It is getting close enough to the Eve of Christmas to see the vapor running on the windows at my grand parent's house as they prepared supper for the lot of us. We always seemed to have enough room in their one bedroom house for the eleven of us to move about.
Six sat at the table, four at the card table, and grandma never sat down until everyone was finished. Then she would sit down and eat while the men were in the living room.
Someone asked the other day, how old are you when you don't have to sit at the little people table; another asked how long they could stay. At my grand parent's in was mostly because of space, although I was told it was because the adults wanted to visit and the kids were to "yappy". Oh my. We knew not to go to the big table and whine about when we could open gifts. We knew the women would be doing dishes, putting them away, and sweeping the floor before there was any gift opening.
I did not come from a family that said prayers before meals or read the Christmas Story. We did go to church but not on Christmas Eve, as mother did later. So it was dinner at 6:00 PM and out the door by 9:00 PM to drive to the more expensive neighborhoods and look at the lights. Although I have always been fond of outdoor lights at Christmas, we do not practice it in Fargo. The ones we strung in a former life were hung earlier, not taken down, and by spring, most of the bulbs where broken from banging against the eves in the wind.
For those of you who know TRF, then you know back in the fifties, the area to drive by was by the river starting with Ekeren's on the corner and around the bend past Starkow's. On a still night one could almost hear them sizzle buried in the snow filled bushes. That was, and still is, the prettiest of the outdoor lighting. That is, when the colored bulbs are buried under the snow and glow.
I had a lot of admiration for my grandparents. They could serve their family army with thinly sliced meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, lefse, jelly, and lots of hot buns and it was a feast. Daddy knew the secret to that meatloaf was a combination of scraps stored in the freezer, then run through the meat grinder. There was no fresh meat in it, only precooked, with stale bread busted up to make it hold together. Mother said it was all starch. To me, it was once a year meal of food I wouldn't see at home. I have yet to make meatloaf that holds together like hers did.
The important thing for all of us to realize is, Julia was in her seventies and Benhard was near 80 when they were doing the cooking for the family. Tom and I have hosted people at holiday time and it is an amazingly huge amount of work, planning, and clean up. It brings to mind a couple Christmas' ago when we washed all the fine china, cleaned the silver, and hand washed all the stemware BEFORE we used it as well as after. We served family style which gave additional dishes. The table was magnificent; no one asked for the splendor, we made the decision to provide it.
And so it was with my grandparents when they would take out there best dishes and flat ware and put on a good table cloth and treat their guests like royalty as we ate meatloaf and lefse.
In the spirit of hospitality, they had the corner on it.