A few weeks ago, Tuesdays with Laurie posted about Plans & Projects. She said that she was getting “That itch to empty the house and scrub it from top to bottom. Only putting half of everything back in and donating the rest.”
At the time, the fullness of what COVID-19 would become was not clear. “I won’t be scrubbing my house,” I thought. “I’ll be free, outside, in the spring!”
More fool me.
We’ve been social distancing for two weeks. I’ve been tackling plans and projects that I thought I’d be leaving until fall.
I cleaned my fridge. At the back corner of the top shelf of the fridge I found a jar of chokecherry jelly that I had bought at a Christmas craft fair. I’d forgotten about it.
(Remember when we could have craft fairs?)
This morning I had chokecherry jelly on toast. The flavour transported me instantly back to my childhood on the farm.
My brothers and I would pick the bitter fruit from trees that grew wild along our fences. The tiny red berries always looked so good. I’d put one in my mouth and screw up my face because of the bitter flavour.
My mother would take our buckets of chokecherries, boil them and add sugar. She’d strain the juice through cloth, and from that came a jelly with the distinctive flavour I love.
It’s one of my tastes of childhood.
There are others: fried bologna, fat green onions straight from the garden, biscuits and brown sugar.
“A bayberry candle burned to the socket puts luck in the home, food in the larder and gold in the pocket.”
My mother-in-law burned a bayberry taper candle down to the socket every Christmas Day, to bring the family luck for the coming year.
We adopted the tradition in our house even though I learned that my mother-in-law’s version of the tradition differed from the original. According to online sources, the candles were lit on New Year’s Eve and the flame had to continue burning into New Year’s Day to carry the luck forward.
I thought about changing our tradition to align with the legend, but then dismissed the idea. Traditions are rituals, and rituals should warm the soul, revive memories of loved ones and centre us in what is really important.
If I were to light a bayberry candle on New Year’s Eve instead of Christmas Day, it would feel all wrong.
So I’ll keep on lighting a bayberry candle on Christmas morning. When I do, it will warm my soul, it will remind me of my mother-in-law, and it will centre me in what is really important.
And that, I suspect, will bring me more luck than anything.
There’s something primal about the word roots. We feel it at our core.
Deep roots allow trees to stand tall, and they nourish the plant. Kind of like family. One hopes.
My roots are deep in the Ottawa Valley, in a farming community and a large extended family. No matter how old I get or where I live, the phrases “Ottawa Valley” and “farm” will always be central to my being.
If I dig deeper, I get to “Irish,” “English,” and “Christian.” Yes, I am a WASP—a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant with all the privileges that come along with it. My parents raised me in faith and, even though it has evolved significantly over my lifetime, that rooting in faith still keeps me grounded.
What about people who aren’t so lucky?
When trees are rooted in rocky-ground, it’s difficult to stay standing.
There’s something primal about the word roots. We feel it—or the need of it—at our core.