Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bank the Fire on the Hearth

Deep winter is here. Everyone I know is stir crazy. We slip off the crusty snowbanks trying to load the children into the car. We play dragons in the car, exhaling puffs of steam. Mostly, we stay home.

And I can't find our copy of The Tomten. What's a Tomten, you ask? Well, if you live here and don't know, or if you have a heart for the people of cold lands, you just have to read The Tomten, by Astrid Lindgren. I can't lend you my copy, with the ragged spine and the sticker of a happy skunk smelling a flower, that I stuck on the inside cover when I was little, because I can't find it. What's more, I now always have my library hold list maxed out. Did you know you can only order ten books at a time? It used to be twenty-five. Apparently only a miniscule portion of library patrons would ever have ten books on hold at once, and the Library Authorities felt that meant those loyal patrons should for some reason curb their biblio-enthusiasm. The reasons for the change in policy have not been explained. Don't ask me how I know these things. Sigh.

Anyway, it goes, from memory, something like this:
It is the dead of winter on the old farm. On nights like these, people creep into their houses and bank the fire on the hearth.
The paintings in this book capture many lovely things about winter, not least dreaming of summer.
The Tomten trips about between the buildings on small silent feet. He talks to us in Tomten language, a silent little language a child can understand.

Winters come and winters go
Summers come and summers go
Soon the swallows will be here again.

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