My dad and grandparents are no longer with us. Now, more than ever, I try to keep holiday traditions going. My granny would bake and you could smell it blocks away. She was old school -- sifting flour, everything by hand. Granny would make a separate "tea cake" just for me, plain Jane. The smell of real butter baking in a cake takes me to a happy place and revives the kid in me.
Christmas time meant a snowball fight with the first snow was always in order. We would rush home after school and start making our stash of snowballs to give us a head start over Dad. Even in college and later in law school, I would miss a day of classes on the first big snow. My nephews were born while I was in college, so I told them we had to be prepared to get my dad as soon as he got out the car then run into the house. It was our only chance for victory. We felt like war strategists, finding places to bunker and hide our snowballs. Dad arrived home and we commenced throwing wildly, but without precision. Danger! He found a stash of our snowballs. I yelled, "Retreat!" We ran inside the house where we assumed we were safe, like Switzerland.
However, I forgot that Dad was a sore loser and defeat was not part of his vocabulary. He wanted to pummel us. We took off our coats and boots and sat comfortably at the kitchen table with hot chocolate musing over how we got him. At the time, my nephews were still preschoolers. All of a sudden, the basement door bursts open and out comes Dad snowballs in hand. He pelted each of us in the kitchen. Mom was not happy. We lost and had to clean up the wet mess in the kitchen. I said, "Dad it is the kitchen -- safe zone!" He replied that he did not know retreat.
It is a story that is told each year so that even now, my youngest nephew, born after my father's death knows about snowball fights with grandpa. Since he cannot ambush Grandpa, he likes to ambush his older cousins. One winter, he anxiously waited for snow. When it finally snowed, he giggled, "Auntie we're going to get the boys with snowballs." It is fun, but I have yet to claim victory. The older nephews are athletes and their aim is just as good as my Dad's. The only thing I have going for me is that I am Auntie - an adult - and they cannot violate Switzerland (the kitchen)!