A Latvian tradition is to eat nine special foods at their Christmas celebration. Each food has its own magical meaning.
My motivation to write ebbs and flows. Lately, it’s been at an ebb. I start a new blog post and it winds up in the drafts file. It’s embarrassing to admit how often that has happened. I seldom know why this happens even with the most interesting material. Maybe this time it’s because I miss working on my novel, A Home for an Exile’s Heart and I’m in mourning. I have another novel in progress that I set aside to work on Exile. I love it, too, but its draw on my interest doesn’t seem to be strong enough. Some of my lack of motivation has to do with anxiety and depression; it, too, ebbs and flows. Not even cookies.
Instead of writing a new description of the nine special foods, I’m going to insert a scene from Exile.
Līvija is the protagonist. Cameron is the deuteragonist; the only American at a Latvian Christmas party at Līvija’s home. Dzintra is her seven-year-old daughter. The other characters are their housemates. Kristaps is six.
Many newly arrived refugees lived together communally until they could afford to acquire homes of their own. My family and I lived for a while with my godmother and her family.
Līvija and Vera entered carrying platters of roast meat. Even after feeding ten people, there would probably be enough leftovers to keep the household satiated for a week. Līvija set a roast goose in front of Mr. Timma. Noticing the wonder on Cameron’s face, she explained, “We all received Christmas bonuses.”
“It is a Latvian tradition to eat nine special foods at Christmas.” Vera set a pork roast before Mrs. Timma and sat down between Kristaps and Marta. “Each of the foods has a magical meaning.”
Cameron turned to his little companion. “Will you tell me what the meanings are, Dzintra?”
Obviously pleased to be asked, she counted on her fingers. “Peas and beans so you don’t cry. Pīrāgi to always have a nice surprise. Beets and carrots to be healthy.”
Kristaps seemingly couldn’t bear to have everyone’s attention focused on Dzintra. He piped up loudly, “Pig meat for good luck!”
“Kris,” Siliņš silenced his son again. “Mr. Kvinn asked Dzintra, not you.”
Once again Cameron felt sorry for the kid. The boy couldn’t seem to do anything right. He also couldn’t seem to learn. Sliding down in his chair, Kristaps mumbled, “I was just trying to help.”
“In English pig meat is called pork.” Unfazed Dzintra went on, “Poultry for success. Fish for money. Sauerkraut to be strong. A round…” Dzintra broke off and leaned forward looking to her mother for help.
“A round baked good,” Līvija prompted.
Not subdued for long, Kristaps announced, “We have two round cakes!”
Dzintra tensed. She seemed ready to come to blows. “That’s supposed to be a surprise. You spoiled it, Kris!”
Zenta put a calming hand on her granddaughter’s shoulder. “Ve hev many surprize. Tell Mr. Kvin about ze last two foods. Vat do round baked goods mean?”
“They mean lots of sunshine.” Her momentary flare of temper forgotten, Dzintra turned her sunny face toward Cameron. “And piparkūkas so you’ll always have love.”
“That must be why many piparkūkas are shaped like hearts,” Cameron said, putting a caressing hand on top of Dzintra’s head. “I’ll have to make sure I have a little of each food and plenty of piparkūkas, even though I’m lucky enough to already have lots of love.”
The first few chapters are free to read. Any electronic device works.
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