Saturday, December 3, 2011

Flecks of a White Christmas

Once again, 'Jack Frost' surprised us with a festive show.

Three years ago, when we'd barely moved into our new home in December 2008, it looked like a rather strange holiday season over here. Hardly any neighbours. No tree. Packing boxes from the move stacked and strewn all over the place — upstairs and downstairs and in my lady's chamber! The kitchen a gutted-out square at one end of the living room.

But we knocked together some chairs, unpacked the sole green-leaf-edged plate that survived the movers, and boiled up a pudding. And got started on fitting out the kitchen. Washing up was done in the bathroom sink for a fortnight.

And then, just as the sink was set in, we had to fly away north, like the birds.

Next year, the boxes were mostly gone. The kitchen, with its stove and oven and sink and larder in place, worked. Oh! and it was only me at home for Christmas. Half of this family would only arrive after work was done for the year, on the 26th of December.

But we put up some lights, put out artsy tabletop trees, and roasted bird and roots, boiled a pudding when he did arrive. We debated getting a real tree, but we weren't sure what we wanted to put in the ground. The garden wasn't ready to receive any new roots just then. So we got to work, in the single week we'd have until he headed back to Delhi again. It wasn't done until almost New Years', but at the nursery, we found — way over in a corner at the back, abandoned — two leggy-looking slender specimens with a spray of white at the top.

They reminded me of snow. And Oriental silk paintings. They turned out to be 'poinsettia' that hadn't quite made it big, and could be had for a song. We got a pair. They turned out to be Euphorbia all right — but not pulcherrima. These were Diamond Frost. And apparently they were new and cool.

We left them on the back porch for a year, while we still tried to start the garden. The clay was impenetrable, immovable; yet the weeds were rampant.

December came again. The 'rest of the family' moved to this city, finally. But he was still away for Xmas, on the train home. No tree, again — not yet. But guess who welcomed him home at the door? Though I'd given up on those two frail doormen of mine putting up any fight at all against the hot, wet tropical elements, they flowered! In two sprays of white that framed the garden door, harbingers of what could be.

And this July, when I was out of work and wondering how to make do, when the Diamond Frost had really suffered a roasting over summer and seemingly dried out, the unthinkable happened. A third man appeared among them! There was a tall shoot, hidden behind the untameable weeds of the monsoons. We didn't dare believe it could be the Euphorbia. But it looked like nothing else.

We put the other two in the ground finally, framing the porch. And they first white sepals unfolded, just in time for the holidays, and aptly — on 1 December.

It had risen again, out of adversity and into startling, heartening beauty. Unexpectedly. A parsimonious gift that nevertheless kept giving, multiplying even. A being epitomizing not just of joy, but hardiness and holding on, fortitude and fecundity.

As we celebrated our eighth anniversary yesterday, looking back on years of 'making do', we realized we didn't need a tree this year either — the slender shrubs we were 'making do' with for three years, with whom it was sometimes touch and go in these torrid tropics, would make sure we had our leafy marker of the holidays.

Odd how 'making do' becomes the best of traditions, isn't it?

Now there are three of my slender garden sentinels. Framing both doorway and window.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Moni... always loved your kitchen chronicles... loved this too! and oh - now i know the name of these two slender yet ever-growing mini trees in my balcony - bought them on a whim - a pair, enchanted with the leaves. The diamond frost took us by surprise too - they flower sometime in February/March in Mumbai... and then they shed so beautifully! It's like watching a beautiful choreography - a petal sonnet... :) miss your cooking, coffee and conversations...