Setting: Copenhagen, Denmark (January 2013)
“Rachelle, do you mind to let the chimney sweeper in?” my landlady asked.
“The what???” I asked, dumbfounded.
As a girl from the tropics who relied on air-conditioning and only turned to heating when I moved to zero or negative degrees in Europe, I had no idea who this man was.
THE CHIMNEY SWEEPER… The name in itself had a bearing to it, something seemingly significant which I could not ascribe. Is he like a character from story books? Is his face all black, covered in smoke? Does he conspire with Santa every Christmas, helping the jolly old fart leave toys for good lil’ boys and girls?
For a moment, I let myself get lost with the funny questions of my fantasy-filled head.
According to my landlady, the chimney sweeper had no magic powers or secret association with Santa. All the same, he was quite a character indeed. Too bad, that would have been way cool, don’t you think?
My landlady fondly recalled how the arrival of this man every year, just when it started snowing, is a calendar event — a fixture of her childhood. She referred to his coming with a sense of nostalgia which I couldn’t relate to, but found to be a charming idea in any case. Maybe for Filipinos, it’s like seeing the manang (vendor lady) setting up her table to cook rice cakes bibingka and puto bumbong marking the start of the Christmas novena mass. Maybe it felt like the start of something magical to happen. As people who go through this world reading signs and letting events unfold, there was perhaps a romantic link of such a banal, commonplace happening to great events. And it was romantic because it’s not really anything but mere coincidence.
Anyway, since I was staying in on such a cold, snowy day, I agreed. And I eagerly waited for the chimney sweeper.
He rang the bell. After my third attempt to buzz him in, he finally managed to get in the building. A funny, or I should say silly, start.
A hefty man, the steps creaked beneath his weight. He was wearing all black, pointed dusty shoes and a top hat. I looked at it wondering if he would break out into dance the next minute. For some reason, his chubby face and small smile reminded me of a leprechaun.
He had a look at the furnace in the living room, sticking in a long wire that had a brush at the end. What spell was he casting on my air? Then he pronounced my chimney to be “A-OK,” in a sing-song voice.
He left quickly, humming a jolly tune as he made his way down the stairs, vanishing.
I guess I will be there waiting for him again next winter.
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