Christmas memories and breakfast casserole

nate smith

It’s been three years ago this month since my grandmother passed away and, though I miss her often, the feeling is never as intense as it is this time of year.

I’m also reminded of Christmas 2001 when Santa Claus didn’t leave any presents under our tree at all.

My sisters and I hurried downstairs that morning and found only a note signed by St. Nick himself; seems there was a mix-up and our presents were actually delivered to Poppy (how we grandchildren referred to our grandpa) and Grandma’s house.

Hurriedly, my sisters and I changed out of our pajamas and prepared to head to Grandma’s house.

The distance was pretty short, but those 15 minutes seemed to go on forever as my father steered the family minivan to the location of our Christmas stash. It was a magical day.

My grandparents took great joy in watching us open our presents that morning, just as my youngest sister took great joy in using Poppy’s big belly as a stage for her latest doll or as a table to color in a new, crisp coloring book.

Between long stints playing my new  video game Santa left for me — and usually when I ventured into the kitchen for more food or another sugar cookie — I listened to my parents and grandparents reminisce about Christmases past.

Grandma made breakfast casserole and baked fresh cinnamon rolls. She certainly knew her way around a kitchen.

Bits of Monterey Jack cheese melted over a delicious bed of scrambled eggs and chunks of sausage, Grandma usually only made breakfast casserole around Christmas time. Oh, how I love breakfast casserole.

These days, my Christmases are spent at my in-law’s house near Lake Erie. My father- and mother-in-law are two of the kindest people I’ve ever known, and as far as I’m concerned there’s no warmer place than in the Schoneman Family living room the morning of Dec. 25.

My mother-in-law even makes breakfast casserole each Christmas. Last year, my father-in-law needled me because I ate three measly plates of the delicious concoction.

“He teases you because he loves you,” my wife assured me.

I’m looking forward to this Christmas, to more memories with my wife’s parents and my particularly hip sister- and brothers-in-law, but I’ll confess to you that I also find myself looking ahead a calendar year.”

By next Christmas, there’ll be an addition in the Smith house. My wife is to give birth to our first child, a son, in April.

Lately, I’ve been taking a sort of holiday traditions inventory in my head about which Christmas rituals I hope to pass on to my own child.

There’s a few, like Christmas Eve church services and watching the Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation movie — when he’s old enough, of course.

I hope he likes breakfast casserole.

Nate Smith is also a Cincinnati Reds’ fan and is a staff writer and can be reached at