Mom and I walked across the crowded parking lot and caught up to an elderly woman with a cane, slowly crossing the driveway. The man in the big pickup truck patiently waited as she crossed in front of him. While we were selecting a grocery cart, a man in a hurry, pushed ahead and pulled out a cart. No excuse me. No smile. No Merry Christmas. He must have been a very important person as he was mission focused.

How Things Changes: Christmas Eve 2015 from Grandpa L

We pulled our cart and moved toward the entrance. By then the elderly woman with the cane, caught up to us. I offered to get her cart but she refused. She was hoping to get a motorized cart that was recharging in the corner. Mom helped her get settled. She seemed comfortable with all the controls. She probably even knows how to game and text on her smart phone.

It was Christmas Eve morning and everyone was busy. The large grocery store was packed. The staff was in urgent holiday mode. Some were already restocking shelves. Others were getting the special orders. Others were simply offering to help customers find those last minute items. Even all the checkout lanes were “open.” And “Merry Christmas” was heard, over and over.

Things have changed…a little?

I can remember when we went to the grocery store and the clerk wrote down what you wanted and then went to the shelves and brought it to the counter. He wrote down the prices, and actually added them. The only fancy machine was a pencil with an eraser. OK. OK. I really do remember but I wasn’t old enough to shop yet.

But what about shopping on Christmas Eve? When we were growing up, any shopping had to be done ahead of time. All, if not most of the stores closed early Christmas Eve. The employees had to get home to their families. And most of the things that people needed for holiday baking were already in the pantry or cupboard.

As a youngster, Christmas Eve meant having an early supper and then heading to Grandpa and Grandma’s house to see Santa Clause. He usually arrived not long after we arrived. I don’t know how many times he must have been just circling Grandpa’s house waiting for us to get there. He was a good Santa. He remembered all the things that I had put in my letter to him…except the time he got me a shirt. What Santa gives a kid a shirt?

As shirts and shoes became more important to me, I didn’t feel I needed to send a written request to Santa. I simply went to the store and sat on his lap. That ended when I was taller than all the other kids in line…and Santa, too.

On the Farm
Christmas Eve changed when we were on the farm. Mother was busy baking for almost a week before Christmas. Dad made his famous horseradish sauce. The bacon and sausage hung in the smoke house. The apples were in the bins in the fruit cellar. Rows of jars of canned fruits and vegetables filled the shelves. Why would we have to go to the store Christmas Eve?

We finished barn chores by 6:30 pm and got cleaned up for dinner. It was a special dinner but we had to finish early. We had to fast one hour before midnight mass. That’s right, evening chores, dinner, midnight mass, and then back up at 5:30 am to do morning chores. Santa usually came between the time we got home from midnight mass and when we got up in the morning to milk the cows. (By the way, cows do not give eggnog for Christmas.)

Christmas day was busy. Finished chores, deferred breakfast to opening gifts, and started testing all the cookies to make sure they would be ok for all the family members and friends who would arrive in early afternoon. Sometimes, we had to test and test and retest the cookies to be sure they were OK.

Keep in mind that stores, restaurants, and gas stations were closed for Christmas. That meant, if you were traveling, you had gas up ahead of time or travel along the Interstates. Well not true, the interstates were not started until the mid 1950’s. Today we expect stores, restaurants, and service stations to be open for our convenience on these holidays, at the expense of the families of all the people who must be there just in case we need them. Hmm!

Getting back to our grocery store experience…busy store, hundreds of people, many employees, cell phones, motorized shopping carts, fresh baked holiday cookies, gift cards at any amount, and credit cards to pay for all this on another day. All of this while texting or talking on the cell while in the checkout line. What about saying ‘thank you’ or ‘Merry Christmas?’

It’s Christmas Eve and we have things to do. I need to finish a Christmas card, read the paper and check on the world situation. Santa now has a smart phone and GPS. He will be fine with the weather and air traffic control. And, yes, where did I put Mrs. Santa’s gift. Oh my! I hope the stores are still open.

When we got home, Irene was busy looking for a favorite recipe that was usually printed on the filling can. It was missing. Why did they change the label? Now what? No problem. I have everything under control. I’ll ask Siri. No, I’ll give her a break. It’s Christmas Eve.

Laptop open, typed in: “my wife can’t find her recipe…” Not really, I just type in “Poppy seed cake recipe.” Pressed print. Handed it to my girl. Merry Christmas!

Her comment? “What Santa gives Mrs. Santa a recipe for his favorite cake?

How things have changed…or have they.

Merry Christmas! Grandpa L