Sunday, December 25, 2011

Childhood Christmas Memories

What memory from your childhood do you miss the most?

Mine actually happened before Christmas in preparation for our Christmas Eve Swedish dinner with my dad's side of the family. Sometime in the week before Christmas my dad and I would make a trip to a little Swedish delicatessen in what was once a Swedish neighborhood on the Southwest side of Chicago. Mom would bundle me up in two pair of red corduroy pants, red rubber boots, my grey coat with black velvet collar and cuffs and white mohair knitted mittens and matching ear warmer hat tied under my chin (it itched fiercely). Dad wore his grey overcoat, black rubbers over his shoes and the obligatory hat that all men wore in the 50s. We'd trundle off in our green '55 Chevy into the city from the outskirts (not a suburb, but still considered "the sticks" by most of the family).

We'd arrive at this small shop situated on a corner and have to search for a parking spot somewhere down the street as folks waited in a line outside the door until they could enter into it to purchase the goodies inside. We shuffled and chatted with our fellow customers puffing out clouds of condensation into the frigid December air. Well, dad chatted. The conversation was mostly in Swedish which dad answered in English. I clung to his hand in amazed awe at his understanding what was being said. Dad was tall, just under six feet, but he always grew at least a foot in my estimation at his ability to understand Swedish. That was the beginning of the magic that surrounded him and the delicatessen. When we finally entered the shop, with the little bell over the door announcing our presence,  the sights and smells of wonderful goodies folded me into its magical embrace. 

The women behind the tall, glass covered counters filled with a variety of fish, sausages, meats, and salads seemed like fairy godmothers dressed in large wrap-around white aprons. Their faces, pink-cheeked and glistening, smiled, laughed and called to each other and their customers in Swedish. Dad would point me to the shelves on the other side of the shop and I had to search out jars of lingonberries (oh, the delight of those deep red sweeties!) and large round-wheeled packages of kneckabrod (hardtack to most folks). He would order potates corv (potato sausage) and a fairy godmother would hold up a circle of links and ask (in Swedish, of course) how many he required. Then he'd proceed to order the silta (pickled herring), head cheese, bruna beenar (brown beens) and bundost (a wonderful cheese with caraway seeds). Then the piece de resistance was ordered - Lutefisk! (And if you haven't heard of Lutefisk, look it up. A very unprepossessing delicacy that is not to everyone's taste, but considered the absolute necessity at these celebrations.) Another fairy godmother would come out from behind the counters and approach a line of small wooden barrels against the shelves. She'd crack open a lid, reach down with a pudgy bare hand into salt brine and raise for my father's consideration a long, dripping plank of the white fish. After a couple more of her dips into the barrel dad would settle on what he estimated the right size for our group of 20 or more family members.

All of this would be wrapped in white butcher paper or tucked into white take-out boxes and lovingly place in brown paper bags for us to cart home. I hated to leave that little shop, but other customers were still shivering outside the door so we'd both leave with smiles on our faces and bundles in our arms for the ride home in the Chevy. I felt I had been allowed to share in a magical way a peek into my father's own childhood. Today I'd call it a time warp or a step out of the Doctor's Tardis. Back then it was just plain magic!

***Excuse the phonetical spellings of the Swedish. I never learned it and always wish I had.

Happy New Year blessings to you all!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

November Hangover and an Excerpt from Bloodstone

November was a devil of a month!

No, I did not win NaNoWriMo. Far from it. But! It did stoke me to continuing writing! Lir and Simon have been with me in my waking and sleeping since the first day of NaNo. In fact, I think I've written more in the last week than in the entire month of November.

The cleaning and preparation for Turkey Day near did me in and left little time for writing. But it was worth it! The Loomis Clan Plus ate, laughed and laughed some more, and told their stories. Hilary, my daughter-in-law, positively glowed with the completion of her first trimester of pregnancy. It was the first time she and my son, Critter, met the Loomis bunch. Our little house overflowed with family, friends and dogs (who simply wriggled with delight and were as exhausted as we were when it was over). On the Friday after T-day I could hardly move, but it was a good feeling of exhaustion and aching muscles.

And then there came the demise of the vacuum cleaner and the death of the garage door opener. Ugh. Money and Bud's Holiday Cheer (which is always in short supply due to an understaffed Post Office) flew out the front door. Ah, well.

Anyway, here is another excerpt. This one is from last night's writing.


It was a great relief to have Caddy take charge. Lir envied the children she greeted as she headed toward the sleeping caves. No responsibilities, all the time in the day to have fun, and Caddy to stroke and kiss the hurts away. She pulled the curtains back that surrounded her bed-shelf against the cave wall. Her groan of pure relief echoed against the wall as she slipped off her boots and wiggled her toes. Then she fell, face-first, onto the wool-filled pallet atop the shelf. Her mind still whirled with the days events, though, so she turned onto her side to face the wall. She reached out her hands and placed them flat against the chill stone. She closed her eyes, breathed deeply, cleared her mind as well as possible, and sent her prayer into Euphmum, the Mother.

       Mother, fold and embrace Onodath Zumcar into your loving arms
                                           as we send him to you. 
      Hold Caddy, Cort, Torn, Simon and all the children here in the Caves
                          in your fierce protection and abundant love.
      And give me strength, Mother, to face these days - to face [spoiler here] - 
                              and to do what is best for your children.
         If it be in the best interest of ALL, please ease these burdens I carry.
                    Help me find my place within the Weave and live it 
                                   with strength, beauty and love.

Lir felt the familiar warmth of the Mother’s love and energy flow from the stone into her arms and through her body. It had been this way since she was old enough to leave the cradle and sleep upon this shelf-bed. Each night before sleeping she would pray herself and her small problems into the Mother through the stone of the Cave walls and be filled with comfort, assurance and strength for the next day. She hadn’t known until she was about eight summers old that not everyone did this. She’d taken it for granted. No one had told her to do it. It just came as natural as breathing to her. She’d flattened Purdis, a portly youth apprentice to the Foundary, for teasing her about it. No one bothered her about her odd habit of praying into the Cave walls after that.

It was not that praying was unusual in the Caves. Indeed not. Caddy had instructed them all from the time they were tots to give thanks to the Mother for their food, shelter and friends with the usual prayers at meals on the first day of a ten-day. She had told them the stories of the Weave. They celebrated the festivals of the Winter Moons, Spring Blossoms, and Harvest Moons. But most of the children took them as “Caddy’s tales” and had little understanding of their importance in the history of the people of Euphemric.

Lir lay back and snuggled down into her pallet. She pulled her ragged quilt up under her chin. She had struggled to make that sorry quilt under Caddy’s frustrated tutelage. She had no patience for needlework. She wanted to be running. She had squirmed and complained the entire time of the making. It was moot who was more thankful for the quilt to be done - her or Caddy. 
She now fingered and stroked the pitifully embroidered symbol of the Weave that decorated the top of the quilt. [Describe the symbol]. A small, gentle voice whispered in her head and it wasn’t Simon’s voice. It was a voice she’d heard most every night of her life.

You are an important strand in the Weave, my daughter. A strong and vibrant thread. I am with you. Take heart. 

She had always thought that voice was the mother who had given her birth, [spoiler].

She suspected she had been mistaken.


It always amazes me how things pop up while I'm writing that I never could have expected. That symbol, fer instance. I have no idea what it is. I suppose I will have to draw something? Or have someone draw something? I don't know. But I'll leave that until later and just go on writing.