December Days

On Christmas Eve it started to snow. A light snow, but it was not long before it started to gather on the ground. It had not been setting up to be a white Christmas so it was nice to get at least that. And it kept falling. We readied ourselves for the big elf in the red suit and, when we finally went to bed, the snow still came down.

Christmas morning we had snow. Maybe three inches on the ground. And it stuck to the trees as well. The world was clean and white. My son said it was a Christmas miracle, perhaps half joking. I just thought we were lucky.

My wife and I walked out in it for a bit that morning. It was cold but sunny. The sky was blue. We were pretty content, our children riding the high of gifts and surprises. We did not get up until close to 6:00 AM, so we even had some decent sleep. Snow squeaked as we walked.

That night the cold rose up. All the moisture in the air settled and froze. Every twig and stone and blade of dry milkweed was covered in ice. You know those cheesy holiday decorations that are covered in fake frost, exaggerated versions of reality? It looked like that.

The low sun, before it climbed up to hide behind low clouds, splashed the world with brightness. All that ice glittered and sparkled. Winter wonderland and all that. Spectacular. Then it became another frosty morning.

Today, rain. And fog. Sleet last night. It seems we are getting all the winter weather. Christmas is over, which is always a bit of a letdown in our house. But I still feel the spirit. The new year is just around the corner. An arbitrary beginning and ending, for sure, but still, a time to reassess and to set some goals. I will get outside again to take some time to reflect on that.

Brown and Green December

We had snow. Then it melted. That usually happens. And usually I am disappointed. It is mid-December, and snow lingers only in the shady spots. At least it isn’t all gone. The mountains are tipped in white, blanketed even. Here in the valley, however, it feels like spring.

The sun hasn’t shown itself much, but yesterday it came through. And the temperature climbed over the freezing mark. It felt like March. With the last of the snow melting, it looked like March, too. Clouds came in. The Geminid meteor shower was a bust around here. It hoped we might get one more shot at seeing some shooting stars last night, but those pesky clouds…

The grass is showing again. It is mixed in with the brown of fallen leaves and dried shoots, but it persists.  Squirrels pluck seeds, fallen from the bird feeder, from the lawn. They seem to be navigating the grass just fine. No mistletoe or ivy needed around here. Green lies around right outside the window.

This is pretty typical these days. Not that long back our December days had little green and lots of white. We shoveled out many a day. Our snow shovel sits unused on the porch. I have to hope we get some more snow before Christmas. I can’t say I’m optimistic, but I can say I’m hopeful. 

The temperature has creeped up again this morning. Winter seems to be trying to emulate spring. Just be yourself, winter. You are beautiful the way you are. Let spring be spring. I want to see your snowy self. Be glorious. Be icy. Be cold. But no pressure. Next week will do. Just don’t wait too long. Christmas isn’t far off.  

Snow for Christmas

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We wish for it every year, but it rarely arrives. We have rain. Or wind. Or spring-like temperatures. We typically wake in the dark and gradually see the world wake up to whatever weather graces us. But snow? Doesn’t happen.

It looks like this year, however, we will have snow for Christmas. Yesterday it snowed all day. I spent the day in a meeting room, having many conversations, all of them with snow falling behind me. Perhaps I should have sat in the opposite chair. I could have watched the snow.

When I got home we went for a walk in the dark. The snow still fell heavily. It was light, fluffy, scattering in clouds when we kicked at it. It coated our hats. It squeaked underfoot. The trees wore it. The woods were quiet. Back home we took a sled run or two, shoveled off the porch, filled the bird feeders.

This morning snow coated the field. Late morning it started to rain. It rained most of the day, sometimes just a drizzle, sometimes heavily. But the snow stuck around. There was enough of it. Just before dark it started to snow again. With everything wet from the rain, the snow easily adhered. Branches are white again.

More snow is in the forecast for Monday. There is a winter storm watch for Christmas day. We are looking to get up to eight inches. We had hoped to go see the new Star Wars movie that afternoon. We may have to scratch that. We don’t really want to drive in heavy snow. And if we have that much snow, why go anywhere? We can stay home and ski and sled and romp.

Christmas is only two days away, so the forecast is likely to be fairly, if not totally, accurate. Still, I have my doubts, only because I can hardly believe it. A white Christmas, even here in northern Vermont, is a rare thing these days. I am afraid we will have fewer and fewer of them. But if we get one this year, I’ll take it. In fact, I’ll hoot about it and run around in the snow in pajamas. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Chocolate Stash

imageFor Christmas I asked for chocolate. I like really good chocolate. Not your Hershey’s sour milk chocolate (although I will not turn that down mind you) but well-crafted dark chocolate. My stocking was full of the stuff and I got some other bars and treats aside from that. I have a stash that will last me a while. If I am careful.

A bunch of years ago I had surgery and I had to lie on the couch for a couple weeks. I watched a lot of movies during that time. My beautiful spouse, always one to make my life better, got me a couple of dark chocolate bars. Maybe it was because I was in slow mode, maybe it was because I was in a mood to appreciate things more than usual, or maybe it was the drugs I was on, but those chocolate bars satisfied in a big way. And I wanted more.

These days I try to have a bit of chocolate on hand at all times. When I want a sweet treat I can break off a bit and find some satisfaction. It keeps me from eating too much ice cream, if you know what I’m saying. At the moment I have a supply to last me well into the winter. I hope. That hazelnut bar went down, let me tell you. And those Lake Champlain Chocolates are pretty much to die for, if you’ll allow me the expression. If I have to get surgery any time soon, I will be set for a few days, but pacing myself could be a challenge.

I hear global warming might mean chocolate shortages. Plus other factors such as witch’s broom fungus mean less cocoa production. And then there’s the new strain of cocoa that tastes like crap. So the days of accessible and affordable delicious chocolate could be waning. I hope that is not the case. And demand often means problems get solved because prices go up. Worst case scenario would be too much to bear. At the moment, however, I am going to enjoy what I’ve got. The stuff is just so damn good.

Christmas at Home

We celebrate Christmas in our house. And boy do we gear up for it. The weekend after Thanksgiving we get a tree (a fir, cut from the tree farm down the road) shove into the van and set it up. By December 1st we have a trimmed tree, lights up, holiday themed dishware out on the table and more to come.

By Christmas Eve, we are ready to go–gifts wrapped, holiday music playing, a full refrigerator, stockings hung, festive as can be. So by Christmas morning the anticipation is pretty high. We spent the tail end of Christmas Eve at my sister-in-law’s place and so did not get home until later than the usual bedtime. Not that it mattered. Our kids were so excited that they had a hard time falling asleep. My son did not fall asleep until at least 11:00. He woke up around 4:00. He had the crazy idea that 4:00 was the time to get up and head downstairs. We had to put him off until 5:00. It was an early morning.

We had stockings stuffed with small gifts and opened those gifts first. We took a break for a waffle breakfast. We had a fire in the woodstove that heated things up fast–temperatures were in the forties. Some snow stayed on the ground at least. We had a lot of snow but then had two days of rain to wash most of it away. It was patchy Christmas morning but it was there at least. We opened gifts throughout the morning and early afternoon, trying to make it last. It is a pretty special day.

I took a short walk after our afternoon dinner. The breeze felt warm and clouds drifted across the gray sky. The water in the river was high with all the melted snow. Fields were flooded. A crescent moon dangled behind the clouds. The road was muddy. It was quiet. I thought about how this day is about giving and love and it made me want to simplify my life, get to what matters most more often.

The kids were asleep early. My daughter resisted the idea of going to bed earlier than usual, but she conked out pretty much immediately. My wife and I stayed up for a while, enjoying the quiet and the lights. We felt like successful parents, fostering the joy of the day, creating memories and all that. It turned out to be magical for all of us. After we turned out the lights and said goodnight to the tree, we headed to bed. It didn’t take long for us to conk out ourselves.

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Holiday Cards

The holiday cards are starting to trickle. We get lots of them and, to tell you the truth, I love them. Whether they say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Happy New Year or some other greeting, they offer a good window into the lives of friends and family. It is an annual catch-up of sorts.

We get mail in our white mailbox at the end of the driveway six days a week. Every day it is a gift to get something that is not unsolicited, not a bill, not asking for money, not addressed to “resident.” I love getting the mail in general. Could be something fun on any day. I love surprises. When the end of the year nears it means getting fun mail.

Most of the cards we get these days are photo cards–they have some greeting, tailored to the likes or tastes or whims of the sender, along with one to a whole lot of photos. The photos do make it fun. They give me a sense of what matters to the sender, and I love to ponder just why our friends chose those particular photos.

Here is the thing: I think it is a holiday card faux pas to include only photos of one’s children. I mean, why sign it from four people and then have photos of only two people? At least half the cards we get are from friends who do not include pictures of themselves but do include photos of their children. I do want to see pics of your offspring. I really do. But I also want to see pics of you.

My theories why people do not include photos of themselves, only of their children:

1. They mistakenly think that more people in the photo will cost more. Let’s lay that to rest right now–photos cost the same regardless of the subject.

2. They are old enough that they think they look “bad” and so use this as an excuse to omit themselves. To that I say c’mon, you look fine, and once you are a parent do you really care that much what other people think of how you look?

3. They think receivers want to see photos only of their children. Um, no.

4. They never take photos of themselves, only their children. In this age of digital photography, this isn’t really an excuse anymore. Someone has pictures of you.

5. They forget. OK maybe this has some merit. I can’t remember crap these days. But still, you look at the thing before mailing it out don’t you?

6. They are blinded by love for their children to the extent that they cannot think of themselves. They are selfless, caring parents and have devoted their short lives to maximizing their contribution to the next generation who happens to be their own flesh and blood

I’m not sure about that last one. In any case, none of these are really good excuses. I would love to hear a good one. Maybe that will reduce my curmudgeonness.

Any way, keep sending the cards, friends. Just give me some pics of you. I love your kids, but I love you, too.

Holiday Pics

My daughter was awake at 3:30 AM this morning. I gave her the good news that it was after midnight. I also gave her the bad news that she had to wait a few hours to get up for the day. We took a peek at the gifts laid out, then back to bed. She managed to fall asleep for about an hour between then and 5:30. Then she was up for the day. Her brother was not so stimulated. He was conked out until 5:45 when she went to “check on him.” Then we all were down by the Christmas tree, ogling the booty.

We unwrapped, with some restraint, for a couple of hours. We had some scattered breakfast. We ate candy. We took photos. And then it was play time. The children looked at books and did an art project and had some rescue pretending, among other things. Then they went outside and now we are ready for some apple pie. That was a special request from the early riser. That was easy enough to provide. Plus, it means I can eat pie as well.

The day is young and we have much play time to come. There may even be a bath involved, to test out the toy shark cage. Only a huge snowstorm could make this day better. Merry Christmas.

Heading Downstairs in the Dark

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