Every Christmas season I have to see this movie.
It was the pilot for the series "The Waltons" which I never really watched, I was more of a Little House kind of girl. But the movie is great. It's got a horse-drawn sleigh, two old batty sisters, and the best line ever: "I always feel better after I hug a cow."
Patricia Neal plays the mother who I could listen to talk about the history of dirt and I would never get bored. She has a slow, growling southern sort of a voice that makes me want to curl up by the fireplace and pretend I'm Laura Ingalls. (except in my daydream there would be indoor plumbing)
It's a simple movie, the plot is just a large family (seven kids and two grandparents) surviving during the depression and waiting for daddy to come home on Christmas eve. But there are moments that transport me back to all those Christmases at Grandpa's. The old farmhouse, the mama cooking in the kitchen, the kids cracking walnuts, decorating the tree, and laying awake in bed on Christmas eve, all stir up childhood memories and a longing to go back to Grandpa's.
The house was sold before I had kids so I was never able to bring my own kids there. But in retrospect, I'm kind of glad I never could because it would change how I felt about the place. I will always be the kid listening to the soft murmur of the television from upstairs in my bed while the grown-ups stayed up late. (or late to me, it was probably only 7:00)
And the kid who would practically pee her pants because she was petrified to make that long scary journey upstairs to the only bathroom at the end of a long dark haunted hallway.
And the kid who loved to bang Chopsticks on the piano all day.
Sometimes I'd still be awake when Grandpa came up to bed. On the occasions I'd get the other bed in his room, I used to love listening to him fall asleep while reading his books. I'd look over, and he would be lying there, mouth wide open, no teeth, with his book on his chest snoring away.
I don't really have any memories of things I got for Christmas at Grandpa's, but I'll never forget the snow piled up to the windows and the smell of the house and the records playing in the room by the stairs and the tree with the old hot bulbs and tinsel clumped on the branches and the scent of mom's rolls baking in the oven.
And mom and dad in the kitchen.