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Dueling Christmases

(by Margie Goldsmith)

Every December 25th, my parents, two sisters, and I would pile into the family Ford and head from Connecticut to New York City for two family Christmases, one at each grandmother’s house. The first stop was always my father’s mother, Gram, who lived in an apartment filled with floor-to-ceiling books in every room. Shortly after we arrived, the doorbell would ring, and there was Santa (my grandmother’s brother, Uncle Dan) with pillowcases full of dolls, cuddly rabbit puppets, and potholder embroidery kits for my sisters and me. We brought presents too, but never store-bought. My mother had encouraged us to make our own gifts, just as she did. I think she always made the same thing: a wastebasket decorated with New Yorker covers. She even made one for Gram’s live-in maid Rose. Maybe her homemade gifts made up for the fact that she never cooked.

The dining room was set with the good china and silver, and my father always sat next to Gram, holding hands under the table. Nothing was ever said, but I think my mother disliked Gram because she only paid attention to her darling son, ignoring his wife. In the middle of the table was a small plastic tree decorated with gumdrops, and as candy was a rarity at home, we’d pull off the gumdrops and stuff them into our mouths in