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Beside me, my sister is asleep. The golden tiled fireplace in the corner of the bedroom heats radiates heat throughout the room. I get out of bed as quietly as I can, make my way into the freezing cold of the next room, and out into the hall. I put on my jacket and step into my boots, pull my wool cap low over my forehead and stuff my hands into mittens.
It is just a few weeks before Christmas. Uncles, aunts, and cousins are to gather at our house. Today is the day of the pig slaughter. There is a large table set up outside between the water well and the grape arbor. On it are several large bloodied knives. I am glad that the pig was killed before I woke up.
I walk from one group to another, but no one pays any attention to me. I stop to watch the men burn the pig over an open fire. They rub the pig’s skin with salt and cover it. The ham and the chops and the ribs get placed in separate pots. Some will be ground, some will be smoked and some will be used for the midday and evening meal.
The women prepare a lunch of polenta and thick slabs of bacon. Fast food before the making of sausage. They shoo me out of the way.
My sister awakes and the other cousins arrive. Now there’s a bunch of us underfoot. We are given little things to do, such as taking firewood to the smokehouse and turning the handle on the sausage-making machine until our arms seem about to fall off.
The men finish with salting and burning the skin. They mix the meat with fat for storage over the long winter months. They help the women with the sausages and line up every piece of meat that is to be smoked next to each other in the smokehouse.
When the long day nears to an end, the men make a makeshift table running the length of the yard. We sit and have a last meal together of fried sausage and mashed potatoes, pickled peppers and black bread. Everyone is tired, yet merry. We eat and drink until we’re stuffed. Someone mentions that it’s time for each family to their own house.
And then just as people start to leave, it begins to snow. The snow shimmers and sparkles and settles over the yard. My sister and I beg our dad to pull us on the sled, but he is too tired, and the snow is not deep enough.
With promises of sled rides in the morning we get sent to our warm bed, where I am sure we fall asleep right away. And so ends another day of a childhood that seems so far away.