Hotdog Stew and Other Resolutions for 2019 

Loving the futuristic vibe in this one. The pedestrian bridge over the railway tracks is always a cool subject, and a common spot for photographers.

Loving the futuristic vibe in this one. The pedestrian bridge over the railway tracks is always a cool subject, and a common spot for photographers.

My’s Grandma’s laugh is completely contagious. One of those laughs that tickles something inside your chest and you can’t help but join in. 

Over the Christmas break I was lucky enough to get the chance to have dinner with my mom and Grandma at her retirement home where she lives in a cozy apartment. I’ve only been a handful of times, which is awful, but every time I walk in it’s like I’ve been there 1,000 times. The reason for the rush of deja-vu radiates from the furniture, the tables, the pictures on the walls, and the lamps, all of it from the place I visited thousands of times before, now super imposed into this smaller space. That being from my Grandma and Grandpa’s old place before she down-sized. 

I’ve written about Christmas at my Grandma’s place before. Every year I’m reminded of the magic that radiates from these memories. 

Joel’s Journal - December 25, 2016

The house would generally be filled with people already, every room packed with people on couches and chairs, sipping coffee, munching on toast and other assorted breakfast goodies. My grandma’s large house was no match for the cousins, aunts and uncles who made the place look the size of a shed. I remember my Grandpa (RIP) greeting us at the door, I couldn’t tell you if he did it every time, but I have some sharp memories of it happening often. He’d sit in the the crux of the stairs as they curved into the upper reaches of the house and give me and each of my brothers a hug. My grandfather was a big man, and giving him a hug, I could barely put my arms around his stomach. Yet his hands would grasp my back and then ruffle my hair, complimented with a big Merry Christmas and a wide smile beneath his bright watery eyes.

Again, it would start with heading downstairs, this time, into my grandma’s basement, carpeted in red shag and walled with wood panels and thick stucco. The tree stood in the corner, practically buried by the long stockings and gifts. The stockings looked better fit for holding a set of skis than a multitude of tiny items. 

The cousins would pick a corner or a chair or a spot on the floor and after getting the okay from grandma, we’d dig in. 


Things are different now. After Grandpa passed away, Grandma downsized from the large house she no longer needed and settled in this cozy spot in Kitchener. For Christmas, the entire family gets together in Mississauga to celebrate together during the second week of December. 

It’s a change, for sure, and change is always hard to wrap the brain around. Like an elastic stretched to it’s length, we always want to sling back into the past. 

Yet, it’s impossible, and we need to enjoy what’s in front of us. 

That laugh I mentioned at the start, was my grandma giggling over a plate of hotdog stew. When we first arrived at her apartment, she was immediately casting warnings in that friendly but serious way she has, that the new chef was just not up to snuff. This is coming from a woman who volunteered most of her free time and spent hours dedicated to helping others. When she says something, you listen. 

So when we arrived at the dining room. At my grandma’s insistence, I ordered a steak off the a la carte menu, same with my mom. Grandma being Grandma, she ordered the night’s special, the hotdog stew (I don’t think it was called that, but it was something close) just to show us the state of the food. 

When the plate arrived and the waiter departed, my Grandma turned her eyes to me, then to my mom, then down to the splatter of beans, red goo, black specks, and a few pieces of hot dog that covered a plate in front of her. 

She laughed. 

The point of this story is to highlight what is most important. 

My Grandma is in her 90s, and for 2019, I want to hear that contagious laugh as much as I can. I’ll even eat the hot dog stew if that’s what it takes (though I know Grandma would never let that happen). 

The last couple days I’ve written about some changes I want to make in 2019, this is another one. I want to spend more time with all my family. Whether it’s nice quite dinners with M, Leaf games with Dad, early morning chats with Mom, or playing darts and pool with my younger brother, jamming metal music with Kyle or discussing photography and the future with Daniel. 

Family is the most important, and one of those things you take for granted growing up. I was incredibly lucky to have a family that was so close, and perhaps that’s one of the main reasons for my longing. 

Either way, I’m lucky to have a family, and extended family, that is tight knit and within driving distance (for the most part, I’m looking at you Uncle Mark and Aunt Pernille).

It’s time to start taking the time to appreciate what I have. 

Thanks for reading, as always. 

J.J.W. 

A bonus image from the other day. I like this image, but it’s just missing something. A train across the bottom of the frame would definitely improve things, or perhaps if it was night and there were some interesting lights from the condos or CN tower.

A bonus image from the other day. I like this image, but it’s just missing something. A train across the bottom of the frame would definitely improve things, or perhaps if it was night and there were some interesting lights from the condos or CN tower.





Joel Wittnebel