Picture of Vera Jane Cook

Vera Jane Cook

Chatter Creek Cottage: When I was a Girl

My father hid presents under whatever he could find, a new bicycle behind a chair, games and clothes under couches. My mother hid dolls in very creative places, under mattresses, in shoeboxes, maybe once under the sink. When I was a girl Christmas was the incredible smell of my Grandmother’s gravy, someone’s Jean Nate, one of my aunts no doubt, and the gentle ribbing from my Uncle Tony. Christmas dinner always took place in Brooklyn on Freeman Street where Hungarians dressed up in brown suits and velvet hats, because everyone had to look their best for Jesus, who hung from a cross on Java Street where the old Catholic Church rang its bells.

Christmas also took place right off Park Avenue where I lived with my Mom and laughter rang out and my cocker spaniel chewed my shoes and my mother’s mink fell over the armchair like some glorious cape just waiting for the shoulders of a Queen. Jesus didn’t live anywhere near us on Park Avenue but he sure hung out in Brooklyn because my grandmother loved him. I think my father probably did too. My mother only liked Saint Jude because he was the saint of sinners and she was the Black Irish beauty who loved to live loud. Oh, there was the Buddha, the big bronze one in the living room and his belly smelled like pine. I’m sure she loved him as much as my grandmother loved Jesus.

Only the memories remain to sweeten my senses now, it’s been so long. Winter always means Christmas and forgiveness and new beginnings to me. I am no longer a girl and haven’t been for many years. I go into the depths of winter these days carrying summer in my soul; my transitory snow prints vanish like dust to the wind, like so many of the people I’ve known, so many of the friends I’ve lost. My journey is neither long nor short, it’s simply unknown. When I was a girl summer teased me forward with a promise of surprise and the future was enormous then. But now the beautiful cold white winters and the long stark barren trees  take me back, back to the laughter, the loss still stinging, no, never a memory the years can cover, never a memory lost.