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A Winter Wish

A Winter Wish It is early Thanksgiving morning and as the sun rises, the holiday season begins. Grace will be said at Thanksgiving tables and boxes of decorations will come down from attics, here we go… I almost always begin the holiday season with Narcissus bulbs. On a day near Thanksgiving, I begin ‘forcing’ ten to twelve bulbs in a container filled with rocks and water. The planted bulbs will sit under my kitchen window until late January; they are my winter ‘guests’. I watch them grow each day thereafter as I work in the kitchen. They are beautiful up against the amber landscape just outside of the window. As the days pass and Christmas comes near, these dainty paperwhites will bloom. Their blooms carry on into the new year. Once their leaves begin to sprawl and flop, it is time to move them into a more beneficial environment, the yard. The planting part of this humble holiday ritual begins with choosing an arbitrary spot. This usually happens on a January day that is somewhat mild. I turn over soil and plant about three or four of the bulbs, crudely cover, and repeat until all are planted. I have thirty-plus little bouquets of Narcissus flowers that pop up each year in late winter or very early Spring. They faintly scent the thin winter air and remind me of Christmases of long ago…a small tradition I somewhat created for myself that connects me to the winter landscape, counts the years I have been here, and pulls in memories of people I love, especially my mother, for those were her favorite flowers. So begins my winter kitchen. Later, there will be Echinacea pods and Zinnia seeds on my windowsill, drying in the gentle afternoon sun, and a sparse amount of the remaining basil from my small garden hanging alongside the thriving oregano, ready to enrich something Italian like a spaghetti sauce or minestrone. Usually, my counters are filled with an array of citrus, enough to last through February but, the late killing freeze last March was brutal, and my trees did not do well. I do have my Evangeline sweet potatoes, thanks to Jimmy and Flo Broussard who made, yet another trek to St. Landry parish to purchase those sweet spuds directly from the farmer. Those ample boxes of sweet potatoes will sit near the back door until early December, curing, waiting for the release of their sweetness, and then into the oven, baking and filling my kitchen with the fragrance of Ville Platte memories of my mammae’s kitchen. Perhaps a bit of musty fall honey will be harvested before the end of the year. Or we may just leave an extra bounty for my bees. Eventually, there will be a vintage Santa that Erik found in a second-hand store and gifted me one Christmas. The timeworn Kris Kringle will once again stand near the fireplace in the keeping room and keep me company on the days before Christmas and I will miss his jolly presence when Christmas is gone. A cedar tree, hopefully from the woods, will be sparsely but caringly decorated and, in early December, a menorah will be lit. My unassuming winter kitchen will be filled with the simple delights of the season and an abundance of gratefulness for the life I have been blessed with. Soon, Nature will display her beautiful bareness. We will see through the trees, past the naked branches and the reveal of the imperfect trunk, the trunk that has literally ‘weathered the storm’ and while scarred and blemished, it stands tall. It continues to do its job giving us shade in summer, fallen leaves in autumn and in winter, we learn its secrets, but in spring, we see tiny green buds and, once again, it gives us hope. As this holiday season ‘takes off’, I hope for joyous moments with family and friends, a simple winter kitchen filled with the scents and sights of home, and, peace on earth… Pam Shensky Berry Tales Nov. 26, 2023

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