Looking out my window on this snowy winter day, my mind drifts back to a long ago Christmas Eve at my Finnish grandmother’s house on the farm in Michigan. My dear little grandmother came over to this country as a young girl, crossing a vast ocean and leaving her family behind, to make a new life in America. She never did learn to speak English and retained her simple country ways where she lived and raised my mother, aunts and uncles on a small family farm. As children, it was always a joy to go to grandma’s house because of the simplicity in her way of life. I believe that for serenity and peace to be within each of us, there must first be simple values to guide us through each new day.
Christmas Eve was my favorite time to go to her house because the warmth of the season lingered within her walls and her quiet ways. From the slow tick-tock of the old school Regulator clock in the porch to the delightful fragrance of her delicious cardamom biscuit baking in the oven, there was a feeling of love that encircled me. In the living room, there would sit her little fir tree adorned only with some candles which were lit, only briefly, as we stood around it, while the little lights flickered. Though the candles were only lit for a short time, for safety sake, the fragrance of the fresh cut tree filled the air with an earthy pine scent, that I still can find pleasure in.
In the meantime mom and grandma would be talking in Finnish and our little ears perked up in case we caught a word we understood about Christmas or us. My brothers and I shared the same experiences yet I believe each of us perceives a situation differently, because we are all unique. After we shared coffee, fresh biscuit and homemade Finnish cheese, “justo”, we would bundle up to go home again, but before we left, grandma would give us a pair of warm woolen mittens that she had made for us. It was a gift of love and the simplicity of the evening held the true meaning of Christmas. Love can be expressed in so many ways, but when one shares openness of the heart to loved ones or strangers, by thoughtful acts of kindness and simple expressions of caring, that becomes the greatest gift of all.