Monday, January 27, 2014

Snow in Other Lands

Here is an excerpt that I have been working on. I've been revising it as I am excited that my brother's wife is bringing another Lundquist into the world. I hope you enjoy it!

--Maine in the wintertime mimics the topmost parts of Canada. 

Moose walk around the untouched forest of snow, and gray covers the sky in constant preparation for precipitation. The sky holds a foreboding, a mystery that I haven’t found to be the same in many other parts of the world. There is a ‘town’, which is an Ace Hardware and a Renny’s, but a few steps into the woods and there are creatures that I would have written about when I was 7 with my first novel “The Unicorn”.  It chronicled the life of a unicorn trying to get home and finding help along the way from creatures and one human, a girl probably named Esperanza, and they become friends. Mystical. I think it is sitting in my box of stuff from my younger and better years.

My aunt lost at least one cat every year to minx, foxes, and other cat eating beasts. The level of magic and fear only increased because their house was built in the early 1900s, and it creaked every step I took upstairs. The cozy house was as if it was still in the 1800s, that we were like the first people here, that wolves haunted the barn, and we had to venture into the white snow to get eggs to eat from the coop. 

I loved the mystery of the woods. It was nothing like the woods near my house that quickly intersected with a neighbor’s. My uncle would direct me through the trees, off the trail, to follow animal tracks, and I was afraid. He seemed to know what he was doing, and I followed him diligently, letting my mind pretend. Besides eating rice pudding, there is not much to do up there but read, listen to my aunt sing old tunes, and walk for as long as you can in the snow until you feel like your toes are going to fall off. I’m pretty sure I gained about 7 pounds every Christmas. 

After dinner, I would roll onto the grey, sinking couch after a smorgasbord. Swedish meatballs, lasagna, salad, homemade bread, sweet Christmas bread, lingonberries, cheese, crackers. You can’t skip anything. The long wooden table parallels a smaller wooden table in order to accommodate all 10 of us. Earlier that day, we woke up and opened presents one at a time. The Christmas tumpten (my little brother) gave each person a gift from under the piney christmas tree. My grandmother looked around at all of us with dark blue eyes, as if they held the ocean she crossed to start her life over. 

Her simplicity was bothersome for a long time, and while I loved her dearly, I was confused by her.  Why did she only wear long woolen skirts and white blouses? And stockings, even in the summer? She had Swedish tchotchkies in her house, woke up at 5 am, and why were the sheets and towels at her house so stiff? Why couldn’t she be like my friend’s grandmother who had soft, baby pink towels? She said “Yuh” with sort of an intake of breath. She loved attending all of my sports performances, and she was always the only one on the sidelines in the woolen skirt outfit beside Andover mothers in their new hairdo and stank perfume. It was bizarre.

My father was always so interesting next to her. It was like they were from another world. There was a yearning in his eyes for her to be happy, for her to be his mother still, for her to not grow older... but she was. Her hair was whiter every year, thinner, though still perfectly curled from the soft pink and yellow curlers she curled up at night. Her clothes looked the same, but even older. My grandfather had died when I was young, and for nearly 20 years after she spent days by herself on the Cape, cleaning her old house, working on the pine needled yard, and walking along the beach in frigid Northeastern winters. I wondered about it. How could she be like this? It wasn’t until I was older that I wished I could spend more time with her. That someday I wanted to name my child after her. Vivian.

In the winter, we were all freezing up there in Maine, so I would snuggle into the nook off the couch in front of the hot wood burning stove. I loved the after dinner time. Everyone was together in one room. For one day of the year, everyone: all three of my brothers playing Risk with my cousin, my mother and I reading on the couches, my father chatting with my aunt, my grandmother watching it all. I wore feety pajamas, which would eventually get hot by the wood burning stove and my feet would sweat. I watched the snow come down outside the window, two universes separated by a window pane.--

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