Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas with the Loeschers.

Being away from home was difficult this Christmas. It was made easier by an invitation to join the lovely Loescher family for their Christmas day dinner up on Boar's hill in Oxford. Conversation was abundent around the cozy table and I was excited to see the usual Christmas fixings upon arrival. We were all so full after Gil's stuffing, Ann's oh so yummy turkey (as well as many other dishes) and italian scroppino made by Maggie after dinner. They had family friends who just came from Australia and Italy so we had a bit of a cultural Christmas especially as American's since we participated in the native British traditions such as Christmas crackers (see the photo with crowns) and figgy pudding. The above photos are of the candles above the hearth and Maggie, Claire (The beautiful Loescher daughters), and Ann whipping up the goodies in the kitchen. It was such a treat!

Invierno en Oxford

I couldn't resist putting up these black and white photos that my mate Nadia took of Oxford. Photography is one of her many passions and in my opinion, she does it well. It is very cold this winter, frost licks at the doorframes and my feet never seem to stay warm (I think I have permanent frost bite on my pinky toe)! There is something romantic in the darkness of the day and the sunsets have actually been fantastically colorful.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Short Story: The 12th.

She had wanted the first. They came in a pair the first time. When the couple swam in her belly and she knew there were two hearts beating under hers she desperately wanted the two and felt blessed.

The twins were born on a sunny day. As she felt the first pains of labor she continued on with her daily chores. On the farm that same day the chickens produced the most eggs of the year. The milk of her ladies was unusually plentiful and with all the signs, all this she couldn't have seen the hints of what was to come. With the movements in her belly, she picked wild flowers and placed them in her purse so she could have the fragrance with her, so the babies could smell home right from the start.

At the hospital, the doctor did not know of the two and she did not offer the knowledge. It was a secret, for a fleeting moment, between her and her husband. The first came out quickly while the second lingered waiting to be asked for an invitation. When the two had finally been placed in her arms she cried from joy and of course the experience and thought a silent prayer. She felt complete kissing ones soft newborn brow and the others thin sliced lips.

She would not know what was to come. She couldn't have imagined how fertile she was or how she would be blessed in some sense of the word. She had not expected to be a breeder, a baby maker like the animals she owned in the fields. The second came after, tore her up, but was a boy which made her husband smile. After him, four girls in a row. She could not remember when she was not pregnant. She hoped each time to be pregnant in winter, hating hot summers, big and heavy with a baby inside her and another attached to her hip. At times in a glimmer of thought when she was stirring something on the stove she hoped there would be no more. She could not take it anymore, life was too full and her house too crowded. But with each pregnancy she approached her husband happily with the good news and exhaled when he smiled as if the sun was filling up the sky. He silently hoped with each that it would be a boy, eager to teach his earthly working ways, for them to lend a helping hand, but he loved them all.

After a boy and six girls there came a pause, a break in the ever going stream of her baby world when she thought that they were finished. But it was too soon to hope and after a year and a half she became pregnant with a boy. She knew now the dips and turns of her girls and knew this was not the female species. He was a wrestler inside her stomach. He came and then his father got his wish, three more boys after. All moving and living, turning and fighting with their mother before they came to be. She only hoped and never thought of how to stop the endless stream of babies and then she would catch herself and wonder where she would be without this one or that one, not laughing about them or learning from them.

After fifteen years past her twins, when she had first held the two so securely to her bosom she became pregnant with her twelfth. A dozen, a dozen, she thought. On this day when she went to tell her husband she paused. She could not bring herself to say anything. She could not tell him her usual, well it is that time again or guess the stork is going to come around our way. Her husband looked at her puzzled waiting for the reason why she had walked all the way out to the fields to talk. “It is the last time, I feel it honey, she told him. He wrapped his arms around her so as not to show her his face, puzzled as to why he couldn't bring himself to smile. I think it is great, he told her, our family will now be complete.
With baby one two she couldn't tell, couldn't feel the kicks and swore it was a girl. As time progressed her mind filled with worries for she felt little. The nurse and the doctor both said they heard the heart. “She is just waiting it out, she is the baby and is trying to get all of the attention, her husband joked. She couldn't sleep, waiting for glimmers of movement from her roundness. She felt in her heart she would know, know if this baby was not right or would not come out healthy and strong like all the others had. She put that aside, made sure she thought good thoughts about this child.

On the delivery day as she did with all the babes, now a ritual, she collected the flowers for her journey. This time she picked them quickly because she felt more urgency. When she got to the hospital the doctor looked concerned. She felt coldness from the room where she had once felt warmth. She brought out her flowers and realized there were more weeds than not. Picking out the flowers from the weeds and holding them tightly she started to push and with such ferociousness a tiny angelic baby girl flew into the nurse's arms.

With one whimper of a sound the baby girl made her mother's life fulfilled, and happy and with that same sound made it quietly commence to nothing.

As the doctor and nurses had been preoccupied with the newborn that they thought to have come so rapidly and to be presumed to be dead,they missed the crimson river flowing from her mother. No one knew she had taken her last breath and had slowly slipped past consciousness while they were looking at her tiny beauty, her twelfth, her last.
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