|Our house in Maputo, 1986-90|
“Why am I doing this?” she asked herself for the hundredth time. The gas flame glowed blue beneath the rusted oven floor that served in place of the missing rack. She maneuvered the stuffing pan into place and slammed the door.
She adjusted the temperature on the missing dial with a pair of pliers and tried to remember how lucky they were to have such a large gas stove when the rebels so frequently knocked out the electricity to the city. She wasn’t feeling very lucky.
Her husband had volunteered to set the table—in the dining room where the antique air conditioner clanked away. It didn’t lower the temperature much, but it did take some of the humidity out of the air. The children were curled up in the same room, reading their Christmas storybooks and playing with new toys.
She wiped sweat from her flushed face and turned on the potatoes. Soon they added their steam to the sweltering kitchen. A can of cranberries, a plate of raw veges and a jar of olives, all brought from Swaziland and saved for this moment, completed the meal.
“Time to eat,” she called when the turkey was out and the potatoes mashed. The rest of the family scurried to help.
“Man, it’s hot in here,” her husband proclaimed as if he had any idea.
When all was on the table, she sank into her chair. Her husband opened the Bible. The children grew quiet. Only the air-conditioner on the wall continued its incessant noise.
“And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…and Mary brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.”
She took a deep breath of de-humidified, slightly air-conditioned air. It wasn’t about pines or sledding or even her mother’s stuffing after all.