The furnace always kicked in with an F above middle C, with the undertones forming a Bb Major chord, and if you stood on the grate by the front door, you could feel the warm air wafting up. We were the third ring (also in Bb Major) on a three-party line, and the light left the sky by 4:00 PM in the most brilliant sunsets you could ever imagine.
These will always be the sound and feel of Christmas in Maine.
Throw in my grandfather’s cigar smoke and my grandmother’s donuts, freshly scooped from a vat of Crisco melted on the woodstove. Toss in football and tobogganing by the barn light on brutally cold nights and the lights of the Christmas tree by the front door guiding us back up the hill. Picture, in the piano room, the scrawniest tree ever, cut down with a hand saw and dragged out of our own woods by tractor (and remind me to tell you about the time I broke my collarbone by sticking my moon boot on the tire). And imagine going to sleep under layer upon layer of home-made blankets after a kiss from grandma.
This is what I waited for and dreamed of all during the years in Florida, from when I was nine to thirteen; the week of Christmas vacation and our return to Maine and the farm. Yes, it’s bargain-basement Currier and Ives in retrospect. But when you’re ten and missing home like crazy, it’s everything that matters in life.
And I’ll never have another Christmas like those again…