Merry Christmas

The picture was taken last night. Part of a family tradition that Grandma started years and years ago —  Grandma sends her gifts which they open on Christmas Eve. It’s always pajamas. The ritual never grows old, and has travelled with us as we moved from city to city, and from house to house, chasing a Life.

It’s 5 a.m. It’s silent now, but for the high winds howling outside my window. The moment reminds me of their younger days, when we lived in much smaller quarters.

We call out good night to each other down the hall. How beautiful, the way that children sleep so deeply and peacefully that their parents’ voices do not wake them.” (Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World: A Memoir.”)

I sit, writing this post. It’s quiet but for my breathing. A tear slides down my cheek.

Martin Amis said that “Time has come to feel like a runaway train, flashing through station after station.”  Melancholy sweeps over me —  I wonder how many more Christmas moments are left before they move on with their lives.

Maybe one more. Please, give us at least one more…

Merry Christmas.

inviting them to fan the coffee smoke to smell it

The last word we heard Zememesh Berhe say was “bun,” which means coffee, in Tigrinya, and which stands for so much more that is encompassed in the Eritrean coffee ritual. Green coffee beans are roasted in a long-armed aluminum pot with the onomatopoeic name menkeshkesh, for the sounds the beans make when the person roasting shakes the pan gently, carefully watching for when the oils began to gleam and the beans to brown. Once the beans are roasted to the desired depth of flavor, the roaster takes the pan around the room, beginning with the eldest person present and going to each person, inviting them to fan the coffee smoke to smell it. We gave this job to Solo when he was just old enough to carry the hot pan. Then the beans are spread to cool on a straw mat called mishrafat, then ground and brewed three different times and served in tiny, handle-less china cups called finjal, almost always with sugar and sometimes with warmed milk. I learned to say “tu’um” for delicious. It is considered very rude to leave before “third coffee,” for each stage comes with its own blessing and marks more space for communal chat. How I loved to watch Ficre perform this ritual, and then to see the pride with which our eldest son learned it from his father. Coffee ceremony was the most sacred home ritual there was.

—  Elizabeth Alexander, The Light of the World: A Memoir (Grand Central Publishing, April 21, 2015)


Photo: Benoit Cappronnier, Eritrean Coffee Ceremony, Asmara, Eritrea

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

morning-coffee

Here’s the true secret of life: We mostly do everything over and over. In the morning, we let the dogs out, make coffee, read the paper, help whoever is around get ready for the day. We do our work. In the afternoon, if we have left, we come home, put down our keys and satchels, let the dogs out, take off constrictive clothing, make a drink or put water on for tea, toast the leftover bit of scone. I love ritual and repetition. Without them, I would be a balloon with a slow leak.

~ Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair


Notes: Photo – Mennyfox55

 

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