Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cutting a Christmas Tree

This afternoon Bryan and I went Christmas tree hunting. We found the perfect tree (they're all perfect - well, perhaps the balsam fir he dragged down the highway last year, giving it an 'interesting' appearance, wasn't quite so perfect) alongside Joyce Lake on the Chase-Falkland Highway. It's standing up in the garage to thaw and drip, and the whole room is filled with the rich aroma of fir sap.

The shortest day of the year. The day, 23 years ago, that Bryan and I brought our newborn son home. The day, today, that he and Krista are bringing home their newborn daughter. Full circle.

Twenty-three years ago, Bryan and I were homesteading in New Fish Creek, 45 km from town, in an unfinished log house with electricity but no plumbing, a wood stove for heat and two mules, two dogs and one prolific momma cat for company. No biological family closer than 600 km away, but an extended 'adopted' family to help us.

It was also a clear cold day, and on the way home we stopped to cut a Christmas tree - spruce trees up in the Boreal forest. The log house was open to the centre beam in the front half of the house, 18 feet from floor to post. Bryan could never resist getting a tree right to that beam. He found the perfect one for that year along the trail to the grazing reserve at the end of Alderidge Road.

I wasn't much help getting it into the house. We used (and still do) a 5 gal. pail filled with sand &/or pea gravel to hold up and water these enormous trees. We managed to get the tree up and left it to thaw before decorating it the next day. Besides, I was still very sore and tired!

I couldn't get up the stairs to the loft where our bedroom was, so baby Marlon and I nestled into the guest bed downstairs. I'd finally fallen asleep and had been out for awhile when Bryan came thundering down the stairs.

"Are you ok?" he urgently whispered.

"Yah. Why wouldn't I be?" was my drowsy response.

"We just had another tremor," was the reply.

It was the third earthquake to hit Alaska that year, and our house was apparently on a fault line right to that distant place. The first tremor hit us mid-morning one Saturday in May. Bryan was in the Jeep returning from Valleyview that day, and the shock was so great where he was along the route that he thought he'd blown a tire and stopped to look.

This night, he was reading in bed when he thought he felt something. He looked up to see the top of the Christmas tree swaying back and forth. The book went flying and so did he. The baby and I hadn't felt a thing.

Marlon went to his first skating party at two weeks of age over, at Rick and JoAnne Gardner's pond. It was very cold but he was all bundled up and quite fine. JoAnne was hugely pregnant with Kord, born three weeks after Marlon. Weather wasn't and still isn't much of a deterent to a good time outside for us.

I used to bundle him up and place him outside in his car carrier seat for his afternoon naps all winter. The first few times, I went inside for a minute and came back to find the carrier tipped over backwards, Marlon still fast asleep. Couldn't figure that out, but on the third day I watched out the window. We had the first of our Irish Wolfhounds then, a lovely giant named Dublin who stood 37" at the shoulder. He was curious about what I'd set outside and pushed his enormous cold black nose in for a look-see. The carrier was rather tippy and so it didn't take but a gentle push for it to go over.

Marlon and Dublin had a mutual admiration society; they adored each other and did until the gentle beast developed cancer and had to be put down. Many times I'd look outside and see the dog curled up in the middle of the yard with Marlon and one or more barn cats sleeping on top of him.

The moccasin telegraph was alive and well on the 19th. When I called my mother later that afternoon to tell her the news of Abigail's birth, she'd already got the details from my sister-in-law Pam in Strathmore who'd been texted by her son Wynn at school who'd gotten a text from my daughter Rebecca in Valleyview. How did we ever cope without cell phones and texting (she says slightly sarcastically)?

From Valleyview to Strathmore to Airdrie to Falkland: that message made a 1400km journey in record time.

Apropos of nothing, we had a very nice meal of curry pickerel tonight, and I mention that because the curry had an interesting origin. Yesterday we went to Vernon (and finally found our wine cabinet - hurray!), and mid-afternoon went to a rather innocuous Chinese restaurant along 30 Ave for a meal. It was the regular buffet fare - most of it ok, good hot ginger beef, some lovely mussels in broth.

Anyway, I had a seat looking to the kitchen and toward the end of the meal noticed the woman who served us trying to open a jar. She twisted it, she turned it, she tapped it and put in down, looking in the back for something to help her. Her (I assume) husband had left a few minutes earlier on some errand.

"Hey, Bryan, go help that lady open a jar, please? She's having trouble."

He was done eating and so got up to see her trying to remove the lid again.

"Here, let me help you."

"No, no! That ok. I get later, it fine," in heavily accented English.

"It's no problem." And he reached for the jar, gave it a hard twist and off came the stubborn lid.

She was overjoyed, expressed great thanks and told him she was making a curry sauce, and if he would wait just a moment she would give him some. In a very short time, she came out with a rather large Styrofoam take-away container filled with the most amazing curry sauce, rich with green onion and carrot. Enough for several dishes.

"You use with chicken, with beef. It good with shrimp. You taste. You like?"

Oh, we like. For a minute I thought the two were going to hug each other, new BFFs.

Tonight I simply pan-fried the pickerel, added some of the curry and heated it through 'til it was bubbling. Oh my, it truly was delicious. We indeed have a new BFF because I intend to go back and get her to make me some more when this is all gone. And I'll gladly pay for it!

Marlon sent us pictures of Abigail on his cell phone camera. She is a little doll - of course she is! Can't figure out yet how to get them from Bryan's phone to my computer - send to my email? I'm technically astute enough, I'll figure it out.

Meanwhile, my Christmas baking is done, the dishes washed and a cup of spiced tea and a suspenseful movie waiting for me. And y'all know how I like a suspenseful movie. Bryan's here to hold my hand this time. It will be fine.

Really.

Stop laughing.

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