Folks have asked why my dad is not in the family photo I include in every holiday newsletter. The answer is simple—he was, as ever, behind the camera. Now, having just returned from my first ever trip to England, I realize that he’s ‘behind’ practically every other facet of what the holidays mean to me.
My father, Kenneth Henry Hutchin, sailed to Quebec, Canada from England in 1928 at six months of age. With his parents, Harry and Rosa, and three siblings, he lived a fairly ‘English’ life (roast beef on Sundays), with a good dose of the New World thrown in.
Remembrances of early Christmases center around Granny and Grandpa’s table: the pristine tablecloth, Christmas crackers with silly hats and jokes, the glorious bird on a huge platter, the antler-handled carving set, flaming pudding, hard-sauce snowmen, slightly salty shortbread, and Grandpa’s ‘Hutchin Special’ cocktails.
While it’s natural to become nostalgic at holiday time, this year’s trip to visit Rowan in London and Yorkshire seemed to jiggle loose memories of repeating seasonal rhythms. And I felt curiously at home in places I had never been before. I realized that my penchant for glossy painted doors, boxwood hedges, and woolen tweeds are not simply aesthetic choices but a deeply imbedded sense of place.
In October the London shops were not yet in full-flown holiday regalia but the city sparkled nonetheless. At Harrods (Est. 1834), glass ornaments were piled high, the tearoom silver gleamed, and stacks of holiday hampers waited to be filled. In Liberty London (Est. 1875), the holiday shop glittered with ornaments of every English stripe (Union Jacks, red phone boxes, crowns, corgis…) and crystal shards cascaded past the mezzanines like spangles from a magic wand.
Not just because the Rowan team launched our Churchmouse patterns there, Liberty stole my heart. I love its human scale, its ancient tilts, its insouciant informality. The ‘haberdashery’ rooms with their silks, tapestry kits, yarns, threads, hankies, and ribbons, felt like home. And I have the purple shopping bags to prove it.
Perhaps my favorite thing about London was the multiplicity of cultures. I imagine I heard every language and every accent in taxi cabs, on the street, and in the shops. It was a potent reminder that most of us came from somewhere else.
Thanks from the bottom of my heart for indulging my Anglo-Saxon nostalgia. I wish you blessings of every kind.