I have always contended that your birthday holds the most importance to your mother. She was the one closest to the event, she was the one most profoundly affected by it, she is the one who holds those memories the closest. In recent generations birthdays have been celebrated in a variety of ways from a simple cake to a “destination” party. It wasn’t until I gave birth to my own children that I understood the reason for the celebration. It’s your mother’s celebration. It’s a day of reminiscing about your birth, the stories are told.
I was always amazed that my mother would remember the minute I was born – 5:31 AM on a Saturday. She would wake me up often at that time to wish me a happy birthday (although in the back of my mind I’m not sure that wasn’t some evil prank). There was always a cake and a gift or two, the song was sung. Our celebrations were always pretty subdued – but the story was told. It helped shape who I am.
I remember the birth of each one of my children like it was yesterday. Each one unique, each has their own story. But, it’s not so much their story as it is mine. You would think that the older they get the more the memories would fade but it’s in the celebration of each child’s birthday that keeps those memories so alive. It’s in the telling of the stories that gives the events meaning and importance.
My mother has been gone for almost 25 years but she is the one I silently celebrate this day with, I remember the story.
I got up at 7:30 this morning and wasn’t able to see out of the windows in the house. The temperature had risen from 41 degrees when I went to bed to 52 degrees now and the wind was gusting up to 30 mph. Every window in the house was fogged with only one in the corner of the patio having a little visibility. In looking out of it what I saw was banks of fog rolling through the fields, swirling about like I see the snow doing on those windy winter days. Well, it was beautiful a day or so ago. Now I’m afraid Christmas is going to look more like mud season. Sigh.
From year to year I always dream about how I can make my home as warm and festive as possible for my guests. Snow always enters into the picture because in my mind is always that Norman Rockwell ideal. Truth be told the snow doesn’t matter that much. It does during the day when I look out the windows as I’m doing my preps for the big Christmas eve dinner – it helps me feel the mood. When the appointed time arrives and the candles are lit along with the fireplaces and everything is bathed in the glow of firelight it is Christmas.
Having an old, old house helps to bring back the Christmases we all envision in our heads (at least I do). Mulled cider, roasted meats and vegetables, candied fruit, cookies, music and laughter. The only thing that’s changed is the wardrobe. I try to treat my guests to the best I can do mixing traditional and expected with some sort of culinary surprise. Years later they still talk about my “Seven Swans a Swimming” dessert which involved petit choux swans filled with ice cream swimming in pools of chocolate. I must admit they were pretty spectacular.
It’s the little things, the details.
After the day I will post what I have in mind right now for the surprise. We’ll see if it gets pulled off. Meanwhile I will just hope for a little less fog so I can make my way for ingredients.
Every year we trek out to the power lines with a group of friends to pick out our Christmas tree.
Russell loves loading everyone onto his hay trailer and towing them out through the field to where the trees are. I opted out of the ride this year because in years past it has really scared me at moments. It’s not as if the bales we are sitting on are attached to anything. It looks like a tame ride in the photographs but once you are on the high tension lines it’s anything but.
Bill cut down the first tree he saw that fit the “small” tree requirement. It was also right on the top of the hill so there wouldn’t be any dragging up the steep, icy road.
Everyone fanned out beyond where we left the tractor and trailer. It’s some fairly rough terrain and the tractor was turned around and parked quite a ways back.
The kids were quick to pick their trees and trek back to the trailer. They were all with their babies and the wind had a bit of a bite to it. It’s nice to see them start the same traditions they have had most of their lives.
Finally the people looking for the perfect tree managed to find and cut just that. We harvest our trees on this stretch of the power line every year. The lines are on Russell’s property and if we don’t cut the trees down when they are smaller the power company will cut them down when they get bigger. The trees grow unfettered all along the road and they are as beautiful as any tree you would buy anywhere. I think more so because they just grew, no help from anyone.
Everyone makes the walk back while Russell drives the load of trees to the barn. The walk is one of my favorites, this is such a beautiful spot.
This year the difficulty came in figuring out who cut down what tree. Ours was easy, it was the smallest one. Everyone then goes inside to share a meal and hot chocolate and lots of desserts. I always bring an apple pie warm from the oven and really who needs any other food when you can have warm apple pie?