"The shortest day has passed,
and whatever nastiness of weather
we may look forward to in January and February,
at least we notice that the days are getting longer.
Minute by minute they lengthen out.
It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.
It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child,
as you watch it day by day,
until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise
we realize that we can stay out of doors
in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour."
~ Vita Sackville-West,
~ Vita Sackville-West,
December 30th, 1956
♥I love that passage. Right now at five-o'clock, it is still light out. I'm not minding January this year. Some years, as they say, are better than others. Last year, almost everything about the month got on my nerves, or so I remember it. This January finds me feeling hopeful and cozy. Three loaves of Glenda's French bread are in the middle of their second rise and will soon be placed in the oven to go with tonight's supper--it feels like a soup and bread night here--so the scents of yeast and flour are in the air. Love. The last time I made French bread, it was 2001 and I had just turned twenty-four. I used my grandmother's recipe and ended up with ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! dozens?! of small and almost-inedible loaves. Grandma had died just a few weeks before and I tried to honor her by making her bread for a family dinner. Bad, brokenhearted timing, and after hours of kneading, punching-down, forming loaves, and baking: Bad, brokenhearted bread too. I trust that tonight's loaves will be better. The smell of homemade bread, in all the bread's stages, always takes me back to my grandparents' kitchen outside of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Just before sliding her loaves into the oven, Grandma would slice a small X into the top of each one. One Baking Day while I was staying with at my grandparents' house, I decided to add the finishing touch of a letter V to each of the loaves, and Grandma was first perplexed and then amused. Few things taste as good as fresh bread with butter, and the smell of the loaves instantly transports me back to Grandma's apron-covered side. It is always--likely forever and always--almost impossible to believe that if I went to my grandparents' house at any given moment, that I wouldn't find them there. Surely, Grandma is nodding off a bit in her armchair right now as I write this and thinking every time she wakes that she really needs to get up and put together a little supper for her and Papa. Surely, Papa keeps walking from the back porch to check the thermometer to the kitchen to look out the window at the snow. If I called right now, I would wake Grandma from her catnap, but she would be tickled to hear from me, and we would want to hear that the other was staying warm and would ask what the other was making for supper. She would tell me what she and Papa might watch on television that evening--usually a nature program--and would mention that Papa would be walking down to the post office in the morning to mail her next letter to me. I would tell her that I'm taking down the Christmas tree tonight and that Stuffed has been stretched out like a piece of gum along the bedroom radiator all day. We would say "I love you" before hanging up and soon we would both settle down to our simple meals of homemade soup and French bread.