Wednesday, December 04, 2013
CHRISTMAS IN MINNESOTA
By Lyn Horner
I was born in
San Francisco, California, but moved to Minnesota with my parents when I was not
quite four years old. My mother was from Montgomery, a small town fifty miles
southwest of Minneapolis,
where we lived. The town had been settled mainly by Czech immigrants in the
latter half of the 19th century. They called themselves Bohemian
rather than Czech because they came from Bohemia,
a former kingdom in the Holy Roman Empire, now a portion of the Czech Republic.
Every Christmas we drove down to
Montgomery to my Grandma and Grandpa
Novotny’s house, where we gathered with my aunts, uncles and cousins. Occasionally
the drive could be treacherous on icy roads, but Daddy always got us there
safely, although I sometimes suffered bouts of motion sickness. My stomach
still acts up that way now and then.
Grandma was a wonderful cook, as were my mom and her three sisters. The main dish was never turkey; rather, it varied between chicken, duck or goose which were either purchased at the local butcher shop or brought home by Grandpa, the uncles and my older male cousins. They all loved to hunt and fish. Grandpa was also a fur buyer, meaning he bought skins from hunters, stretched and cleaned them before shipping them off to buyers in the east. The basement was his work room, and there was a strong odor down there. The cousins and I had strict orders never to open the basement door.
Not that was cared. We were too busy chasing each other around the house, playing hide and seek, tag and whatever games we favored back then. Of course the kitchen was off limits unless we wanted our bottoms paddled. The cooks did not like kids underfoot, a sentiment I understand now that I have a few grandkids of my own.
By the time dinner was on the kitchen table – a table now sitting in my kitchen – we were all drooling over the heavenly smells. After filling our plates we spread out in the parlor and kitchen, some at tables, others on the couch or chairs, balancing the delectable feast on our laps. The house was small, you see, but we didn’t mind. The more the merrier!
Later, when dinner had been digested, partly at least, came dessert time. Oh, the cakes and pies! My mom was the official pie baker. That woman made the best pie crust, light and flaky as any French pastry. She never used a recipe, just did it from memory. I gave up trying to copy her technique decades ago.
Shortly before sundown, which came around 5:00 or 5:30, it was time for us to say goodbye and head home to the city. I can’t remember if Grandma and Grandpa ever gave me and their other grandkids any Christmas gifts, material ones that is, but they gave us the best gift of all, a Christmas family gathering to remember,
Now I’d like to share a bit of my Christmas short story:
CHRISTMAS COOKIES FOR TRISTAN
Tristan tensed when he saw a striking auburn-haired woman hand her coat to a butler in the penthouse foyer and walk into the crowded living room. He’d never met her, he was certain, yet he felt instantly drawn to her. Despite his avoidance of female companionship over the past two years, his pulse quickened and the chatter of partygoers faded away as he watched her.
She wore a cranberry red dress with tiny cap sleeves that went surprisingly well with her mahogany hair. Smiling brightly, she exchanged air kisses with Johanna Cantrell, their hostess and Tristan’s distant cousin, who had opened up her lavish
Park Avenue suite
for this early Christmas party. So gracious of her, everyone agreed. Of course
they all knew tonight’s party was aimed at garnering backers for the
lady’s upcoming mayoral campaign.
The redhead had arrived unescorted. Was she a personal friend of Johanna’s or some high-placed business executive who might be convinced to throw her support behind the candidate? Tristan doubted it was the latter. She didn’t look old enough to fill such a role.
Curious to discover her identity, he edged his way through the crowd and followed the woman down a hall toward the kitchen, admiring the slender curves revealed by her subtly flowing skirt. Members of the catering staff buzzed past like worker bees, carrying empty food trays to be refilled and filled ones back out to the buffet table in the spacious living room, or salon as Cousin Johanna called it.
Pausing in the kitchen’s open doorway, Tristan leaned against the door jam and observed the redhead as she held out a large Christmas tin to a portly, bearded man in a white chef’s uniform.
“Please arrange these cookies on a tray and set them out with the other desserts,” she said in a low, smoky voice reminiscent of actress Kathleen Turner’s.
The man scowled. “Madame, I personally prepare all food for every event I cater, including the desserts.”
“Oh, but I baked these especially for tonight as a gift for Jo . . . I mean Mrs. Cantrell. She told me to bring them back here for you to serve.”
“I doubt that, young woman,” the pompous ass sneered. “That good woman knows I never allow anything prepared by another hand to be served at one of my events.”
“Are you calling me a liar?” The redhead’s voice shook slightly, either with distress or anger.
Having heard enough, Tristan strode to the woman’s side. “There you are. What’s taking so long? I want one of your famous cookies.”
She turned her head and stared at him with eyes as green as the emerald broach pinned to her demurely cut bodice. A light blush bloomed on her cheeks, lending her ivory features a delightful glow. “Do I know you, sir?”
“Not yet, but I’ve heard of you . . . and your cookies.” Lifting the rather heavy tin from her hands, he extended it to the uncooperative chef. “My good man, set out the lady’s cookies on your best tray. Mrs. Cantrell is waiting to try them. So am I.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lyn Horner resides in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and several very spoiled cats. Trained in the visual arts, Lyn worked as a fashion illustrator and art instructor. After quitting work to raise her children, she took up writing as a creative outlet. This hobby grew into a love of research and the crafting of passionate love stories based on that research.
The author says, "Writing a book is much like putting together a really big jigsaw puzzle. It requires endless patience and stubborn determination to see your ideas come to life, and once hooked on the process, you're forever addicted."
Find out more about Lyn and her books here:
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