Copyrighted 2001, this was written by me, Robert Garner and is dedicated to my grandparents, Lee and Modell Danner. For they are responsible for my memories of what Christmas SHOULD
I invite you to take a stroll with me through my...Precious Memories
Though my childhood was filled with many wonderful, happy events, none are as deeply embeded in my heart and mind as the annual tradition that was born in 1960 (the same year I was born). The tradition I reference is the family gathering at Momma (my mother's mother) and Paw (my mother's father) Danner's house on each Christmas Eve. I will forever cherish my memory's carefully filled snapshots, sounds, tastes, and aromas, which were created from the events of each gathering. The chronology of each evening's gathering was usually the same and quite simple - arrival, a meal, the exchanging of gifts, and departure, but each stage contained scenes that made each Christmas Eve befitting the content of a Norman Rockwell painting.
The evening begins with a knock on the front door, which produces Momma Danner and her smiling, "ho, ho, ho," and "Merry Christmas" greeting. Then comes the hugs and kisses accompanied by plenty of back patting and other love gestures. Then, the telltale aroma that says that Momma Danner has been busy preparing all sorts of goodies for the evening's meal greets my nostrils.
As I move through the living room full of family members, gifts and decorations into the kitchen, I can see a table, covered end to end and side to side, with the fruits of Momma Danner's labors. Looking further, I see that the bounty has been more than the table could bear by itself. On the china cabinet is perched the deserts that will make a perfect meal complete.
My arrival journey ends in the den where other family members are discussing events of the day and reliving Christmases gone by. Among these members is Paw Danner, leaned back in his rocker, glasses in place, mouth wide open, and still containing it's pacifying toothpick, and snoring that "Lee Danner" snore.
Soon, I hear Momma Danner's voice rise above the laughter and conversation, "Okay, you children get washed up and come on. It's time to eat." After a brief period of no movement by the adult males, again I hear Momma Danner, "BIlly (my father), Dan (my uncle) ya'll come on now, these young-uns want to eat so they can open their presents."
The evenging meal begins with Paw Danner "turning thanks." He begins with, "Our Heavenly Father..." and ends with "in Jesus name we pray, Amen." At this point Paw removes his well-chewed chewing fum from his mouth and, after we children beg him to, places it behind his ear for later retrieval. This signifies that it is time to fill your plate with things such as barbeque, baked beans, potatoes
, green beans, turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes
, creamed style corn, rolls, and the one thing that is to the Christmas Eve meal, what a cherry on top is to a sundae - hoop cheese!
At the adult's table, the topic is again the events of the day and the events of Christmasses gone by. At the youth's table, the topic is turned toward speculation of what is awaiting us under the Christmas tree
in the living room and what type of parcels Santa will deliver in just a few hours.
After polishing off the main course and its sides, it's now time for desert! The menu is alway a lengthy one, but contains some constants such as coconut cake (my favorite), fruitcake, chocolate and lemon pie covered with meringue (a substance which Paw Danner called calf slobber), and boiled custard.
In his traditional style and form, Paw partially fills his glass with boiled custard. Then he takes Wild Turkey in one hand and a tablespoon in the other and states that he only wants a tablespoonful of "flavoring" in his custard! That said, he holds the tablespoon over his glass while carefully pouring the Wild Turkey into the tablespoon. After enough of the "flavoring" has spilled over the sides of his tablespoon to almost finish filling his glass, Paw stops pouring and announces, "That looks about like that is about a tablespoonful to me." With that, he dumps the ramaining contents of the spoon into the glass!
Now that the adults are filled to capacity with the meal's cuisines, it is finally time for what we children have waited three hundred sixty-four days for... time to pass out and open presents. So, we all move into the livingroom, which is adorned with it's decorated Christmas tree
. Under it, it appears that there are enough gifts to fill two of Santa's sleighs.
Finally, the adults are seated and we older children who are able to read, pick up a gift, read the name on it, and deliver it to its intended recipient. We also involve the younger children by handing a gift to them and instructing them concerning the proper delivery destination. This continues until all the gifts are carefully and correctly delivered. Now, the wonderful mayhem begins. Wrapping paper flies in one direction as bows fly in another. Emotion filled exclamations such as "thank you," "oh, I love it," "boy, I sure needed that" are lobbed back and forth across the room. Occasionally a shriek rises from someone who has received something that they weren't expecting, yet were really hoping for. All of the emotion is finally summed up with a tear or two, a hug, a "thank you," and an "I love you."
Now that all the words of thanks have been spoken, the multicolored litter has been picked up, and everyone who wanted it has had that extra helping of their favorite delectable, it is time to begin the end of our family's Christmas Eve gathering. Paw Danner gathers everyone, young and old alike into the living room and prays. He begins by thanking God for his wonderful family and this special time that he has been allowed to spend with them. He also thanks God for that Christmas many, many years ago when His son Jesus was born and for what Jesus did for all of us. He concludes by asking God to go with each of us as we go our separate ways, to guide, guard, and protect all of us. Finally, after asking it all in Christ's name and for His sake, he finishes his prayer with, "Amen."
As heads are raised, and eyes are opened, I can see a few tear laden eyes that speak of the sadness that accompanies the goodbyes spoken by loved ones at the completion of an event such as this. Now, the hugs, kisses, and other loving gestures accompanied with words of good-bye mark the end of the gathering and we all go our own way.
Paw Danner is no longer with us. He joined his creator in 1988. After he passed away, the Christmas Eve gatherings just have not seemed to be quite the same. Last year (2000) was the first time since 1960 that we did not have a family gathering at Momma Danner's house on Christmas Eve. But, I still have a wonderful collection of memories from many other preceding Christmas Eves that I frequently flip through just as a reminder of why Christmas Eve at Momma and Paw's house remain such precious memories to me.
Have a very Merry Christmas,