Thursday, December 23, 2021

Over the River and Through the Woods


Edna Catherine (Schwartz) Bunsey (1904-1994)
As a kid growing up in Mansfield, Ohio, I did not have to cross a river or go through a woods to get to my Grandmother's house. Okay, I could go through the woods on my bike, and that route crossed a creek or two, but in the car with my family at Christmas, we probably went down Abbeyfeale, up Midland, to Gadfield, then Austin, left on Woodhill Road to Grandma's house at the corner of Woodhill and Andover.

This post mostly is about this picture of Grandma, as a way to say "Merry Christmas" to anyone who reads this blog, but of course it brings back memories.

This grandmother is my mother's mother. That is the family I grew up with. All of Dad's 'people' were in St. Louis or Central Illinois so we rarely saw them. Grandma and Grandpa (Edna and Frank to everyone else) had six kids. Their three oldest girls, which included my mother, married and had six kids each. I am the senior cousin. 

I like this picture, not because it is how I remember Grandma, but because it is not. The woman in this picture looks too quiet and disengaged to be my grandmother. I wouldn't call Grandma loud. Aunt Lee, her sister-in-law, was loud. We are not a quiet bunch, but Grandma could hold a room without raising her voice. Our family was a matriarchy and she ruled. She had many arrows in her quiver, sarcasm not least of them. Her mother, Grandma Schwartz, was still very much in the picture too. It was quite the operation.

In my earliest memories of Christmas, Grandma and Grandpa's house figures more prominently than our own, probably because of the expanded cast of characters. Mom's two youngest siblings were teenagers. I had three younger brothers and, during the period in question, several cousins in our same age bracket. There always was at least one baby being passed around. 

The house had a cozy den. You had to go down a few steps to get to it. Their tree, in that space, always seemed much grander than ours. They had all these cool, old ornaments and--the best part--bubble lights! I could not get enough of the bubble lights.

Grandma and Grandpa had their six kids over a span of 17 years, so they had a collection of toys that they, cleverly, let us play with but did not let us take home. I remember an old chutes and ladders game, some weird blocks, and a thing with knobs that you turned to move marbles through a maze. My favorite was the stereoscopic viewer that was so much cooler than the View-Master I had at home. The pictures were all black-and-white but it was images of pyramids and the Eiffel Tower.

After our three families filled out, there were just too many people to have everyone over to the house on Andover on Christmas Day, so other traditions were established, but we would still get to their house during the season, usually more than once, and saw the cousins and their families in some combination.

This is the time of year when people like to tell you what Christmas is 'about.' Here is my take. 'Christmas' is a name some people give to an annual observance that has been going on, all over the world, since long before the birth of Christ. What is true in every culture, in the more northerly reaches of the northern hemisphere, anyway, is that the world is literally covered in darkness. Everything is dead. It's cold. It all seems to be ending, but we do not despair, because we know the darkness will lift, it is lifting already, a little more each day. That is why we celebrate, take stock, and build memories. 


Richard Turner said...

Nice 'family-season' post, Col. Cowdery. Thanx for that charming little interlude my morning off on a happy note. Merry Christmas... or at least Happy Holidays to all.

t ball said...

I was privileged to grow up with nearly every living relative within 50 miles, so family gatherings were frequent and large. The holidays this time of year were especially crowded with gatherings and I cherish those memories now that I live 1300+ miles away and see the ones still living much less frequently.

Both of my grandmothers lived very long lives and presided over large gatherings right up to their last days. We all still get together when we can, with the same spirit (and spirits, heh) present.

Happy holidays, Chuck.

McHenryBob said...

Great read few weeks after Christmas on what we had, missed and look forward too.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this but you kind of left me out. You mentioned the three older sisters and the t×o teenagers who were of course Jack and Barb, but I'm nowhere in the picture.