I remember it very well, roasting chestnuts with my grandmother, whom I loved dearly. She had a fireplace in her cottage in the woods. Conifers surrounded the house and I remember the snow outside.
But even if it rained it was such a lovely place, raindrops hanging like shiny diamonds on the gutter just above the windows.
There was this magical fireplace, burning big chunks of wood, dark red, orange, yellow and all colours in between, little flames creeping up the back, sometimes blazing and I loved the noise of that. I used to sit too close to it and she always had to drag me back a little and warn me, my face already red, sweaty and glowing.
And in winter, there were chestnuts roasting in that fireplace. I was allowed to put them in the fire, with the large iron pair of tongs. And then sit back and wait til they pop. She warned me often not to sit too close when roasting those chestnuts because when they popped, it could shoot little burning bits of charred wood outside and burn the hair of your skin. Or worse.
Of course I could never wait long enough and I always was too close to the fire, I learned the hard way. But she never got impatient or angry with me and she always calmed me and dragged me to the sink and put my arm under the tap, whilst I tried to get back to the fire place of course. And then she used to run back with me quickly to pick up the popped chestnuts.
Oh the sound of it, I remember it so well. In the background an old Bing Crosby Christmas LP, or Perry Como, or Mahalia Jackson, she had them all. One other privilege I had there, turning the record without help. I loved staying there when I was a child, squirrels outside stealing peanuts from the bird house with seeds and nuts for the birds. And then the ever stuttering red Toyota that brought me home.
Annie van Gemeren-Konijnenburg, born 12 February 1909 – † 24 May 1986