Friday, 26. December 2008
Boxing Day 2008

"Were you trying to burn the house down last night?" Scott says. "You left the top of the stove wide open when you stoked it up."
It seems strange that, habit that it is to always do the same three things after putting wood in, and in the same order—push in the bottom vent, flip the handle to the left to lock the door, and close the top draft—every once in a while I seem to forget one of them. Or there is a nasty ghost in the house. I remember that last night I added only one piece of wood and was concerned about the end of it being too close to the glass door, and that I rearranged it as best I could. Apparently there was a hell of a chimney fire because Scott informs me there are large flakes of black soot laying on the snow all around the house. Again, we've been lucky. The house could have gone up in smoke.

This was the fourth Christmas since Mom left us. I think of the last Christmas Eve we spent together, when she dolled herself up to "look good for my family." She was weak, pale and tired, but put on some lipstick and was happy we were all in the same place for a change. If not for her condition and our knowledge that it well might be her last Christmas, we probably wouldn't have been. On Christmas Day Scott and I stopped in at Mom and Dad's for supper and she and I chatted for three hours, a real good talk, and the hours flew by.

I don't know why his name had come to mind, but lately I had been wondering where this penpal I had as a kid had gotten to. We wrote faithfully back and forth for some years, then lost touch after high school. When Scott and I got home last weekend he immediately started a fire in the woodstove in the basement and I sat upstairs in the kitchen, where it was warm, reading the local paper. When that was done I started flipping through a farming magazine laying on the table. On one page were two vertical rows of photos of people who work for the Wheat Board, and I glanced at them and was turning to the next page when it struck me that one of their names was familiar. Had I read right? I flipped back. Not only was the name correct, but he was situated in a town very close to the village postmark his letters once bore. I dashed off an email the next day and received one in return and sure enough, it was him and we caught each other up on the last 30 years of our lives.

I had the most overwhelming urge to phone Mom and tell her about this happy occurrence. Next to myself, she would remember him and all the mail that flew back and forth between our two households, like no one else. Sigh.

While Scott's turnips were boiling on the stovetop yesterday afternoon, Grandma opened her gifts and then I offered her a shot of Drambuie. She enjoyed that—rather quickly—but as she had had an upset stomach the other day (resulting in a call from home care to let me know she'd thrown up all over the place, was feeling fine, but I might want to check on her the following day) and is so tiny, I was reluctant to offer her a second one right away. I did request that Scott take the above photo of she and I, since I have many of her with others but am usually holding the camera myself. At 5 o'clock we went next door to his parents' house for the family meal, and at 7 Grandma told me she was tired, so I warmed up the van and drove her back to the lodge. There were fewer residents than usual at the card-table outside her room, where there is always a game of whist going on in the evening and Grandma likes to sit and watch, and sometimes plays. After hiding her coat and putting her gifts away she started walking me to the door and we were met by a young lady (only in her eighties) who lives directly across the hall. She greeted Grandma with a big hug, linked her arm through Grandma's, told me what a goodhearted lady Grandma is and how well she is doing, and the two of them carried on together. It's good to see that Grandma is happy there.

I have been taking it easy today, my only nod to the Boxing Day holiday being Bailey's in my coffee. Scott thought maybe we should drive to Yorkton and hit a furniture sale but I talked him out of it and he was only too glad to let me have my way. We need a bedroom suite for ourselves and new beds for the boys, but can wait till we are going to the city on other business rather than making the trip just to shop.

His son Gunnar arrived yesterday and would have come with us, but I'm sure he's just as glad not to be on the road today too. He'll go back to Calgary in just a couple days.

Well, it's time to put the sweater on Ducky (feels ridiculously like dressing a baby) and take him out for a short walk. It's warmed up a bit but he still starts shivering before I even open the door. He's quite the little sweetheart and has become my shadow— I go nowhere alone— and when he's curled up beside me he growls a gentle warning when Scott approaches. It's not that he doesn't like Scott—he seems to— but nevertheless.

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