When I think of Christmas, I think of my grandmother. She was a woman with little money, but she had an abundance of talent, wisdom and unconditional love.

My memories of Christmas start with my grandmother’s arrival at the Buffalo Central Terminal. Dad would drive us to the station, we would walk past the large bison and the four-sided clock, see the golden lights gleaming through the enormous arched windows and hear the welcoming whistles of the trains.

After all the kisses and hugs were exchanged, we would head home. For me, this signaled the beginning of our Christmas festivities. Over the next few days, I knew I would enjoy baking with my grandmother. We would make fudge and sea foam candy, and bake date-and-nut cookies. The family would decorate the tree, string popcorn and cranberries, drink eggnog and revel in the warmth of Christmas.

As Christmas Day approached, our small home was filled with family, friends and delicious food prepared by my mother and grandmother. We played games, went ice skating and sledding and sang Christmas carols.

One of my favorite memories was sharing my room with my grandmother. This was a special privilege, because I had her undivided attention. She would comb and fix my hair, tell me stories; we would laugh and plan our activities for the next day before she kissed me good night.

My absolute favorite memory of Christmas with my grandmother was the present I would receive from her. All of her gifts were homemade. She used her limited funds and tremendous talent to produce from her hands something special for each family member. Homemade hard candy, a hand-knitted wool scarf, gloves or socks, crocheted doilies and afghans. For me, I knew she would knit a pair of slipper socks and sew a long flannel nightgown. I looked forward to that gift each year. The present was always wrapped in blue tissue paper and a simple ribbon tied in a bow.

After opening presents and having a noisy breakfast, we dressed up in our limited finery and walked through the snow to attend Mass. On the way we talked again, and I soaked up her words of wisdom. On Christmas night, I felt like a princess as I twirled in my new flannel nightgown.

My grandmother died in October when I was 15. I was so sad that Christmas. Nothing would ever be the same. But when my family gathered to open presents, there, under the tree, was a present wrapped in blue tissue paper and a simple ribbon tied in a bow. The tag had my name on it, written in my grandmother’s hand.

As I opened the gift, I could feel the yarn of the knitted slipper socks and the soft flannel of the nightgown. My mother explained that when she opened my grandmother’s cedar chest, there was my gift, wrapped and tagged. I was elated. That night when I put on my nightgown, I felt like a loved granddaughter wrapped in my grandmother’s arms.

My grandmother, who was born in the late 1800s and raised her children during the Great Depression, made each one of her gifts throughout the year as she could afford it. The gifts were special pieces of her. At this time of year, I always enjoy returning in my heart to my grandmother’s Christmas.