December 22

Posted on: December 23, 2012

After such a blizzard we’ve been graced with incredible blue skies and blinding sunshine this morning.  I can’t see any clouds except for the ever-present blackness over Lake Superior.  The trees are bent in a cloak of icy white, some already cracked and broken from the weight.

John and I finished our morning coffee and toast.  He emptied the last of the blueberry jam on a single piece of toast.  It’s good to see him eat; he’s got quite an appetite.  I retrieved a jar of strawberry jam from the back pantry and set it in front of him.

“I don’t see you eating much of this, but you seem to have a lot of it,” as he spread the second slice with a scoop from the fresh jar.

“I know it might seem odd, John.   I love to can, to cook, to make things, but I don’t always like to eat it,” I laughed.  “I’ve got pickles from three years ago.  I had an abundance of cucumbers that summer and I just can’t let food go to waste.  So I made pickles; seven quarts worth, even though I might eat one jar a year.  And the jam? My friend Kathy and I love to pick wild blueberries. It’s a wonderful way for us to spend some time together during the hectic summer, when I’m always working and she’s always entertaining houseguests. It’s peaceful, quiet, and productive.” I smiled at the memories. “Our favorite place to pick is up on the Plains, near the mine,” the mine where John spends, or did spend, 12 hours a day, seven days a week at.   “Usually I freeze the blueberries so I can put a handful on my oatmeal in the winter, but a few years back I had so much that I made a lot of jam too.  Good thing I did; the next two years were a bust for any wild fruit.”  I paused long enough that John looked up.  New, sad thoughts crossed my mind.

“What’s the matter?” he asked

“Thinking of picking blueberries reminded me of Kathy’s dad coming with us.  Oh, how he loved to pick berries!  In June the three of us would travel over an hour to the strawberry farm.  Kath and I would pick, and Paul would flirt with the ladies.  At 86 he wasn’t able to stoop to pick anymore, but we picked for him.”  I took a sip of coffee. “He and Kathy’s mom died a couple of weeks ago.” The tears prickled behind my eyes; I took a deep breath, and another sip.  John got up, took my hand and pulled me into his arms.

I don’t know how long we stood like that, but being hugged, comforted, felt really good, natural.  “Thanks, I needed that,” and I laughed and pulled back.

John looked down at me, reached out and tucked a wayward strand of hair behind my ear, grazing my cheek with his fingers.  “Any time,” he said softly, and dropped his hand to his side.

“Talking about Kathy reminds me: her and Bob will be coming over on Christmas for dinner.  I’m hoping my son Jason will come too, with his family.  I haven’t talked to him lately, but he knows they are always welcome.”  My knees were shaky with John standing so near and I could still feel the trail his fingers left on my face.  I turned to clear the dishes to avoid his eyes.  “That’s only three days away; I need to work out the menu soon.” Crap, I was starting to babble!

Chores still loomed before us, so I got my sling for carrying wood, and showed John the wood pile. “This is the last of the first burn wood:  Wood that’s left over from last year and two years old.  We might get another week from this before we need to start on the shed.”  I handed him the sling, he already knew where to stack the wood inside. “I’m going to start clearing the driveway.”

The clear skies also meant lower temperatures, but thankfully the wind had died down.  The snow squeaked underfoot as I walked thru the drifts to the barn.

I made the first cut across the upper drive, just as John was taking a load of wood into the house.  Taking the opportunity of him not being in the way, I made the path from the drive across the two doorways and the wood pile, all the way to the woodshed; turned, and widened the path.  I worked as quickly as I could. This was the shortest day of the year and dusk was already threatening.  By the time I finished clearing the entire drive, the plows still hadn’t come by.  Well, now I could get out of the driveway, but might not be able to the main road.  Come to think of it, I haven’t heard the plows out on CR695 either.  Odd.

Back in the house, I was pleased with the pile of wood John had stacked behind the stove.  He had also fed wood into the stove, so it was pleasantly warm inside. I opened the warming door over the stove and set my gloves there to dry.  John picked his up off the floor and set them there too, giving me a sheepish grin.

Dinner was simple: a jar of hamburger, some onions, a few crushed herbs, a jar of green peas added, thickened to make gravy, and served on top of penne pasta.  John finished off the bread sopping up the gravy.  Guess it’s oatmeal in the morning instead of toast.  And it means making bread tomorrow.

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