Chestnuts Bursting on an Open Fire

The fire didn’t heat better out of the fireplace. Though no one would ever convince the dear stubborn, old man of that! Yet we fondly remember those simple evenings of reading by the fire as some of the most cozy and delightful evenings of our lives, even with the choking smoke and watery eyes!

They were simple days in a rural village. Mostly untouched by time, with little entertainment: no cinema or shopping mall, no bowling alley or spa. Papà didn’t even have a phone or TV, and it was before PCs and mobile phones were common. 

There wasn’t much to do there. Only men went to the coffee bars, to argue over card games, puffing on ever-present cigarettes, glasses of beer in hand. Us women? We had the mini supermarket, the butcher shop, and the tiny, outdoor market once a week. We were supposed to stay home and cook, anyway!

These days, such simple pleasures probably seem hopelessly boring. They were days with little entertainment, but we never felt bored! And we were happy. Family togetherness, no commercial stress, no electronic distractions. We made our own fun, with no need of outside stimulus.

Like the time I blew my father-in-law right off his chair…

And just by roasting chestnuts! But all the same, roasted chestnuts are downright delicious! So if you’ve never had them, let me explain how it’s done… at least according to my husband. “Just throw them in the fire,” he said. So I did.

But he forgot the important detail of slicing them open first! So remember this little step! Your family will thank you, or your father-in-law. Or the dog. Or whoever is in the room! Otherwise they shoot all over. Like piping hot popcorn, if you’re silly enough to take the lid off the pan!

Poor Papà, calmly enjoying his after dinner smoke! The unexpected explosions sent him reeling backward from his chair, staggering and sputtering! He was in his 70’s, and looking back, I’m so grateful that he didn’t fall or have a heart attack!

And that he was more patient than his gruff exterior led one to believe. Because he didn’t get angry at this dumb daughter-in-law. But then, he had always loved me, right from the start. I loved his son, and that was enough for him.

“Why didn’t you slice them open first?” queried Mario in irritation. “Because you didn’t tell me to!” I reminded. “All you said was just throw them in! So I did!”

But I was really too busy watching Papà!

He had a bad habit of muttering under his breath. He’d puff on his cigarette, then mumble curses to himself. Take another puff, and mutter some more. Until he worked up enough steam to spout off about whatever was bothering him. It was rather like watching a volcano preparing to explode. And right then a lot of furious puffing and ominous muttering was going on! Oh, what had I done?

And then, he cut our argument short by starting to chuckle! And kept at it for some time, chuckling and shaking his head. And wondering, I’m sure, if his dumb American daughter-in-law knew how to do anything at all!

That time reminds me that it doesn’t take much to have fun. We had little money and no car. But we did have all we needed. And perhaps that’s why we took such pleasure in simple things. Like those chestnuts, which were delicious, once our children fished them out of the corners!

We’re planning just such a simple Christmas Eve this year.

With chestnuts roasting — not bursting! 😉 A little cheese, some wine, a few friends, and lots of good memories. Too bad Papà can’t join our stroll down memory lane. But then, come to think of it, he will. For he’ll always be here with us, in our hearts!

I’ve received many gifts over the years — and don’t remember most of them. But memories of good times still remain rich and meaningful! Stuff comes and goes. But memories, even those as simple as bursting chestnuts, can bring pleasure for a lifetime!

What simple traditions do you have for making Christmas special?

[Images our own.]

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