Everything about this holiday season is evoking my grandmother, and I'm pleased that it's causing my fondest memories of her to surface and fill me with a strong sense of gratitude for how she influenced me. It's the truth about family that they are your best friends and your worst enemies, and as much as I can conjure up horrible memories of things she said to me that were unkind, I am also able to hear the voice of love and to admire her strongest qualities. She was an artist (though an unrecognized one) and she knew how to make things beautiful. The dreams I have at Christmastime are dreams she planted in me. It seems that every year as soon as the calendar turns to December, I begin craving the foods that she made. I remember those long dark nights with her cooking in the kitchen feeding me treats from the planned feast, and when I got older, a little peppermint schnapps. Every year, it was a smorgasbord - a tradition adopted from her husband's culture - a feast of great variety, eaten and imbibed on a beautifully planned out table. And then there was the generosity. December was a month full of presents, starting with opening one on the day we put up the tree. She couldn't wait to give and to see the excitement on our faces, and I think of her when I can't resist buying one more gift for my dear ones. I will forever think of Christmas as a time for new makeup and perfume and beautiful clothes (as well as art supplies, stuffed animals, and the inevitable post-Christmas trip to buy books to read on the break from school).
I am grateful for being raised by her, although I don't readily admit it. She was my window into a generation that had many foibles, but was indeed a more glamorous and genteel than my own. Because of her, I understand lost social mores and references from popular culture that precede the onset of television. When I take Ellis to a play, I think of how she first introduced me to movie musicals. When I watch the PBS News Hour, I remember the constant consciousness of politics. Even if eventually I didn't agree with her particular politics, she gave me the tools to be an educated citizen. When I buy clothes or cook a meal or decorate my house, I think of her. Even though I did so many things that were decidedly "unladylike" in her mind, she taught me that being a woman could be an incredibly powerful thing and that things that are considered feminine are the heart and soul of our everyday lives.
So in homage to her, I share with you Mary Lundgren's Christmas Smorgasbord (what I remember. Note to my sister: please add to this):
Homemade baked beans
An array of cheeses and crackers (including Boondoost - an excellent Swedish cheese)
And let's not forget...special for Christmas breakfast:
French toast with a mixture of cherry pie filling mixed with maple syrup poured over it and topped with sour cream.
Thank you, Gram, for my sense of luxury!