Christmas Eve was the very best time of the year for Grandma and Grandpa Keck. Grandma began weeks ahead to prepare. She made tons of cookies, nut breads, cooked cheese and candy. Grandpa did his part by purchasing a five pound box of chocolates from the Sugar Bowl. The final offering for the evening buffet was a big pot of vegetable soup. All this was topped off with bushels of pastries that Aunt Agnes brought from her kitchen in Erie.
The location of the tree moved over the years. In the 1940s the tree was in front of the window in the living room. The living room was small, so as the family grew the tree moved to the basement. The basement was not an ordinary storage area. Grandma had stationary tubs to use for chilling beer and soda. Her old gas stove made a spot for canning. The glider was stored there during the winter. Additional chairs were brought down. A half bath was installed too. Another tree was decorated in the front hall for the enjoyment of visitors. Eventually, as Grandma and Grandpa became older and the family scattered, there was just the one tree in the hall. Gift opening moved with the tree.
Everyone came. The only one of their children who wasn’t there every year was Aunt Alberta. She lived too far away for many years. She always sent gifts though. Families drifted in as the evening progressed. Some went to their church early in the evening. Some went to St. Mark’s for the late service, everyone was there when Grandpa held court to hand out the gifts. Every family gave everyone a present. That was an enormous pile of gifts! The torn paper piled up knee high to the children. There were squeals of delight from all the children as their piles of loot mounted.
Everyone ate. During the evening there were many trips to the “Little Dining Room” to snag goodies from the old, round oak table. Most people had a bowl of soup to modify the sugar over load from the table. Some of Grandma’s siblings dropped in during the evening to wish us all a Merry Christmas and to partake of the spread. They were the ones who liked the cooked cheese. Boy did that stuff smell!
The party went on until after midnight. Tired children were known to drop in odd spots around the house for a quick nap. Some were carried out still sleeping.
The family still remember all of the wonderful Christmas Eves spent at 606 Center Avenue. Nothing can compare to the joys we all experienced there for all those years. Grandma and Grandpa created memories that have lasted over the years and help keep us together all these years later.