Friday, December 19, 2014

Part Five of The Christmas Pudding...


I played alone and quietly at the base of the staircase in our house. There was a radiator in the entry, and the carpet between the bottom staircase step and front door was always warm.  My favorite toy was a
wooden Noah's ark with sets upon sets of animals which I would line up in parade fashion to walk the gang plank and board the ark.  I loved all the hand-carved wooden pieces, but I especially loved the lions
which my mother had glued fuzzy pieces of golden wool around their faces to make a textured and tufted mane. Some days, I would place the ark at the top of the staircase and put the pairs of like animals on
each successive step, beginning with the elephants and ending with the giraffes. I'd hum a tune in my head as I marched them up the stairs, and once the ark was full, I held it in my hands and rocked it as if it was on
the high seas in the midst of a storm.  It usually sailed into my bedroom, and I placed it on a low shelf near the closet next to my bedtime books, Treasure Island and Great Expectations. My mother would read me to sleep every night by the light of an oil lamp and sometimes she would fall
fast asleep and wake up next to me in the morning.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Part Four of The Christmas Pudding...


Beyond the bank of windows was a scrubbed pine triple-cut door, and outside, a ramp that led from the house to the clearing in front of the barn. Sanua had three cohabitants:  a miniature brown donkey named Samuel, a goat she called Lamb, and a friendly orange cat appropriately called Scoot - as Sanua was
always scooting him away from a cooling pie or a hot stock pot of jam. The
Dutch door was their place to be present in the kitchen. The top two doors
swung open, even in the winter time to allow the smallish donkey and goat to place
their heads inside to be part of the daily happenings. On these cooler days,
the fire was stoked to a roar and the animals wore tailored coats made of old
gray woolen blankets and embellished with vintage black buttons. On the plank
counter was a hand blown glass jar of brown sugar lumps and a wooden bowl of lady
apples that I could feed to these interested and participating creatures.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Part Three: The Christmas Pudding...


IN THE KITCHEN

Sanua's home was a storybook place, but nothing was more enchanting
then her kitchen. Rustic and plain, it had an elegant and easy, well-scrubbed look. The walls were a warm brown plank board that ran vertically.  At one end, an oversized four-door cupboard in a worn red paint; at the other, a large stone fireplace with perfectly round gray field stones set in gray mortar.  A
rectangle firebox standing on end neatly stacked with a graphic looking
puzzle of firewood. Along the outside walls, a bank of windows with slightly
rippled glass, a rough plank work surface and soapstone sink, and a narrow
eight-foot work table with a bottom shelf filled with red ware mixing bowls  and
old gray crockery topped with wax cloth and tied with twine.  The room smelled
of lavender, as Sanua raised fields of it on her property and burned twine-bound bundles of stems in her fire to scent the room.  She spent most of her time in the kitchen. She lived off her land and was constantly making or creating something from the season's bounty. In a pantry room off the kitchen
were vintage jars filled with peaches and plums and apples all preserved in brandy
colored syrup with cinnamon sticks and bay leaves floating among the colorful
fruits. Sanua had jars of berry preserves and bottles of Concord grape wine.
There were jars of pickles and onions and tomatoes stewed with salt and herbs. For
a tiny woman, she had stored away enough food to feed a giant. It was such a
pleasant place and she must have been filled with the pride of a squirrel that
had tucked away several years worth of food.  On the interior wall was a
wonderfully worn, natural unpainted  farm table that had obviously sat outside and been
bleached for several seasons by the summer sun. On one side a plank bench and
on the other, two barrel-back farm chairs in black paint. I perched myself on
the bench and enjoyed the warmth and fragrance of the fire and a cup of hot tea
sweetened with fresh apple cider. The left top door of the red cupboard was open.
On the bottom shelf, a round and rustic-looking walnut cake under a dome.  On
the upper shelves sat old glass apothecary jars filled with dry ingredients and
spices, and at the very top - a gleaming copper decorative mold that shone like a
prize among the simple, rustic peasant decor: