The Daily Beet

16 Dec Adventures with Ami: Spirit of the Season

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From as far back as I can remember, I got gummi bears in my stocking for Christmas at my Nana’s house.  This was the early to mid 70’s – before the candy gained popularity and gummi everything hit the market.  Back when you had to buy them at a candy shop.  They were harder then than the slippery ones you get now and only came in red, green, yellow and clear.  Nana put the neatest stuff in stockings!  From little Avon boxes that held jewelry or a neat tin of lip gloss…my Nana made Christmas magical 🙂 I loved being at Nana’s house.

She had a million Christmas sweatshirts with Cardinals in a pine tree or cute snowmen on them.  She would wear them throughout the holiday season, always cheerful and bright.  Plates of cookies sat on a special table only in place for the holidays, her famous sandtarts, super thin sliced butter/sugar cookies sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar that melted when you ate them, spritz cookies, the hershey kiss peanut butter ones and so on. When I lived out of state, she used to mail them to me – in a package with little hand written notes throughout for each gift.  She made her famous potato salad in the big mint green tupperware bowl and we’d have ham sandwiches and Aunt Patty’s dump cake she always brought after the presents were all opened.

Nana decked the house with all things merry and as the family grew, even had a fill in the blanks ‘Nana’s Christmas List’ printed for us all to fill out with sizes and gift ideas.   She shopped all year long for that special something to put in your stocking.  One year I got George Carlin tickets, another year new frying pans, little things, I may have mentioned over time that I saw in a magazine or on tv, that she made note of.  She had a gift wrap room in her house – where she stored the ribbons, bows, paper, cards, gifts, double sided tape and extra things to have on hand in a pinch.  She was the most sentimental person I ever met.  She gave thoughtful presents beyond what normal people would even think to give. Not in price, just something that made you feel like the most special person on earth.

Every year I got gummi bears – none of the other kids or grandkids got them…just me.  It was my special gift.  This continued every year through 2002 when I was 30.  I was the first grandchild and she set a precedent with me.  Make everything magical and fun! She taught me the fine art of gift giving, listening, the love of words, good politics, organization, hope, forgiveness and making people feel special.  That year, she also gave me a small box, with a card that read:

Dear Ami, This is one of those priceless gifts.  For everything else there is Master Card. Enjoy Much Love, Nana

In the little box was the set of porcelain egg cups that had graced her house each Easter since before I was born.  I loved helping her dye eggs and Easter at Nana’s was like Christmas – special in every way.  Seeing the little birds up on her shelf in the kitchen made it the holiday for me.  I had coveted them for years, going as far as searching antique shops and ebay for a set like them to no avail.  She wanted me to have them so she could be there to see my face when I opened the box.  Needless to say – the note on the card had me a little nervous to open the box!


The egg cups on display

We both cried, there in the house filled to the brim with family, laughter and kids, paper everywhere, football on the tv, me with the little box in one hand and her on the sofa across the room smiling and crying as she knew… I would appreciate this moment for the rest of time.

I didn’t know then that it was my last Christmas with her.  My Pop-Pop passed away in April and she followed not long after in August – one night after we had laughed and joked on the phone about the latest episode of The West Wing.  She died of congestive heart failure in her sleep.  She was my best friend.

Christmas 2003 – at my Mom’s house, after all the presents were opened, she called me into her room and presented me with a jar of gummi bears.  She said she didn’t want me to have the holiday without them. It was really nice of my mom.  My Mom knew how much I was missing her.  I held on to the jar for awhile, not eating any.  Sat them on a shelf in my kitchen and yelled at anyone who thought of having a few.  It wasn’t about the gummi bears, or the cookies, it was about the way she loved so deeply and how she made us all feel.

Any time I see them I think of her…but not just gummi bears.. angels, cardinals, books with handwriting inside, Hallmark anything, double sided tape, tissue paper, zest soap, corelle dishes with the veggies and mushrooms on them, the bottle of water in my fridge that I found at an antique sale that was just like the one she had when I was a kid…

Nana loved in a million ways, food was only one of them 🙂

This holiday season, remember that the holiday gatherings are about spending time with those we love. Sharing the joy and laughter that comes with being part of a family.  Food is such a small part of it.  Start a new tradition this year, take a walk together after dinner to look at the holiday lights, to be together and enjoy every moment.


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Ami Mackey for Engine 2
Ami Mackey

Ami Mackey is the Curator of Creative Content at Engine 2. She is also a food coach at Engine 2 and has been plant-strong since 2011. When she isn't attending to all things Engine 2, she is the Program Director at St Louis All City Boxing a nonprofit youth program. She has earned certificates from eCornell in Plant-Based Nutrition & Fitness Nutrition from NASM.

  • Liz Nickel
    Posted at 20:57h, 18 December

    Thanks for sharing about Nana. May you have a blessed Christmas filled with love.

  • Vicky
    Posted at 14:18h, 20 December

    What a wonderful story. It made me miss my own grandma who taught me to knit and crochet and play the card game War at the kitchen table.

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