There’s nothing like cabins and Christmas to awaken the inner child.
By Christy Heitger-Ewing
One Christmas when I was a young girl, my dad’s parents drove up to the cabin to spend the holiday with my family. My brother Danny and I asked Grandma if she would sleep with us on the cabin’s lumpy, bumpy hideaway bed on Christmas Eve. Despite the fact that the flimsy full-sized mattress reeked of mothballs and was as plush as a 2×4, Grandma agreed.
Come to think of it, she didn’t even hesitate when we asked her, and I think it’s because the holidays awakened Grandma’s inner child. She was mesmerized by the magic of the season: the magnificent music, the delightful decorations, the delicious desserts. Grandma also enjoyed the presents. In fact, she had a reputation for extensive snooping, peeking, and probing – especially when it came to sniffing her way to the jumbo boxes of chocolate-covered cherries and Almond Joy candy bars she usually received from our family.
I’ve never seen anyone relish the frenzied excitement of Christmas as much as Grandma. And it all started on Christmas Eve.
After helping us set out cookies for Santa, Grandma tucked her red hair beneath her nightcap, then removed her dentures, placing them in a tumbler glass on a TV tray to let them soak. (I thought teeth in a cup was the coolest thing ever.) She then removed her thick eyeglasses and took turns giving me and my brother back rubs.
As Grandma scratched our backs with her long, painted-red fingernails, I closed my eyes and inhaled Grandma’s essence. Her breath was scented by lemon drops, her soft cheeks emanated the sweet scent of Coty face powder, and on her fingertips lingered a hint of garlic from the vegetable soup she had cooked that afternoon.
During the back rubs, Danny and I negotiated a time when we could wake up our parents in the morning.
“How about 5:30?” I asked.
“Or even 6,” Dan interjected.
“Hey, I’m all for early, but your folks said not before 7,” Grandma stated with a sigh.
“That’s okay, Grandma,” I said. “That just makes our sleepover with you last longer.”
Grandma’s lips curled into a smile. “True,” she said.
I peered up at Grandma’s worn face. Fine lines circled her eyes and mouth, and on the bridge of her nose was a slight bump from when she broke it as a young girl. I’m not sure if it was because of her childhood injury or her tough upbringing, but Grandma never thought she was attractive. I, however, found her stunning. Even in the dim light of the cabin, her piercing green eyes sparkled with joy.
“I think I hear jingle bells!” Grandma whispered with an urgency to her voice.
Danny and I popped up like two slices of toast and flew to the frosted windows to check the skies. Greeted by nothing but cloud cover, we returned to bed. No sooner did my brother and I settle back down when Grandma inquired, “Hey, were those hooves up on the roof?” Again, Danny and I raced to opposite windows and scanned the blanket of freshly fallen snow for signs of St. Nick.
After 90 minutes of adrenalinized detective work, we could no longer keep our eyes open.
In the wee hours of the morning, Danny roused Grandma to ask if he could wake up Mom and Dad. Grandma squinted to make out the numbers on the clock. “Oh, you can’t, honey. It’s only 6:30.”
“But it’ll take me half an hour to walk to their room!” Danny argued.
With Mom and Dad’s room only steps away, Grandma knew it was more like half a second. Still, visions of Almond Joys and chocolate-covered cherries danced in her head, and she quickly caved.
“Okay,” she whispered.
Grandma slid her yellow cotton robe over her slender shoulders. “I can’t wait to see what Santa brought!” she squealed like a giddy toddler.
Ever the planner, I inquired: “Grandma, will you sleep with us in the fold-out bed again next year?”
Grandma wrapped her arms around me. “Absolutely!” she said. “Consider me booked.”
Christy Heitger-Ewing thinks that if everyone could experience life at a cabin, the world would be a happier place.