by Nancy Means Wright
The radio spills out Christmas music, Santas ring bells on street corners, the squabbling Congress will soon go into recess, and hope is in the air. Tomorrow is Christmas day and we’re cooking for, at latest count, twenty-two people, to include family, friends and the unexpected guest–for there is always at least one, and more likely, two or three. My two stepdaughters will have the latest boyfriend in tow, and three of my grandchildren at nearby Middlebury College will bring along a classmate who for some reason is unable to go home for the holiday.
What a delight to meet and get to know a boy from Afghanistan or a girl from Myanmar! Two years ago the unexpected guest was a dorm-mate who arrived on our snowy doorstep in flip-flops–apparently the foot-gear he’d worn on the flight to America. Alas, his sojourn ended just after the holiday when he was summoned home to serve in the Israeli army–I hope they issued him boots. Last year my son-in-law, a professor at Champlain College, brought along three Indian students from Champlain’s “sister college” in Mumbai, India. My stepdaughter Shanti was thrilled because she had been adopted from a Calcutta orphanage, arriving here in a wicker basket, and she wanted to meet more Indians. Thoroughly americanized, she romanticizes her native land and longs to go there. And though she knows there is no way to discover the birth mother who abandoned her, there is still that tiny hope that the unexpected will occur–like the stranger in the Rutland, Vt bar six years ago who turned out to be a close friend of her adopted sister Laurel’s birth mother. And now Laurel has four mothers. How the unexpected can multiply!
Tomorrow we’re all to convene at my daughter Lesley’s farm in Leicester, Vermont where she and her husband have a large menagerie of animals: two llamas, two sheep, three geese, one hundred chickens and hens, a pair of arrogant roosters–not to mention the usual roster of dogs, cats, and gerbils. We’ve been urged to come early to help “walk” the llamas from their outdoor autumn pen to their brand new wooden winter digs. I’m a bit apprehensive: will the beastie let me, a newcomer, lead it? Will it spit?
But I’m game. And while listening yesterday to a gorgeous a-cappella arrangement of psalm 23, I envisioned our gathering and sat down to write my own “psalm.” Here it is:
Christmas afternoon on my daughter’s farm
we walk the white llama. She resists the halter–
but offer leaves of a brussells sprout
with a sweet wild apple, and shy Twilla lopes along.
Phoebe the sheep follows with her lamb,
for the llama’s their shepherd–
they’ll never want. They kick up their heels
as they ride the rocky pasture, run
by the hay-mulched gardens, the gabble of geese,
then halt–to graze under the cedar tree
where the Red Star hens will roost tonight. Below
in the hennery with its Babel of squabbles,
the Speckled Sussex fold their wings
against the fresh sting of snow, and the red-quilted
Araucanas nurture the blue eggs my daughter
and her daughters have already plaited
into pecan pies. Now the flock descends–
to prepare the tables for friends, family, and
the unexpected guest: platters of purple
potatoes, gravy and greens, the sacrificial turkey
stuffed with apples and cloves. We anoint
our feathers with cooking oils, we glow
in the fire of wine and love. I sing you
my song, I call for yours, and my cup flows over…
PEACE AND HAPPINESS TO ALL THIS HOLIDAY!
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