December 4 is my mother’s birthday. She would have turned 68 today; she died of lung cancer four years and nine days ago.
This year, December 4 happens to be the Second Sunday of Advent. My mother ignored most Christmas traditions, but an advent wreath with four candles could often be found on her coffee table by the end of November, and there would definitely be baking–lots of baking. She used a couple of decades-old cookbooks whose pages had turned transparent from her thumbing through them with butter on her hands. She had long memorized the recipes, but it was part of the ritual to look them up.
I spent an evening in her kitchen a few days after she died and made Frankfurter Bethmännchen. They didn’t turn out well, but I remember that making them felt good:
December 4 is also St. Barbara‘s Day. Twigs cut from fruit trees, forsythias, or pussy willows on this day are said to grow leaves or bloom by Christmas Eve, symbols of renewal that appear just as winter settles in. There are three old pear trees in the yard of an abandoned home not far from my house. I walked over there, cut some twigs, and put them in water, hoping that this old-world custom will work in the Ozarks, too.