Christmas is family and reunions, surprises and illusion. These are the premises that you will find in the new Christmas story of Agatha London, The legacy. A story that will remind us of those who are no longer with us and that many beautiful moments have caused around us. Without a doubt, it is a very prominent alternative to spend our Christmas.
It was not our first Christmas there, although they were far behind when we were children and we were going to spend that time of the year with Grandpa. However, they were going to be the last.
In his will, Dad had ordered the executor to sell the house in Asturias. What made us decide, my brothers and me, to spend there last Christmas and take the opportunity to house the house.
Due to life's circumstances we resided quite far from each other. Luis was a manager in an important company in Madrid, Alfredo was a professor at a school in La Coruña, and I ... Well, I was at the time a mother of two children, divorced and owner of a restaurant that was in a cape in a small town in the Mar Menor
And there we were, the three gathered, in the company of sisters-in-law and children, in the family estate of the García in the council of Tineo. A stone mansion lost between fields and forests, which, with all the chimneys and stoves lit to fight moisture, seemed to be glad to finally house some human being, after long years of abandonment.
Everyone had their homework. As a professional cook I took care of the meals with the help of my sisters-in-law, and they of the logistics of the house during our stay. For those days I had several Christmas menus in mind, like the baked lamb that grandfather used to make, although I never got him to come out like him.
My brothers spent most of their time checking the house inch by inch and deciding what it was to throw or leave; or to distribute among us if we wanted it. I joined them as many times as I could.
And the children, for their part, enjoyed how they had never seen them. They went to the forest to make cabins or play stories they invented. Or to take moss and material to put the Bethlehem, or they were looking for “treasures” in the garden with a metal detector that the major had brought. By the time it was dark they were always surrendered. So far they had found several rusty soda plates, two coins of Ferdinand VII and one of Alfonso XII, some bullets of the Civil War, silver paper wrappers, the occasional button, half horseshoe, a cowbell, and a small key That seemed to be from a closet or dresser. We tested it on various furniture, but it did not fit into any and we forgot about it right away.
To give the Christmas touch to the house, Alfonso and Luis cut several pine branches and simulated a Christmas tree by tying them together and placing them in a pot with stones. The room was scented of pine fragrance and wet earth. And all, adults and children we set out to decorate it with the same childish enthusiasm.
I located the ornaments in the loft so the children could decorate the house. Some were very old, and by unwrapping them from the newspaper that protected them they gave off a special smell, which brought back memories of other Christmases of my childhood. Five decorative glass balls were still intact and we placed them on the makeshift tree along with the tinsel and other ornaments.
We protected the ticket office in the lounge with newspapers and plastics so that they could place the Bethlehem on top. The children had been collecting twigs, barks, moss, stones and earth all afternoon to compose the landscape, and they populated it with all the characters and houses that were unpacking. The end result was a diorama of the most varied in which the odd duck was larger than the shepherds, and the plastic figures alternated with the clay ones painted by hand, some of them half broken and with chipping.
Alfredo later found a box containing several albums and loose photographs, mostly in black and white or sepia, and some with carefully written calligraphy inscriptions in the corners. But there were also them in color, faded by time, when we were little.
"Look at it," he said, handing us one that had the edges like a seal.
"It's Grandma Isabel," said Luis. I hardly remember her because she died when I was very young. You were a baby, Alfredo, and Maite was not born.
In the photograph appeared a woman dressed in a formal and elegant dress with a tube skirt, wearing a pearl necklace on her neck and folded gloves between her hands. A matching hat adorned his head. Leaning on a false railing of photographic studio, she seemed to serenely look at something that was far away.
"What elegance and" knowing how to "sheds, women don't look like that anymore," I observed.
"Yes, it was a lady." The grandfather met her in Madrid, when he was a chef. I don't know much about her, except that she was good and affectionate, and of a good family. Apparently his parents had trouble accepting him.
"We should show those pictures to the children," Alfredo suggested, peeking out from behind our cogotes.
"Do you think they are interested in an apex?"
—Well, for now we have managed to forget their mobile phones, tablets y nintendos, Right?
It was true. That place seemed to work a special magic, offering entertainment that children could not get at home. We ourselves had played there games that many of our friends in the big city could not even dream of.
We spent part of the afternoon in a corrillo in front of the fireplace, sharing the old photographs, traveling to different moments of the past that explained family history.
In the time of my great-grandparents, the house produced cider, vegetables and other foods that were sold in the region. Grandfather Francisco helped on the farm and in the kitchen. As he was good at cooking, he decided to seek his fortune in the big city and moved to Madrid. He was a cook on the long-distance trains of the railway line and then at the Ritz Hotel, where he built a good reputation and met Grandma Isabel. They had my father and my uncle Alfredo, who left for Brazil and whose name they named my brother.
Dad and uncle, like we did later, visited the Asturian house on vacations where some relatives of the grandfather still lived. Little by little, the house was emptying, except for a grandfather's sister, Aunt Grandma Rosa. When the grandfather retired he returned to Asturias to live until the end of his days with his sister in the family home. During our childhood we were going to see them with dad and mom. But once the two died and we grew older, the visits to the house were more anecdotal.
There was a very old portrait where the grandfather was seen, quite young, with his brothers in front of the house. In other photographs he was already an adult and in some he appeared with Grandma Isabel. Others were only her. Photographer portraits, such as the photo we had commented before, signed with inscriptions such as: "For my dear Francisco" or "With love from your Isabel".
There were pictures, still in black and white, of dad and uncle Alfredo as children, running around the garden, brushing a cow, chasing chickens or picking apples, in the company of the grandfather or some of his brothers.
And a few more, in that faded color towards the yellow or red of the old photos, of dad and mom with us in the family house, enjoying the summer or Christmas. Putting a swing on a tree, bathing in the sun in the sun, making snowmen, playing with a dog, flying a kite ... And in many of them appeared the grandfather, already quite old, who was always close cooking or bringing in the garden , and the great aunt accompanying mom with sewing.
Three generations in images in sepia and color paraded before our eyes filling us with longing, and strengthening ties with the youngest members of the family, who seemed delighted to hear all those stories.
On Christmas Eve, I left all the ingredients prepared in the kitchen for the big dinner, and spent the morning with my brothers checking the house and digging up more memories. We were quite entertained, separating useful items from disposables in various piles.
As in a fairy tale, that day each of us found an object that seemed to fit with his person. Luis wanted to keep a hand watch that had been the great-grandfather. It was classic and elegant, with a chain to hang from the pocket of a vest; the type of object that a person like Luís would choose. Alfredo found an old book of stories and fables with exquisite illustrations, which he was not even painted to show to his students. It had probably been from grandfather, or his sister.
And I found the most wonderful treasure of all. It was a square wooden chest, the size of a shoebox
-What could this be? I wondered aloud as I pulled him out of the inside of a dresser whose drawer got stuck a little. The chest had a small lock and the three of us thought the same thing at once: "The key the children found!"
We ran to try it and it fit like a glove. Inside we found a lot of handwritten chips, they were grandfather's recipes, there was even the recipe for baked lamb! There were also several small envelopes with seeds inside: lettuce, pumpkins, zucchini, chard ...
"Looks like this you should keep, Maite," Alfredo said.
"But why would the chest be in that piece of furniture and the key buried in the garden?" I was amazed at the strange coincidence of having found in those days the two pieces of that puzzle.
"Namely, he still dropped it from a pocket ..." Luis said. We will never know, and life is full of unsolved mysteries. But it looks like it was there, waiting for you all this time. A perfect Christmas gift!
"You can't imagine how magical it is!" My restaurant is not going well, maybe this is the inspiration I needed. I will give a new air around the history of the grandfather, I will make menus with his recipes, and with the seeds I could put an urban garden in the backyard. But what excites me most is the idea of taking this whole story with me from one land to another, from Asturias to Murcia.
"The land of our ancestors runs through our veins." No matter how far we are, or how different the place is, ”Alfredo said giving us a hug.
Christmas Eve dinner was a total success, following the recipe of the grandfather with his special touches, and we gave him the finishing touch with a loud toast dotted with cider: "For the Garcia!"
Then my sisters-in-law took out a cardboard box that they had found and kept secret, just for that moment. Tambourines, drums and zambombas went to our hands to accompany a good session of Christmas carols:
“Walk, walk, walk, the Marimorena,
Walk, walk, walk that is Christmas Eve ”