover liquid into one package and it was a magic potion that we had to give to Freddy Krugar in order to ward him off. The plan was to stay in Gram's room until Shane gave the word. After Shane gave the signal, Laura jumped out and showed him the potion and that was supposed to scare him away. I, being the gullible little brat I was, wasn't assigned an important task; my job was to wait in the bedroom, which I still couldn't do right.
Do you remember when my mom would take us all swimming at the huntingburg pool? I think it mostly consisted of shane, steph, amanda, laura, clint, and me.
Ha! I do remember the Mr. Freeze antidote. We also used it to ward off zombies. We would flip up the plastic really fast and take it in like an IV.
I was just telling someone at work that I was hungry for swimming pool pizza - that rubbery microwaved junk that was the "Whopper" of the pool menu. I also loved the Jolly Rancher sticks.
One Christmas Pop took me out to the kitchen sat me down and gave me my first taste of blood sausage, with molassas. He told me it would grow hair on my chest. I told him, but Grandpa, I’m a girl, I don’t want hair on my chest.
When I was about 12, Lurch had this black and white truck that he let me drive across the corn field, some how I remember him taking the key out of the ignition and the truck still running.
The turtles that lived down in the root cellar to be fattened up for soup making.
Dialing 3 digits (611) and hearing… Dubois county time..temperature.
I remember Maggie taking us to the pool, and playing washer dryer (which was taught to me by Kris), and making up a new game called surfboard, and being the oldest and biggest I got to be the surfboard. I also remember a kid Steph called RED, and being accused of taking money, after being framed. Ah yes the pizza, fun dip, and combos.
I remember on Saturdays Gram got the ring washer out, which I feared. I was so afraid I was going to get my fingers caught in there, just by looking at it. She then would us the water to wash her floor, but I think she added pinesol.
So there's that,