The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Christmas At Granny and Papa's

By Carolyn Bertram © 1988

Issue: December, 1988

After walking through the crisp air of the cloudy, winter morning, the warmth from the old-fashioned fireplace and the good-natured conversations of relatives were particularly inviting. Papa, several uncles and cousins were sitting near the fire in a semi-circle. Their voices became interwoven with intense political and religious discussions, disappointing tobacco prices, and recent hunting and fishing expeditions. There was a ripple of laughter after the story of the big deer or fish that got away.

The living room was also filled with the sweet tangy smell of "Christmas oranges" setting on a small table in the back of the room. Beside the table was the heavy iron bed now weighted down with coats, scarves and several odd-shaped packages.

Various pull-toys and dolls were scattered on the dull hardwood floor. Pieces of multi-colored wrapping paper were crumpled and strewn to the kitchen door.

I stumbled over a toy truck into the crowded noisy kitchen. Aunts and cousins were bustling about, banging pots and pans and comparing favorite recipes.

As I inhaled the delicious, overpowering aroma of Granny's chicken and dumplings, I became acutely aware of the persistent gnawing in my stomach.

The table was laden with steaming bowls of home canned green beans, turnip greens, whole, mashed, and sweet potatoes, rich creamy gravy, plates of crispy brown cornbread and hot buttered rolls. Having a sweet tooth, my mouth began to water when I spotted the ten-layer dried apple stack cake, which also served as my birthday cake. Setting beside it were pecan, pumpkin and cherry pies and a huge bowl of fresh fruit salad.

Suddenly, the back door burst open and impatient kids began running and darting between adults, showing off their new prizes Santa had brought. They snatched pieces of cake when Granny wasn't looking, then gulped the icy cold well water from the metal dipper in the white enamel water bucket.

As Granny turned from her new electric stove and wiped her wrinkled forehead with her worn, flour-covered apron, I noticed a faint brown trickle at the corner of her mouth from her chewing tobacco. She began her deep rolling laughter as she threatened the children with a switch if they didn't "mind" and stop running about. Her old apron moved up and down with each chuckle.

When Granny placed the last bowl on the table, we knew the moment had finally arrived.

My cousin and I grabbed a plate, making sure we got ample portions of chicken and dumplings, which never lasted through the second helpings. We found and made seats in the living room with some of the adults and younger children. Granny and Papa ate at the table with the other adults.

Compliments were scarce and perhaps unnecessary, for Granny sighed with contentment as she watched us devour plate after plate of her delicious food.