It was that December morning, post windstorm, and none of us wished to venture out for coffee treats. In the cupboard, I kept an ancient tin of date nut loaf, that Garnet and Godfrey were forbidden from opening.
We never made a big deal over Christmas, with Godfrey, we had a Yule Fire on the beach, and visit to a horse farm to hand out carrots. He loved my story of the date nut loaf, we received it when I was 14, in a church hamper. Mrs Gibberflat gave me the tinned cake a year later, for the hamper drive at school. I will never forget her face, when opening our charity box , we got the date nut loaf back…tell us some stories, requested Godfrey, cake less on a cold morning.
Kevin Is A Duck Now- When I was 14, “Oscar”, our cat, got whiskers deep in the Egg Nog Mrs Gibberflat had laced with alcohol. Company was coming, and Oscar was passed out, between hot water tank and kitchen wall. He was purring deeply, clearly still alive. My sister Fillipendula and I, rushed him to the Vet, no one else was able to drive.
Mrs Gibberflat, could not abide the ancient cat. Fillipendula, who cared so for all animals, awkwardly sat on the orange, plastic chairs, neighbor Mrs Backhouse- Clobber waited to, as her poodle got a trim, my sister had a crush on her son, Kevin, and Mrs Backhouse -Clobber, loved to talk about him.
“Our Kevin is a Duck now”, a hockey star, making millions a year, my pride and joy, why are you girls waiting here? “Our Oscar is a drunk now”, I spoke up as my sister Fillipendula fled. “He got into dad’s Egg Nog, and we fear our cat is dead”.
“I remembered Kevin now, late for school, limping in, stitches holding nose on, scarred chin, laughing in class, for knocking team mate Johnny Nicely on his ass”. Mrs Backhouse- Clobber, clutching now her poodle looked down on me, “Our Kevin is a Duck now, playing in the big game tonight in Calgary”.
“We got home safe with hung-over cat, much to our stepmother’s dismay. “We joined dad before the T.V., watched the lad that Fillipendula adored play”. Oscar sat on dad’s lap, eyeing his Egg Nog glass, and we watched Kevin play, knocking Johnny Nicely on his ass.”
THE PERFECT TREE- Every Christmas, but not before the 21st was dad’s rule, my brothers Inkerman and Cudberth, were sent out with the saw, after school, to cut the perfect tree.
Not too tall, not too dry, no excess of sap, not too spindly, or fat lectured Mrs Gibberflat. A Funeral Home had been built our end of town, over summer when the Spragg’s place was torn down. “The boys did not want to miss “Flipper” on T.V.”The undertaker, noted Inkerman, middle of his lawn grows the perfect tree.”
Cudberth, the younger, always up for adventure, knelt under the perfect tree with the saw. He heard Inkerman curse at the sound of the hearse in the funeral home drive, “We hid from him neath the tree’s cold limbs, if he saw Cudberth and me, I was not sure, we hid until dark with our tree, dragged it home, we had truly missed “Flipper” on T.V.”
“Our parents watched hockey, that night, and before the final score, came the dog barking, loud a knocking at our door”. Out on the porch the perfect tree leaned to dry, we saw the yellow stripe of the cop’s trousers, heard the voice of the angry undertaker’s”…
Posh gifts, and fancy toys were never a big deal, for Fillipendula, Inkerman, Cudberth or me. We loved a fat stocking, and dinner and scent of the perfect pine tree. I expected lumps of coal, awaited my dear brothers, when they felt for lumpy stockings at dawn, but they were punished in private, with a tour of the morgue..and we never spoke again of perfect trees, or the bare patch on the funeral home lawn”.
TRADITIONAL STUFFING- Christmas Dinner, we had two maiden aunts, spinsters, came to stay with us, Mrs Gibberflat in her old car, would collect them from the bus. “To make a short story long, I will describe the stuffing, for our roast goose that every year Aunts “Bud” and Nelly” brought, Inkerman called it” stuffing from hell”, I always got some egg shell, Cudberth, the little stoic, long shreds of potato skin, we reckoned the Aunties made it from the compost bin. Filipendula once got a fish head on her plate, and set about to gagging, trying not to be rude, even the dog refused the stuffing when I slipped mine in her food.
“My older brother, Inkerman, he left for a soldier…felt it the only way to see the world, beyond our town outside”. “He was big for his age, sensitive in his own odd way, a fine artist” “I cried, told him he could help the world without bombs or weaponry”. “He never came back home, writes to us rarely, but when he writes, sends a card, the same perfect Christmas tree, and draws us every year, as we age, sitting neath it, watching “Flipper” on T.V.
The long, dark month of December is lonely time for many. Godfrey was quieter than usual ,snecked in with his writing. Me? I looked forward to our beach sausage sizzle, the horse farm, and one more year of telling the story of “The Date Nut Loaf”