To Grandmama we went each year
To share in Christmas cheer.
And cousins by the dozens came
From towns both far and near.
Each girl would wear her prettiest frocks,
Each boy his Sunday suit,
And each of us was told the same,
"Don't gobble sweets and fruit".
The table groaned beneath the food,
Its cloth was pristine white,
And every year my mother cried,
"My goodness, what a sight!"
With hands all round the table joined,
A solemn grace was said
In which we prayed for other folk
Who were less richly fed.
Then Grandpapa a turkey carved,
So big we could but stare,
And made quite sure that everyone
Received a generous share.
The lighted pudding then was brought
By Cook, all smiles and fat.
Loud crackers next produced, when pulled,
A riddle, toy and hat.
In Grandmama's great drawing room
Some gathered for a talk,
Whilst those who felt the need of it
Enjoyed a snowy walk.
If it was fine we children went,
Warm wrapped, outside to play.
If wet, then to the nursery wing
We had to make our way.
In two big chairs each side the fire
Grandparents nodded off,
And woe betide you, young or old,
Were you to sneeze or cough.
We children waited in suspense
For gongs announcing tea,
Because we knew that after that
Would come the Christmas Tree.
It shone and twinkled in its lights.
Its boughs would scarcely lift,
For family, friends and servants too
They held for each a gift.
Then after this came parlour games
When we played Blind Man's Buff
And hunted thimbles round the house
Until the boys got rough.
Charades were what the grown-ups liked –
They bored me, I confess.
The answer to an acted word
Was what we had to guess.
Now Grandpapa and Grandmama
Both much enjoyed this game,
But every year the word they did
Was always just the same.
Grandma put her bonnet on
As if to take a walk,
Whilst Grandpapa with hat and bag
Engaged her in a talk.
"Good morning, doctor", Grandma said,
"You're on your rounds I see.
My health is good I'm glad to say.
No need to call on me!"
All guests pretended not to know
What word they'd done to-day
And we were told we'd suffer if
We gave the game away.
To say at last we did not know
Was part of our tradition.
What is the word? You haven't guessed?
What else but metaphysician?"