There are members of every family who are the sun around whom the world revolves.
I was fortunate enough to have twin suns in my universe - my grandfather and my mother.
No matter how far we would journey in the year, the extended family's orbit would always return to one point for Christmas - aunts, uncles, cousins - all at different seasons of their lives, would descend on someone's family home for Christmas, arriving late in the morning armed with platters of food and gifts. Oh so many gifts that the Christmas tree was an island of tinsel and green in a sea of multicoloured wrapping paper.
Unwrapping was a production, with everyone admiring the gift or engaging in good-natured ribbing as the recipient took their time unwrapping their present. Then then was lunch, a dining table filled with treats - chicken, ham, salads, fruit mince pies and snacks. Lunch would turn into afternoon tea, and then into dinner, with leftovers for those who had walked off the excess.
At my mother's home, it would be a walk down to the Nerang River and the park where the 19th century Maid of Sker paddle steamer sat, now on land, never again to ply the river, a silent reminder that years ebb and flow. Nothing stays the same.
Suns too dim and fade, their light is eventually extinguished. The gravity of their influence weakens in their absence - new spouses and in-laws create new solar systems. The light from old galaxy winks out. The world is never the same again.
The Season comes around anew each year with remembrance of that first Christmas, where the bright star in the sky invites the orphans and the dispossessed to be part of a universal family and that they are loved.
Excerpt Three Ships:
Laura’s father watched her shoulder the long coil of rope.
“I’m not happy, dear girl. I should be the one going down there, not you.”
She gave a pointed look at his injured foot. The way down to the beach was not sheer but it was no gentle slope either and the footing would be treacherous. “Well, needs must,” she replied firmly. “I'll be back quickly.”
His response was a grimace. He secured the trailing end of the coiled rope to Acorn's saddle.
“Watch your step, Laura,” he admonished.
Trailing the rope out as she went, Laura picked her way down the side of the hill with care where the low-growing grass was slick. She grew up here and knew the cliffs well enough to treat them with respect. The saltiness from exploding waves filled her nostrils. She could even taste it on the back of her throat.
The beach filled and emptied as the waves churned in.
She scrambled over one rock, then around another to reach the man. The hem of her skirt darkened in the splashing water.
Still a few feet away, she called out.
“Sailor! Sailor, ahoy!”
The man remained still.
Laura looked back up the thirty feet to where her father peered back, concerned. He called to her but his words were ripped away by the wind.
Her only choice was to approach the man.
The sailor’s shirt was torn and shredded, the sodden fabric dark and clinging to the contours of his back. His black hair whipped in the wind like the damp grass around the chickens.
She touched his cheek. His skin was cold.
It might already be too late!
Laura drew a deep breath and grasped his shoulders.
“Come on sailor, time to wake up,” she said hopefully, shaking him.
The man obliged her with a groan; Laura matched it with a sigh of relief.
“Help is here,” she said.
The man raised himself to his elbows and looked blearily at her. It was hard to determine his age. He seemed much younger than her father but older than Dickie Wells.
“Where are you hurt? Your back? Your legs?”
The man sat up gingerly, shaking his head at each question.
“We’re going to haul you out,” she said.
The man looked her up and down and flashed her a quick smile, his pale blue eyes twinkling with sudden merriment.
“My guardian angel...” he rasped, interrupted by a hacking cough. “Where is the rest of your heavenly choir?”
Glazed Little Orange Cookies with Cinnamon and Cloves
2 cup (280 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 g) white granulated sugar
2 tablespoon Dutch-processed cocoa
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon whole milk
zest of 2 medium oranges
2 cups (250 g) confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon Cointreau or Grand Marnier (optional, substitute orange juice in place)
1. Place the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, and baking powder in medium-sized mixing bowl. Using a balloon whisk, vigorously stir the dry ingredients together until well blended and uniform in color. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the eggs, oil, milk and zest. Using a large spatula, stir until a rough dough. Switch to your hands and start to knead the dough until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Cover the dough and let rest for 30 minutes.
2. About 20 minutes into the rest period, preheat the oven to 350˚F and line a baking sheet with a silpat or a piece of parchment paper. Once the oven has preheated and the 30 minutes are up, pull out roughly a quarter of the dough and roll it into a rope somewhere between 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch in thickness. Flatten it slightly with your hands until it’s about an inch wide and cut the dough diagonally like a diamond about 1 1/2 inch long. Basically you want the dough to be the size of a gnocchi dumpling. Place on the lined baking sheet about an inch apart. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until one of the middle cookies are dry to the touch and feels done. Let rest on the baking sheet for 5-7 minutes, then move to a wire rack. Cool to room temperature (about an hour or more) before glazing.
Makes about 60 small cookies.