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December 28, 2008

Pauline's Christmas Kitchen

When I last saw momma Pauline she was baking her shortbread moon cookies.
Last count: 150! She calls them smiley cookies "because you can't help but smile when you eat them," she says. Date: December 23rd around 11:00 am.

It was as if her kitchen was sprouting baking that she'd been growing all year. There were round, dark christmas cakes with almonds perfectly positioned on top like buttons on duffle coats. Short bread dipped in icing sugar poked up from the green and blue Christmas tins; just layed eggs innocent and clean.

She was peeling the brown paper off a big square slab of perfectly-formed christmas cake. "Brown paper? Just plain brown paper bags?" I ask as if I'm getting lessons from Martha Stewart knowing full well that my own desire to make Christmas cake is right up there with my desire to, ummm, I don't know.

She was also making a pie and cutting out little pastry hearts to put on top of the pastry that she was painting eggwhite across with a little pastry brush. Home made cabbage soup was boiling on the stove.

Pauline never does one thing. Pauline must do 15 things at once. She is painting, planting 300 bulbs, cleaning out her other cottage, baking, circling deals that she wants to follow up on in the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper. She is telling me about the latest book and telling me story after story. I am her most bemused spectator. Sitting at the kitchen table I observe her in awe feeling only appreciation without the slightest desire to emulate this whirlwind.

The house is quieter than usual because her Scottie dog Maggie and Griffin the little terror of a terrier are at her other house.

You know, I say, you're behaviour is beginning to remind me of this story a friend of mine used to tell me. He said when his grandfather left his grandmother for the woman on the next farm, his grandmother canned 300 quarts of raspberries that summer.

"Feeling traumatized Pauline?," I enquired. "No!," she yelled in that way she has, half talking, half yelling, her voice always a raspy exclamation. "I give it away," she says her ruddy complexion growing redder from the heat of the stove and from the exertion of baking and preparing.

There were a few big boxes wrapped in gold at the base of her stairs; presents for her daughters. The fir trees outside were decorated with lights and big white and silver balls were hanging from green ribbons off the branches. Outside the den window chickadees were flocking around the bird feeder.

The little christmas tree inside on the table had those wooden ornaments of tiny people that look like they were made in Holland.

A wreath of golden stars was wrapped inside the place where the skylight is cut out and the grey winter light from outside was reflecting off the gold cellophane making the stars twinkle.

From the french doors off the kitchen, I was watching as the two big Clydesdale horses were running across the expanse of meadow in front of her house and it was as if the only thing missing from the scene were children skating on the pond and a SaltSpring snow princess with a big white furry Dr. Zhivago hat being pulled in an old fashioned carriage by those same horses.

I was indeed making a mental note that morning of the absolute beauty around me and the almost overwhelming feeling of gratitude I was experiencing.

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