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.