‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!
About Sarah Nicole Lemon
It was touch and go for a while, but Sarah Nicole Lemon finally grew into her woods witch vibe and now spends her days merrily setting young girls to impossible tasks with dire threats if they fail. Born and raised in the Appalachians, she spent the first fifteen years of her life doing nothing but reading and playing outside and has yet to outgrow either. Writing allows her to do both on a professional level. When not writing, you can find her drinking iced coffee in a half-submerged lawn chair near her home in southern Maryland.
Old Magic & Armed Robbery
My childhood holidays were filled with old magic. Thin, cold air. Heavy trudging through waist deep snow to do my chores. Food that came from my gnarled roots, threaded deep through Alsace-Lorraine, eastern Europe, and Ireland. There was always a grey sky that promised of snow or chains on the tires to navigate the spines of the Appalachians in Pennsylvania to visit my grandparents in Pittsburgh. I loved the old magic, but what I looked forward to most was the armed robbery.
Let’s start at the beginning. With the food.
The food began with a thick slice of homemade toast with pools of butter and cinnamon sugar in a kitchen that already simmered with the smell of sage and rosemary turkey roasting in the oven, ham in a roasting pan on the porch, or corned beef, Italian sausage, and-slash-or kielbasa. The meat changed throughout the season. Moving from light and delicate to heavy and salted. In the poorest of years, we ate only the hindquarters of a deer, braised in apple cider vinegar and water. Potatoes and cabbage alongside. In the richest, we ate lamb off the bone and long stretches of beef were cut down at the table while I rested on my elbows, watching. Still with potatoes and cabbage.
Potatoes and cabbage are old magic.
While waiting for the dinner meal, I’d savor the special piece of fruit from my stocking — usually an orange or grapefruit. One year I got a pomegranate and painstakingly sucked on the seeds while my mother’s old mixer hummed in the background. I would eye the olives, pickled beets and eggs, mustard and homemade horseradish, smoked summer sausage, salami, pimento cheese and boxes of crackers — special treats I waited all year for.
At some point we’d get kicked out of the house, sent into the cold to flounder in the snow…or if there was no snow, ride our dirt-bikes for as long as we could bear it. The dogs barked at our tires. They lunged at flying snow. They bit our gloves and coats, and we wrestled in the snow until our fingers were red and our snot frozen and we were allowed inside.
Family was there, or we arrived, and the little pot with the boiled necks, liver, and gizzards were turned into gravy. The potatoes I’d had to scrub the day before transformed into steaming, thick clouds. The meat rested in its juice under tin-foil. As the oldest, I got the special privilege of cutting the strawberry pretzel salad and putting it on little plates for everyone to eat first. Strawberry pretzel salad is weird Dutchie magic. It’s a layer of crushed pretzels and butter baked into a hard crust, smeared with a mix of cream cheese and cool whip, topped with a layer of frozen strawberries and crushed pineapple suspended in strawberry jello. So good no one wanted to wait for dessert.
After the bones were picked through, the three kinds of potatoes and cabbage were hollowed out of their bowls and pans, and the glass of frothy root or birch beer I received at the meal was drained.
It was finally time.
My dad, who spent most of the holidays as a shadow of Krampus, would ask for apple pie with slices of cheddar cheese melted on top. His shoulders would relax. Krampus disappeared — the shadow shrinking down the wall until my dad was just my dad again. Pie, from scratch, was served. Coffee was poured. Luxurious cream, mixed in with clinking spoons.
I waited quietly in my seat on a long, hard bench. The rest of my siblings or cousins had eaten their pie and ran off to play. But I knew better. My belly was full and I was waiting for the stories. Like magic, they came on their own time and despite my attempts, alone or with friends, I could never replicate it quite right.
It would start with my cousin. Some little present day story or joke. Something that reminded them of That Time.
My dad would laugh.
And suddenly the air would catch fire.
I’m not an oral storyteller and no matter how many times I’ve tried to turn their felony stupid stories into the finely spun threads of magic that kept me sitting on that bench for hours, I have never been able to replicate them. Everything sounds tragic and sad when I repeat them. I don’t have the gift. But for today, for you, I’ll try.
That Time We Got Stuck in The Snow While Robbing a Bakery
The bakery was closed. They stole the safe. Just the whole thing, right out the door. Slipping and sliding in the snow to load it onto the back of the truck. It took so long to load that by the time they finish they can’t get the truck out of the snow that had accumulated. Everyone blames everyone else.
Whose fucking idea was this anyway?
They blink at the safe — stoic and dusted with snow.
(Here is where I’d make it tragic by implying a metaphor, so instead imagine someone like Jesse Andrews or Pittsburgh Dad telling this story and right now you’re about to pee yourself)
I got this, my dad says. Turning, he runs to the convenience store in the same strip and asks the clerk for their shovel. The clerk hands it over.
Maybe he asked nicely.
Maybe he asked with a gun.
You never know in these stories. The point is, he got the shovel.
My dad runs back to the truck. The sirens shrill louder. Seriously, whose idea was this? They shovel out the tires, jump in the truck, and…
Wait, my dad says.
– Dramatic pause –
He runs back to the return the shovel.
Everyone clutches their stomachs and laughs. How did you get the safe open? I ask once the laughter dies down.
We blew it up in a field, he says to me while my mom disappears into the kitchen for cookies.
Was there money in it? I ask.
My dad looks to my cousin.
My cousin looks at my dad.
Their eyes light. With magic. With all the other stories like this and all the stories they’ve told — about riding dirt bikes down the train tracks, wheelies past the school bus, always managing to just outrun the cops, having engines drop out of clunkers mid-getaway, about wrecking, screaming, being high, shooting each other, breaking bones, hiding, fighting to the “death” on bridges, snakes, snakes, and more stories about snakes. Their eyes light with having lived hard and fast and free and being old men sitting around a table instead of the ones who died and the ones who live in prisons.
Was there? I ask again.
My dad shrugs. He smiles a little. But not at me.
I don’t ask again. But I’m determined to live the same and someday sit around a table and hold the world to my mouth with a story. I didn’t know then it would cost me dearly. That by not marrying within my culture and becoming my mother, it meant I’d be cut off from this magic I held so dear. That it was never meant for me. That I’d spend a whole book writing about that loss.
But I am still a girl — somewhere, forever. My mom puts down the platters of cookies. Trays filled with lady locks I’d spent three days in a boiling kitchen burning my fingers on tin-foil wrapped clothes pins to help make, kolaches with nut filling and apricot filling, Russian tea cookies, nut cups, srdiecka, maslove pecivo, peanut butter blossoms, snickerdoodles, gingerbread, thumbprints and bredele. The air smells like vanilla and ginger, coffee and braised meat.
I always hope they say yes.
Title Done Dirt Cheap
Author Sarah Nicole Lemon
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
To Be Published March 7th, 2017 by Amulet Books
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens.
Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of a local lawyer: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club — and Tourmaline.
But the two girls are stronger than the circumstances that brought them together, and their resilience defines the friendship at the heart of this powerful debut novel.
As an extra, exciting bonus, Sarah has been generous enough to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win a special holiday prize package that includes all the items featured in the beautiful photo below. This package includes: One ARC of Done Dirt Cheap, one illustrated copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, one pair of socks, one cream knit scarf, two bottles of OPI nail polish, and one tin of C. O. Bigelow Rose Salve. This contest is open to residents of the U.S. only. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter!
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