My best Christmas ever felt humdrum and boring at first.

I was a first-year university student in a Greyhound bus for 10 hours to spend Christmas with her grandparents and parents, instead of jet-setting back to her hometown to visit old friends and revisit high school haunts.

It was hot at my grandparents house, so hot I woke up one unpleasant morning with the heater near the bed burning my face at full-blast.

My grandmother, not even that old but seemingly ancient, loved having my sister and I around. We went skiing with my parents, roasted in Grandma’s overwhelmingly hot house and woke to an interesting morning of stockings stuffed with corkscrews and scissors.

At the time, I didn’t appreciate visiting with her and laughed when my usually stern and grumpy grandfather got rather tipsy on small shot glasses of German wine.

We played Rummoli almost every night and my Grandma was queen of the cards. Our turkey was a bit dry, the cranberries were jellied out of a can and the stuffing over-seasoned.

She had a new dog then, a white rambunctious creature named Nanook. A small powerhouse of a dog that pulled my old Grandma when they went on walks and yet she could handle him. Nobody could count her out quite yet.

Despite the odd stocking stuffers, the roasted-alive feeling being in that overheated house and the washed-out meal, I cherish that Christmas most of all.

It was our last with her. It was our best with her.