Home for the Holidays

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved.

Home for the holidays.

That was always Grandma’s house as I was growing up. For nearly twenty years, no matter where we lived or what the circumstances, our family made a regular pilgrimage to Grandma Amelia’s home, a clean and spacious ranch-style structure on the rural edges of Billings, Montana.

Grandpa Ben lived there too, of course, but it was always “Grandma’s house.” She was the one who kept up the place and made arrangements, answering the phone and greeting us at the door with hugs and kisses.

Most of all, it was Grandma who cooked the meals – all of them. While Grandpa held court from his seats in the living room and at the head of the dining room table, it was Grandma who ruled the kitchen. And it was from her cookery that the savory scents and mouth-watering meals emerged, time after time, and year after year.

The look and smell of that kitchen, embedded since infancy, follows me everywhere. My parents moved from place to place, and I’ve done the same, but Grandma’s kitchen never changed. It was a small island of permanence amidst all our vicissitudes.

In a space about 10 feet wide by about 14 feet long, stove on one side and refrigerator on the other, Grandma baked and braised, fried and stewed, roasted and grilled. A small window above the sink at one end of the room looked out over a half-acre of back yard and garden, a landscape that changed just a little over the years. At the other end of the room, there was a small table for two where Grandma sat when she talked on the phone or played cribbage. In that space, a kitchen both ordinary and personal, Grandma Amelia spent a good portion of half a century preparing meals that sustained two husbands and nourished four children and entertained housefuls of spouses and grandkids and, eventually, great-grandchildren.

Her flaky buttermilk biscuits and roast turkey and sweet potatoes emerged from that kitchen along with green bean casseroles and cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and thick, flavorful gravies. There was always apple and rhubarb pies, cookies, cakes and fudge. No one went without dessert in those days.

We came to her table, friends and family, sons and daughters, grandchildren and neighbor kids; we laughed, we cried, we teased and joked, complained and worried, grew older, changed shape, and eventually, moved on.
She’s gone now and it has been many years since I actually sat down at that table, but I’m always there at Christmas and Thanksgiving and every other day worth remembering.

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Grandma's House by Billy Jacobs
Amelia: An Oral History
Home for the Holidays

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