Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Winter is Short

You wake Saturday to learn that the unimaginable has happened—again—and you wonder what kind of world you live in. You imagine mothers and fathers opening closets and drawers and cupboards, seeing the gifts they had carefully selected and hidden away over the last weeks and months, now with no one to receive them, and you try to imagine what that vast emptiness feels like (your imagination fails) and, because you are a selfish creature, you wonder what you can do to make your children safe (you think moving to a country that does not worship firearms would be a good place to start).

And then you turn off NPR and put on Christmas records—John Denver, Willie Nelson, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Nutcracker—and place freshly-baked saffron buns and fruit salad on the table, along with a makeshift Lucia crown of fir tips and four white candles.

Making occupies your day—knitting and gluing and tying and cooking—and you go out in search of a pie and come home empty-handed. You clear away the red and green and temporarily replace them with blue. You take a few moments outside, to check out the frozen pond and find the perfect stick for the Menorah Yule Log, and brag to anyone who will listen that Martha stole your idea in this month’s issue.

You gather your loved ones around the table and feast on golden latkes with warm applesauce, yogurt, pickled beets and spinach (because you’re trying to introduce more veggies into your meals) with doughnuts for dessert (alas the pie), plus red wine and grape kid wine. 

You put on the new Klezmatics CD you finally got to accompany the feast, then the dreidle spins and Hanukkah gelt changes hands and no one cries this year. Afterward, everyone marches around the living room, singing, “Light the candle…spin the dreidle…dance the Horah…Hanukkah is here! Hey!” with much banging of tambourines and shouting and hilarity.

Sunday morning, you find three children on the couch, all knitting, and it’s like a reverse-mastery class, with the youngest helping the middle one with his needle-knitting and the middle one showing the oldest how to finger-knit with four fingers. Of course, as soon as the camera comes out, they hide.

You feel the clock ticking, and hastily complete projects, while the boys attend a dog funeral at their grandfather’s house, and then everyone gets wedged into dress clothes (i.e., pants that don’t have holes in the knees, shirts that don’t have skateboards or spiders on them) and you go see the Nutcracker, this year watching from right behind the “orchestra” pit (although there is no orchestra) and though you can’t see the dancers’ feet, no one has to strain to see over the head of the person sitting in front of them. You go out for Mexican food that isn’t very good, but it is cheap and then read “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with everyone singing along, off-key and off-tempo, but with as much enthusiasm as it’s possible to muster on a Sunday night, and you kind of feel something squeeze inside your chest at the magic of these little beings (who often drive you crazy).

You don’t realize that you’re nervous about sending your kids to school, until you feel the relief that floods through you when the automated call comes at five in the morning that school is cancelled due to the snow. The boys pull their snowsuits on top of their pajamas and you watch them out the window, trying to sled down the hill on three inches of wet, sticky snow, and you realize they already know the lesson you learn anew every time something terrible happens—winter is short, sled when the snow falls.


  1. Winter *is* too short, and Martha has nothing on you. (I keep praying for snow because I hope that it will make me feel better somehow. None yet, but they say some is on the way.)

  2. Thank you for these words, Andrea - for the reminder of comfort in routine and occasion.

  3. Snowy balm for the heart. I love your words.


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