Monday, February 25, 2008

The Oddly Familiar Fire in My Grate

My mother and I used to sit down together on Sunday nights with a big bowl of buttered popcorn on our collective lap and watch whatever BBC series our local public television station had running at the time - a couple of my favorites were "All Creatures Great and Small," based on the books by James Herriot, the country vet and all-around delightful man, and "The Flambards" - a beautiful fictional story of a young girl growing up in the English countryside, learning to ride horses and hunt and manage a happy life alongside her two boy-cousins under the oppressive leer of her nasty old uncle. That series was orginally a book of the same title, by K. M. Peyton.

On a rainy, dreary, cold day like today I find myself pining away for the English countryside and the rustic life and comforts of my favorite BBC tales. It's always been so, since I can remember, and I figure it always will be so, because it still is for my mother (isn't it, Mom?) and I am just like her when it comes to what makes me feel cozy and secure inside.

I'm so thankful for that wistfulness, though. For this inner longing and lingering feeling of (completely unfounded) nostalgia I have when I think of mucking out barns as steam unfurls from the nostrils of the watching cows, pigs and goats, of rainboots covered to the knee with oozing, sucking mud, of chilling showers leaking icy fingers down the neck of my Macintosh, of grey clouds lying cold and forebodingly over rolling brown hills framed by leafless, lifeless limbs of huge old trees. I dream on of finishing a soggy, messy chore, hopping down from my strawberry roan and opening a creakingly solid, sturdy wooden door into the simple stone and brass kitchen where a fire roars and crackles. I hang my Mac on a peg, pry dirty boots off my poor frozen feet and sit down to a meal - hot stew of beef with pearl onions, torn hunks of fresh bread and homemade jam, thick slices of pungeant cheese and cup after steaming cup of strong, dark tea flavored with honey and lemon. After the meal, my face and feet now pink and warm from the heat of the kitchen fire, I find a cozy windowsill, flush out a hound or two (who will re-settle on my feet momentarily) and curl up, my knees and ankles bent under me, against a dusty old cushion to read Jane Austen or Thomas Hardy until my eyes won't stay open anymore.

This is the afternoon of my heart.

And I have my mother to thank for making me this way. I have a beautiful niece who seems likewise charmed. And one day, after reading her these books and showing her these programs, perhaps a daughter (or maybe even a son?) who shares this longing for a home that was never her own, but lives inside her as sure as red Georgia clay or Illinois corn fields.


  1. I love those shows too. A dreary day does make one wish for the english countryside. The part about mucking out a barn I can do without though - I grew up on a farm and know what that's like!

  2. My husband and I watched the Anne of Green Gables series one summer and loved it. Seemed like such simple times...

  3. I feel the same way about the Little House on the Prairie books. I look to those days when I feel stressed out.

  4. now that....was beautifully written. I was right there with you. thank you megan!

  5. Dude. You gave me the chills. English countryside. Cold rain drizzling down the back of my Mac (or whatever that sentence was). Cups of dark tea with honey and lemon...I lived that life (minus the barns and steaming piles of horse puckey) for 3 years, and there ain't a cell in this body that yearns for that kinda thing. No way. No how.
    On a "dim and grismal" day (as I liked to say), I would dream of sunshine. Big piles of gahlowrious sunshine, Sista!

  6. My very favorite is A Little Princess. I loved the version with Shirley Temple, and I loved the newer version. I read the book for the first time when I was 9 and I made sure both of my daughters received the book on their 9th birthdays.

    Nostalgia and fantasy are so missing in our kids lives.

    Two years ago, during Summer break, I had Ashley read "To Kill A Mockingbird". I then asked her to watch the movie. She balked at first because it was (gasp) in black and white, but after she got into it, she LOVED IT.

    Now, we occasionally snuggle up on rainy Sundays and watch old black and white movies. Our very favorites are anything starring Fred and Ginger, and the ABSOLUTE BEST is 12 Angry Men with Henry Fonda.

  7. Beautifully written! Classic Megan. And so much nicer than me whining about how Spring isn't here yet. Good for you, sista.

  8. Aw come and join us here and I'll have a hearty stew ready for you :D

  9. Aww, this was really sweet. My aunt (one of the good ones, haha) is the same way. She absolutely LOVED that 'creatures' show. She even bought horses. Although I can assure you that mucking out a horse stall is anything but dreamy. :)

  10. That was amazing ! I loved reading that and "experiencing" it with you. Course, it's the middle of summer here so the fire place was a bit hot for me but I love curling up in front of one so I stuck it out to the end of the post ! :)

  11. Beautifully put. My family watched All Creatures together too. James Harriot just had a gift of transporting you into the moment.
    The book world I always feel homiest in is good old PEI & the Anne series. My g'ma gave them to me when I was a young girl & I have 'gone there' too many times to count.