Shannon Philpott-Sanders

Writing, Reflecting, Teaching, Parenting

Last Holiday

Some of my favorite childhood memories stem from Grandma J’s house. It was one of the smallest two-story houses on one of the busiest streets of the city, but all I remember is how big it was in my eyes.

It was a place where big memories were made. I can remember sledding down the hill that led to her backyard with my cousins, playing house in the abandoned bedrooms upstairs, and finding Easter eggs in her sitting room when it was rainy outside.

Most of all, though, I remember decorating Grandma’s tree the weekend before Christmas every year. She would play Andy Williams records and cousins, aunts, and uncles would gather in her little kitchen to eat hamburgers and chili.

She was the only one I knew who used real tinsel on her tree and even though we made a mess that haunted her vacuum cleaner for weeks on end, she let us put mounds and mounds of tinsel on it every year. The tree, like her house, seemed so majestic and tall to me.

Every holiday, every special occasion, and every celebration was held at Grandma J’s house. I always thought that we’d be lost without that house. When the neighborhood deteriorated and grandma’s safety was much more important, we faced that reality. How would we maintain our family traditions? Where would we gather for every holiday?

We found a way to comfort our fears the week before grandma moved into her 2-bedroom apartment. We held a last holiday – and what a celebration it was. Each family member dressed for a different holiday and we held on to a piece of each tradition – from Easter dresses, Christmas sweaters, and St. Patrick’s Day garb to Thanksgiving turkey, Valentine’s Day cookies and Mother’s Day cards.

We held an Easter egg hunt in the backyard and sat on the rickety old porch out back. We celebrated our last holiday at grandma’s house – or so we thought.

The family has grown and Grandma J’s house has gotten smaller, but that didn’t stop us from squeezing 25 people in her 2-bedroom apartment last night. We had chairs lining the walls, windows propped open to circulate the smell of chili and hamburgers, and kids running from room to room.

Even though we all thought that some of our best family traditions would be sold off with the house, we were wrong. It wasn’t the house that held us all together – it was, and still is, our family.

We still gather for every single holiday – only now we rotate from one house to another. And, most of all, we still decorate her tree, even though it’s only 3 feet tall now.

Thankfully, there is no such thing as a last holiday.


– Shannon Philpott
Blog Entry: Dec. 21, 2009

 © Shannon Philpott, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Shannon Philpott and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


December 21, 2009 - Posted by | Blog, Reflecting | , , , , ,


  1. No one could have said it better…We are always going to have our memories…

    Comment by Dana | December 21, 2009 | Reply

  2. I think the tree is the same size. we are just bigger. 🙂 sorry I missed it. happy holidays family!

    Comment by molly | December 22, 2009 | Reply

  3. I know I read this last year, but it was as though I was reading for the first time this year. Thank you for putting into words our feelings. Love ya

    Comment by Anonymous | December 26, 2010 | Reply

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