Guest Post by Melanie Wolfe
As I drove down the highway on this cold and windy Christmas Eve to visit my grandmother at the nursing home, I felt nostalgic and sentimental for the Christmas Eves of my past. Christmas Eve was my favorite day of the holiday season when I was a little girl. There was an excitement in the air that was electric—the magic of Santa and his imminent visit, presents, yummy treats, and family gatherings.
Every year, I went to work with my grandmother. She was a secretary at a bank in Philadelphia that hosted a day-long celebration on Christmas Eve for the staff, and she brought me as her guest. We dressed in our holiday finest and drove downtown in the morning. When we arrived, I was awestruck by the grandeur of the bank’s architecture: cathedral ceilings, marble floors, and teller desks shining under the warm glow of opulent brass chandeliers with Christmas decorations and swags of greenery everywhere.
A sight to behold.
My grandmother seemed to know everyone we passed. My excitement grew as we went up, up, and up in the elevator to her office. She introduced me to her friends and her boss, Vic. I marveled at her desk, typewriter, and very own nameplate proudly displayed for all to see: BESS.
I remember thinking,
My grandmother is very important!
Vic gave me a few typing assignments. Oh, how I loved the sound of the clickety-clackety keys—so productive! Then we were off to listen to the choral group sing carols, enjoy a lunch buffet, and then the pièce de résistance—a visit with Santa!
He wasn’t just any old Santa like the ones at the mall—he was the real deal with a legit beard and all. A large decorated tree stood nearby with a small present for every child.
After we did our “work” for the day, we popped over to Wanamakers for last-minute shopping and to watch the Christmas Light Show. What a thrill! What a day! Not only did I love this particular time with my grandmother, but more than that, I loved seeing this different version of her in the outside world—dressed to the nines in her suit and heels, well-liked by friends, and making jokes with her boss. She was vibrant, and in hindsight, she was young—only in her mid-fifties.
And now, I sit with Bess in the nursing home 40 years later. We hold hands and catch up on the latest news in the world, the weather, and my family. Her eyes search my face, hoping to visualize details she can no longer see, for she is almost blind. We reminisce about Christmas Eves of the past and the memories we share.
As I hug her goodbye, I thank her for making mine so special.