They say that great things often come in small packages. My grandmother stood about five-foot, three-inches, and hovered around 100 pounds her entire life.
She, by all accounts, was a small woman. She was raised in Breslau, Germany, which is now a part of Poland, and she made her way to the states after World War II.
Legend has it that my grandfather won her over with his impeccable German and sweet-talking her over a bowl of chili on their first date. He was stationed there after his initial assignment, and she caught his eye while hailing a taxi. I don’t think she ever made it to her destination.
Gathering on Christmas Eve was a rich tradition that my grandmother brought over with her, and even though it was one of the few times my family would gather during the year, attendance wasn’t optional. Heck, it was one occasion that I didn’t mind getting dressed up for as a kid and even into my teenage years.
As we entered through the side door of my grandmother’s house, donning our Christmas best and juggling oddly stacked presents, we were greeted by a “hello honey” from the kitchen and the heavenly aroma of the feast that awaited.
The amount of food that came out of her modest kitchen defied the laws of physics. Any offer to help in her small kitchen would be met quickly with “no thank you honey, sit down and relax” in her thick German accent while gently moving you into the other room. I still don’t know how she did it all, but she made it look easy and effortless.
We made small talk around the fireplace with the television on in the background while we waited; everyone was more interested in catching up with one another than whatever was happening on the television.
Before long, it was time to gather around the table. It wasn’t really necessary for my grandmother to put out her best plates, silverware, and glasses, but she did it anyway. It’s incredible what drinking sparkling grape juice out of crystal glass can do for a kid’s imagination. We felt like royalty.
The dining room was small, but there was always enough room for us and any guests that may be lucky enough to sit around her table. It was like Norman Rockwell’s famous “Freedom From Want” painting, only better.
We returned to the table one by one after loading our plates up with heaping portions of turkey and sides cooked to perfection. I’ve honestly been left wanting by every scoop of “stuffing” and “yams” since I was a child because of her.
Going back for seconds and even thirds was the standard in her house. Anyone who didn’t get more food was eventually worn down by her relentless encouragement to “have just a little more,” which was said in a slightly sterner German accent.
The desserts that she made looked and tasted like they were made in an award-winning bakery. Pumpkin and apple pie were the standard fares, and each slice she cut could easily be considered a meal unto itself.
The cheerful banter and conversation continued throughout dessert, and we stayed at the table far past when everyone was finished eating. We simply didn’t want to leave.
It may not have been physically possible due to the amount of food that we consumed, but mostly it was because of the magic that happened around her table.
She may have been a petite German woman with a small kitchen and a modest house, but the memories made around that table take up a large place in my heart. I guess what they say is true, that great things really do come in small packages.