Whoa, did you all feel the earth move this morning? For a moment, it felt as though we were trapped in a movie, the hound, behaving like all good movie dogs, woofing to alert dumb master that something was about to happen; master blithely tucking into toast ignoring warning. And then, the plate jolted, vibrations whizzing up the metal chair legs, coffee cup tapping on the glass topped table, doors and windows rattling and the newly arrived poinsettia shaking like a a pair of maracas in a parang band. It was really something that jolt, makes you wonder if the universe is trying to tell us something, floods, earthquake, what next, a plague of grasshoppers?
Ah well, if you were in the neighbourhood last night, the smell of cookies baking would have wafted out, warm and homey against the rainy night. This has become part of my tradition, home baked cookies for my office and a few friends. I learnt to bake from watching my mother and grandmother, we all lived in the same house up until I was eight. Granny and mum would be in the downstairs kitchen with the tiled floors, we had a white Westinghouse stove, one this a top grill. They don't make them like that anymore. The mixer would be going, cakes to be baked, maybe a batch of cookies. Those golden sponges, heavy with butter and orange zest, dark rum soaked fruit cakes(before my grandparents got really serious about religion), sweet bread, maybe a cassava pone (my Grandad's favourite), cupcakes and bread. The smells to drive you nuts, sneaking in licks of the bowl when they weren't looking. My great granddad lying on his bed knowing that his afternoon tea would have a sweet treat attached, how he loved his sponge cake! Sometimes while we waited I'd lie next to to him looking up at the canopy stretched above the brass bed, or reading one of my books. He used to love to hear me read to him because he couldn't read in English. In the next room my great Grandma would be stitching up one of her endless patchwork quilts, made from scraps of fabric that she would recycle from everything. It was from her that I first learnt to sew endless dolls dresses.
I don't bake Christmas cakes anymore, even as wonderful as the smell wafting through the house is, the work has become something more than I can handle. Which is why the cake made by Auntie Enid is so special. Enid is eighty-four and losing her sight. Her Christmas present from the doctor this year was that she would never see again, the previous eye doctor having botched her eye surgery. It was a hard blow coming on the heels of her growing inability to straighten up and walk. I admire that she still has the gumption to keep going. As per usual, she made me a fruit cake, dark and rich with the fruits that she soaked in rum earlier this year. It smells divine, made and given with a whole lot of love, Christmas has finally arrived at Casa Wallah. One of my office colleagues made the cake that will go to my brother, it too smells wonderful. I know it's going to taste good too because like me, she shares her baked goods with the office.
Yesterday, as Charms and I made the last minute rounds, we marveled at the people cramming into the malls as we headed home. It was a good day to be inside. I tided up the house for my housesitter who'll be moving in as I go off to visit my brother for New Year's, in a peaceful moment I painted my toenails my favourite nail colour of all time, "I'm not really a waitress". It was my late uncle's wife, known to all as "Shanti" or "Doy" though her real name is Rookmin, who taught me the joys of nail polish. My mother rarely wore the stuff and generally stuck to Revlon Red lipstick. Doy was younger than my mum and every week she gave herself a mani/pedi and changed her nail polish colour. She was adventurous in her choice of colours and though I was tomboy of note, when hit with the teenage years I admit to trying to be a girl sometimes. Bless her heart she let me play in her make-up and borrow her clothes from time to time. She was also the repository of my boy woes and she was the one who told me about birth control, not my mother who avoided the subject at all cost. Sadly, she and my uncle grew apart and were on the verge of divorce when he died a year after my mother. I haven't seen or spoken to her in over fourteen years but I think of her sometimes when the bottle of nail polish comes out.
So many bad things happening in the world, so many people suffering some loss or sad circumstance this Christmas. And yet we fail to appreciate what we do have. Since I've been writing this blog I've connected with some really interesting people, you make me realise that what I do is important, if only for the questions that I ask. So though you may wonder at what nail polish or cookies baking has to do with anything, take it as a reminder of the things that are good in your life. That earthquake this morning could have been a lot worse, but it wasn't, as could the floods that happened last week. This Sunday morning, the sun is trying to push its way out, my dog is happily dropping his ball at my feet for the endless game of fetch that he will play until my arm falls off, as I admire my newly painted toes, I thank the universe that I can do this and for you.
Oh, and to Sean, my long suffering, hard working graphics guy who took his own time to make me the card that you see below, thanks bud, you're the best!