E. B. White echoes Siddons’ “Christmas Country” in his own essay on holiday displacement, “What Do Our Hearts Treasure?,” which appears in “Essays of E.B. White,” a survey of his best work. White, who died in 1985, spent much of his life at the Maine farm he shared with his wife Katharine, a revered fiction editor for The New Yorker. The Whites loved Maine, which inspired E.B. White’s classic children’s stories such as “Charlotte’s Web” and “The Trumpet of the Swan.”
But as they aged, the Whites sometimes tried to escape Maine’s harsh winters by renting a place in Florida. “What Do Our Hearts Treasure?” details the emotional displacement the couple suffered during one yuletide among tropical palms. All seems lost until a package arrives from up North bearing, among other things, a branch from a balsam fir. In a small Christmas parcel, the Whites find their home once again.
I can’t read White’s essay without a little lump in the throat and I’m delighted that the essay and the book are still in print.