The music of ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro might seem to be an unusual starting point for a piece about memories of Christmas. But when that tune is something called “Grandma’s Groove,” it inevitably makes me remember my own grandmothers — and how they each found their holiday groove in different ways.
My maternal grandmother was a farm wife for much of her life, and since most of her extended family lived in the area it was pretty common for all of us to go to their house for country-style holiday dinners. Even though I’m sure it was a lot of work for her, I think she was at her happiest when she was providing a warm and welcoming place for the family to gather.
It was a different situation with my paternal grandmother. For most of my childhood they lived in Detroit – several hundred miles away – and we seldom saw them. Once in a blue moon we’d drive up to the big city, but usually they would make the trip down to visit us, always arriving in a snazzy new car.
Grandma worked in downtown Detroit and was always nicely dressed and carefully coiffed, and when they came for holiday visits she always seemed staid and reserved. That might have just been a kid’s view, but it helps explain why I now treasure a deceptively simple Christmas picture.
During the days leading up to Christmas my sister and I would often sit on the floor near the tree, pawing through the packages and trying to guess their contents, so I wasn’t that surprised to find the picture. But to see our strait-laced and normally dignified grandma sitting on the floor next to us was a little startling. I don’t remember the specific occasion and it might have been a rare one, but she’s definitely enjoying herself.
Both grandmothers are long gone for many years, but even though they differed in a lot of ways it’s nice to think that each of them was able to find happy moments in holiday celebrations.