Every Christmas eve we gather at my grandmother’s house. My dad is getting the presents out the car as my mom goes to open the gate. It’s dark leading up to my grandmother’s house, but the door is open and I can see light and hear voices. The door was always open, and the smells of cooking are hanging in the warm wet night air. Guti - soft soft rain on your face and hands that is more like a heavy mist than raindrops.
The dogs are barking and my grandmother yells at them, but they just ignore her with loving disregard. Inside it is hot and noisy with people everywhere. The Christmas tree smells dry and crackly in the heat, but the smells of meats roasting and puddings boiling is heavenly. Lots of tall people in the semi-gloom. The only lights are the Christmas tree in the entrance and the TV in the lounge (black and white). People are everywhere talking, nibbling from plates of snacks piled up on every empty flat surface, watching the TV in a vague sort of way grown ups do.
By contrast the kitchen is very bright… and full of women. Mothers and aunts and daughters in all their permutations are hovering around my gran as she barks out orders like a regimental sergeant. There are drinks being poured, sauces stirred, meats basted and puddings checked… and nothing in the kitchen is glowing more with heat than my grandmother! Her cheeks are red and her hair is stuck on her face with perspiration, but her eyes are bright and she still has the energy to tell my dad off when he tries to tease her.
I wander back out into the dark to stand by the Christmas tree. There are dozens of bags and boxes below it, since all the family will gather here again tomorrow to unwrap their gifts together. I’m not allowed to touch, so I can only peer sideways at labels and cards in the hope of seeing which have my name on them.
There are nuts in their shells and fresh baked mince pies and a Christmas show with ladies dancing and lots of music. Nuts in their shells are a special treat we only get once a year. My grandfather helps me choose a good one and cracks it open for me and I sit on the piano stool and eat it slowly. How delicious is a nut when you are only allowed one each.
Later I will fall asleep on the couch or a bed somewhere and be carried to the car and home. Tomorrow it will be Christmas day and if we are lucky, there will be soft rain to cool the morning and bless this special day.
* "..pula means more than just the wet stuff which falls out the sky: it stands for luck, life and prosperity.."