Homestead For The Holidays

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…

  1. that was me in reverse. well, sorta. when we had xmas vacation, we’d come down from the catskills in new yawk to sunny floriduhhh to see my grandparents. we didn’t celebrate xmas, but we sure celebrated grandma’s cooking and baking. i’ll always miss her, and not just for the food.

    • Yeah, grandma’s donuts were great…unless and until you got a special “surprise” clump-of-hair-nut.

      I’m also glad to say that the last few years our quality of tree – still felled and dragged out of our own woods by hand – has improved. So I guess you can go home again…sort of…

  2. A lot of early (very early) memories started trickling in while reading this. Winters of skating with friends on the creek, sliding on the church hill, and going to the woods with my dad to cut down a Christmas tree. After he passed in the early 70’s, For several Christmas after, I did my best to carry on that tradition for my mom, but mostly for me. My mom always made these great Cinnamon Star cookies, but only at Christmas. The kids are all grown, and they have all taken that recipe as their own.

    Oh, I see I’m talking too much. You’re right..Christmases are just not the same (*sigh*).

    • Definitely not talking too much, Shelley! I’m glad I could touch a good nerve for you. That’s what this page is all about. Talk away, please.

  3. It sounds like your childhood Christmases were wonderful. And there is always a little magic that comes along with childhood memories. You just have to make new magic once you grow up. Christmas in Maine sounds does sound like magic to me: snow, cold, chopping your own Christmas tree from your own woods. Wow. So unlike Christmas in Arizona. Not that I’m complaining, but a little snow on Christmas would be nice. 🙂

    • Jeanette, I was definitely fortunate to have those Christmas in Maine experiences, as I still am. Thanks so much for stopping it!

  4. I really, really like it when you reference your perfect pitch in your pieces. Even though it may not translate exactly for some of us who can’t remember how to read music properly (*cough*), it adds extra depth and beauty in a way that is uniquely you!

    Your Christmas memory is perfect. I can smell the smoke mixed with the homemade donuts, which in my head is both woody and yeast-sweet, and I can the feel of layers and layers of old familiar blankets soft and thin from so many washings over the years. This is a sensory symphony. Wow.

    • Well, I do try for yeast-sweet every time.

      Actually I will now be trying for yeast-sweet every time…

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