I’ll never forget one Christmas when my maternal grandmother, Granny Whiting, stayed with us over the holidays. Mom and Granny attended the midnight church service while Dad stayed home with me and my younger siblings. They didn’t arrive home until after 1:00 a.m., so it was late by the time they went to bed.
We kids always rose early on Christmas mornings and snuck down to the Christmas tree while our parents slept. But that year things unfolded a little differently. At around three in the morning, Granny woke up my younger brother Harry and me. Perhaps, after attending church at midnight, she had never fallen asleep.
Granny Whiting was a staunch Englishwoman. Prim and proper, she did no wrong, and truth be known, she never wanted to do wrong. I’m not really sure why Granny wanted to break the rules that time, but the three of us slithered down the stairs into the living room.
“We have to be quiet,” Granny whispered. “We don’t want to wake the others.”
One of us plugged in the tree lights and the bountiful tree glowed, creating shadows in the room. Silver icicles, hanging from the spreading branches, sparkled like a kaleidoscope as they picked up the colors of the bulbs. Below the genuine pine branches was an expanse of gaily wrapped gifts of all shapes and sizes.
“Let’s look,” Granny whispered with excitement. Then, gathering her nightgown, she leaned into the gifts. “Cathy, do you see one for you?”
“Not yet,” I said.
“I can’t find one for me either,” she moaned. “Harry, do you?”
Like co-conspirators, the three of us rooted through the gifts. We were careful to whisper, for Mom and Dad’s bedroom was at the top of the stairs of our split-level house. We didn’t want to wake our parents, nor did we want to wake our siblings who would be too little to remain silent.
We were soon fully involved in our escapade, searching for our names on gift tags. Once we found one of our gifts, we proudly showed it to the others and tried to guess its contents. When curiosity overtook us, we tore off a bit of wrapping paper to peek inside. Granny had as much fun as we did.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a voice bellowed, “Get back to bed!” There was a pause. “And that means you, too, Mother!” The voice belonged to my mother, and she sounded angry.
Before Harry and I had a chance to move, Granny had dropped whatever gift she held, jumped up, and bolted away, her flowing white nightgown ethereal like a ghost floating up the dark stairs. Harry and I remained by the tree, staring at each other, wondering what had just transpired and how Granny had disappeared so quickly.
“Get back to bed!” Mom bellowed again.
As had Granny before us, Harry and I scrambled up the stairs, breathing a sigh of relief when we reached our beds.
The next morning there was lots of laughter when, at a more presentable hour, our entire family gathered around the tree. Granny, Harry, and I giggled as we recalled our middle-of-the-night caper.
I’ll never forget that episode and how in the middle of the night our straight-laced grandmother became a child, how she instigated an adventure, how my mother had scared her, and how she got all three of us into trouble. For Mom blamed her, of course. Granny was certainly old enough to know better.
Bad, bad Granny!
Cathy’s writings have been published in many print and online publications. She has published several short story collections, books of poetry, and children’s picture books. Her first novel, Wolves Don’t Knock, was released in 2018. The sequel, Mister Wolfe, is in the works. Cathy lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
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