Half an hour ago I was sitting in the rocking chair, sewing, when I looked across the kitchen and saw the cupboards. The cupboards. They were glowing. Outside it’s snowing and the light inside is lovely. I looked across the kitchen and remembered preparing for our first Christmas in this house. 1982. We’d been building it for about a year and a half and we moved in on December 18th. On the 19th, we returned to Vancouver for some errands to do with the house we were leaving, and then we came home, truly home, on the 20th. My parents were coming for Christmas. My younger brother too. We had a kitchen sink set into a 2×4 arrangement John had constructed, with some other bits and pieces for counters. This was because a friend was building our kitchen cupboards over at his place on Hallowell Road and they weren’t ready. That’s ok. We weren’t ready either. But we managed to make a memorable Christmas, our little family–John, me, Forrest– and my parents and brother. We’d settled our lovely carpet over the plywood floor in the living room area, a step up from the kitchen, and maybe we had a rug on the plywood floor in front of the woodstove. We had two small pine dropleaf tables that we pushed together and we made turkey, all the trimmings, and John made the trifle his family always had at Christmas.
A month later, Brendan was born, and by then we had kitchen cupboards. The same ones we have now because I love them and can’t see any reason to upgrade or change them. They are framed with yellow cedar — our friend bought a whole lot of yellow cedar tongue and groove which had been milled incorrectly and couldn’t go to Japan, its intended destination. Our friend ripped off the tongues and made the frames. The inner panels are ash veneer. The bases are a bit bruised and battered after all these years–nearly 40– but when I clean them with Murphy’s soap and then oil them with lemon oil, they look like they did when they first came into our house.
The summer after Brendan was born, I took both boys to my parents’ house in Victoria for nearly two weeks and John tiled the kitchen floor–16×24 feet– with deep terracotta tiles we’d bought as a remainder from a place in Vancouver. We got a good deal if we bought the last of the lot and so we did. Our counters are tiled with these and so are both bathrooms. There are a few chips and cracks here and there but mostly they are still intact and serviceable.
Half an hour ago I got up from the chair, I went outside to cut some cedar branches, a bit of huckleberry, and some fir boughs brought down by wind. My arms were filled with the scent of the woods and when I came inside, I saw the cupboards again, with their own dream of origins. Theirs and ours.
On the first Christmas we spent in our house, there were no cupboards, no counters, and two pine tables pushed together to hold the feast. We didn’t need much more. John is preparing the living room for our tree, still resting in the woodshed, a little snow on its lower branches. When he brings it in, I’ll put on the carols, the old ones, and the house will fill with memories of every Christmas we’ve spent here. Two are still sleeping, the cat is curious, and outside ravens are calling in the white woods. I send you the warmest wishes for a Christmas that is enough, enough, and a New Year to follow that is peaceful and healthy. I wish this for all of us, on earth and in heaven.
And when the stars fill darkened skies
In their far venture, stay
And smile as dreaming, little one
Farewell, lully, lullay
Dream now, lully, lullay