Growing up, we lived in the next town over from my paternal grandparents, George and Eugenie (Atwell) Pleau. My sister and I saw them often, and every year our family was invited to their annual Christmas party.
Actually, everyone was seemed to be invited to their party, which was held on or right before Christmas (I can’t remember). It was an early exercise in genealogy, as many members of my grandmother’s family were there: Great-grandfather Thomas Atwell, Great-great Uncle Claude Lipsett and his wife Clara, Great-Uncle Thomas Atwell and his second wife Helen, Uncle Tom’s two adult children (both of whom are still living) and my second cousins, who were a little younger than my sister. I remember my grandmother’s cousin, Carolyn Lipsett and her mother Marion. There may have been – no, there probably were – others at the party as well.
My grandparents’ house was always decked out in 1960s Christmas kitsch. Giant glowing electric candles at the front door, orange-light candlesticks in each window, a choir of red-robed ceramic angels on the mantle over a fake fire, pretty curly ribbon candy in Christmas dishes on the end-tables. Their small fake tree, decorated with sparkly red and gold balls, stood in the corner where my grandfather set it up under my grandmother’s changing instruction.
At some point in the evening, us kids (me, my sister and the second cousins) got to open our presents. Perhaps it was early in the evening, to keep us occupied for the rest of the night. It was clear that the presents were from my grandparents, not Santa. No matter what the toys were, we’d always get a net sack of chocolate coins in our stockings (which I later learned was a popular Hanukkah thing). I can still hear the sounds of the empty gold foils hitting each other.
Then the grown-ups would talk and talk. There were probably appetizers on the dining room table that they’d eat. For my immediate family, this continued until I was ten, and then we’d moved away the following summer, too far to visit at the holidays. I wish I could time-travel back to the parties to hear what the grown-ups talked about; I bet I’d pick up a lot more family stories!