Echoes upon echoes

The temperature has dropped to minus twenty degrees (-20) here in Ottawa. Zsolt is ready to board a plane back to Europe. Having recently acquired a long, kick-ass jacket I’m not minding the cold so badly. Yeah, it’s freezing. But yeah, we’ve also got a cosy fire here in the basement. So in my opinion, as long as we don’t step out of the house during this cold snap, everything will be okay.

Mind you, the hill behind the house is deep with snow and those sleds are just waiting in the garage . . . how cold is too cold to toboggan?

Ever since Christmas, Zsolt and I have been vegetating. It’s not like we’ve been leading extremely busy lives, but nevertheless looking for work does have its own kind of pressure. So we’ve taken a few days off from the search. But very soon we’ll be back at it. No point going on too long in the land of holiday and diet-breaking.  (I’ve eaten cookies, cinnamon buns, bread and more cookies  –  none of them being gluten-free. But hey, it’s only over Christmas. Today I made two healthy meals and feel quite good about the proactivness.)

One distraction we’ve been indulging in heavily is RUMMY-O. You know that game? My grandmother used to play it obsessively. Well, maybe not obsessively, but she was always up for a game. Right before she passed away, like a month or two, she had my cousin play with me, Zsolt and Daniel so we could all learn. And since she’s passed, we’ve played upstairs in the living room more than a few times. Like many times. A whole lot.  Bunches. It’s a quiet game of thought and puzzling . . . except for when my Dad plays and begins to sing during everyone else’s turn (after that game of his loud serenading, I totally banned him from joining again unless he promised to maintain silence. Now he only sings when it’s his turn.)

And as a memorial to Lulu (at least, in my mind) we say the very important words that follow a person’s turn.

If you pick up a chip because you cannot play, you say: “Je piège.” And pick up the chip.

If you choose to play your chips and not pick up, once you’ve played all your chips, you say: “J’ai joué.” And the next person is allowed their turn.

These are very important cues that Lulu used to insist upon, and frankly I can see their advantage. When we forget to say ‘je piège’ or ‘j’ai joué’ after a turn everyone just sits there waiting, thinking the person is still contemplating their move. Everyone except my dad, who instead begins to sing.

So I guess it’s a nice way of passing along a bit of her memory. Little habits like that carry on. Another would be slicing the cucumber. My mom, when slicing the tip of a cucumber, then rubs that bit against the remaining vegetable until a froth emerges (oh my word, this sounds inappropriate. But really we’re just dealing with vegetables). I watched her doing this as a little girl, and now when I slice a cucumber, I do the exact same thing. Well, guess what? Lulu did the very same thing. And I reckon my daughter will also pick up the habit.

Anyhow, I have no point in this ramble about habits trading one generation for another, except to say it’s a little bit amazing how we pass along our story, bit-by-bit to those who love us most.  Chances are ‘j’ai joué’ and ‘je piège’ go back several Rummy-loving women in our family. For sure the cucumber slicing does. I can just imagine my great, great grandmother handing a cucumber and foaming it’s tip.

It’s little things like that which I find so inspiring. Things like that make me love the story I’m currently writing – a story which is nearly there, apart from the editing and rewrites, and has been along for quite a ride over the past two years.

The idea that we can know those who have come before from simple habits, simple ‘tendencies’ is really quite awesome. Did my father’s side of the family always sing aloud? (he sure does, and so do I – just not when playing Rummy.) Did my mom’s side always play games? Did we always clean our vegetables like this? Could we stop if we wanted to? Are we just like our ancestors, or only a gentle impression of their habits?

And so we’ve been playing our game and enjoying the holiday. I hope you have as well. Stay warm, stay safe, and I’ll see you in the new year.

Happy holidays!

2 thoughts on “Echoes upon echoes

  1. My fondest Christmas tradition started with me and my mom. I have never seen it elsewhere. The first time I set up our Christmas chreche about 2 weeks before Christmas, I asked her why baby Jesus was in the manger since December 25 had not arrived yet. My mom told me that I could place him under the straw until his birthday. Since he was so small (the size of the tip of my baby finger), every day before Christmas, I would check under the straw to see that he was still there, then on Christmas day, I would take him from under the straw and place him in his tiny manger. I love this tradition because it made Christmas feel special, and it reminds me how my mom always came up with great answers for a curious child (like the one I asked about how did Santa get in our house since we didn’t have a chimney because we lived in the tropics… he squeezes through the key hole on our front door).

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