Thanks, all of you who commented or dropped me a line regarding my recent, ah- business back in the home country (North Tonawanda, NY). My grandmother has not been well with my father, various aunts, uncles and cousins looking out for her nigh on the past 10 years. In many ways this was a relief to see her suffering end.
But the funerary activities are for the living, after all, and when a critical mass of my family congregates fun is usually had by all (the prevailing mood notwithstanding). I took the opportunity to have dinner with my other grandparents and visit aggressively with my cousins. By this I mean “enjoying irresponsibly”. My liver may yet heal. Only time will tell.My grandmother was an impressive woman, an immigrant from Scotland with a huge family she helped raise while growing up. She was working in the Empire State Building on July 28, 1945 when a B-25 crashed into the 79th floor. Only a few floors above the impact, had the pilot been able to pull up just a few more degrees neither my father nor I would be here today. She was a plain-spoken woman who told you what she thought whether you wanted to hear it or not, but more often she was right than wrong. The stories involving my grandmother we now tell around campfires are legendary in scale, but true. No exaggeration is needed when speaking of the woman as children we called “Cookie Grandma”.
The irony is, she couldn’t cook. She made a meatloaf so dense and brick-like we were certain the Berlin wall was constructed of the stuff. The kitchen was set on fire so many times we thought the house must be made of asbestos to remain standing. Yet dinner was always served, whatever the carbon content. Christmas, however, was her moment of glory for the grandchildren.
Christmas Eve always saw the entire family in town. Four children and the attendant grandchildren, plus great grandparents, uncles/aunts friends and miscellaneous cousins until it was time for Santa to visit. The house couldn’t have been more than 900 square feet but a whole room was set aside for hors d’ouvres, treats, main dishes and drinks. Five Christmas Eves in a row I ate myself sick on goodies. She and my father both inspired the tradition I carry on with my family today: pack the house on Christmas Eve with as many friends and family as can fit- then feed them until they puke.
Oh- and there MUST be a fire in the fireplace.
That’s how I will remember her, standing by the fireplace on Christmas Eve with my grandfather, he smoking his pipe and both of them with a glass of Scotch Whiskey, neat. There’s a Charlie Brown tree with far too much tinsel by the window and the fire is heating the whole house. With no room to move between the mass of relatives I’m probably off holding my belly, moaning from the ham, candies, cakes and pies. Time to get started planning our own…
RIP Kathleen Kraatz