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by Susan Kramer
By the time the twins came home from school the street lights were on. You see, it was the winter solstice, the shortest day of sunlight in Holland, in northwestern Europe. Most of the year the twins walked to the nearby playground after school to meet friends and play dodgeball, or climb the jungle gym. But nearing the end of December they had to be content to spend late afternoons indoors, requesting a snack from Ma, usually hot cocoa and a gingerbread cookie, enough to tide them over till dinner.
On this special day of the winter solstice, they were allowed to light a few of the smaller candles already set out on the table for Christmas, just a few days away. The twins sat at the table drinking their hot chocolate, watching the candles flicker, and became quiet and thoughtful. After a minute of settling into the silence Hans said to Anneke that even though it was too dark to go back outside and play, it was a treat to be able to enjoy the glowing lights on the table. And with the rays of daylight lasting longer after Christmas, they'd soon be able to play outside after school.
Anneke responded that she liked the thought of brighter days to come, that she had more energy in sunlight. So the twins agreed that the longer hours of light affected their time to get out and play, and how they felt while playing outdoors.
Although they were only nine years old, the twins seemed wiser. Generations before them had reflected on this yearly cycle of the planet. The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere with lengthening hours of sunlight signified the coming season of accelerated growth, and people becoming more optimistic with a brighter outlook.
After sitting at the table and watching the flames for a while, the twins blew out the candles and got up and asked Ma if they could help get dinner ready. This brought a smile to her face, being glad they were finally old enough to think to volunteer to help out. She gave them each little jobs: Hans cleared the table and laid out a clean cloth, then Anneke set the table for their dinner of stamppot, a hearty hot dish of cooked potatoes and greens mashed together and topped with a thick curl of fried sausage – perfect for cold winter evenings in their far north home.
Then the twins bounded up the narrow winding staircase to their bedrooms to begin school homework, waiting to be called down to dinner. Later in the evening while they settled down from the day they each reflected that it felt good to volunteer to help out at home, and that when they were in school they'd ask their teachers if they needed any chores done in the classroom.
On this winter solstice Anneke and Hans learned that not just the longer days of light to play in the sun made them feel energetic and more optimistic, but that helping out, being useful, felt surprisingly satisfying.
Key words: helpful; useful.
children in this story live in my mind and heart.
The author, Susan Helene Kramer, has been teaching people of all ages and abilities meditation, yoga, and dance for more than 30 years.
and Hans went to school
and Hans and the Winter Solstice and photographs copyright © 2017-2018 Susan
Home Page http://www.susankramer.com
Dutch translation of other stories in the series