In the hot and busy hustle of growing, harvesting, and preserving summer’s bounty, winter sounds like a dreamy relaxing bubble bath. There I am in my mind’s eye, serenely lounging in a rocking chair, wrapped in a cozy blanket, backlit with candlelight. On the table next to me steams a mug of green tea, next to a small dish of dark chocolate and crystallized ginger from which I occasionally eat. I am reading Plato’s Republic. The children are in bed, my lover is softly strumming a guitar on the couch. The dishes are washed, the laundry is folded and put away, there is a pot of beans soaking for tomorrow’s dinner.
In February, the actual scene might look more like this: I am in a rocking chair, holding a book. It is not Plato’s Republic, but Thomas the Tank Engine’s Big Lift and Look Book. One child is on my lap because he was biting his sister at bedtime. The other is screaming that she is scared to be alone in her room. My drink of choice is Kahlua and cream, but I already drank it all. I didn’t bother putting the chocolate and ginger in a dish, but just ate them out of the bag while standing in front of the kitchen cupboard, keeping my back strategically turned towards the always-underfoot children. Dirty dishes are piled around the sink, and my husband is folding laundry on the couch. It’s looking like tomorrow’s dinner will once again be baked potatoes and carrot sticks. But at least I’ve got those jars of tasty ketchup that I canned in the summer.
For years now, I have regretted that Christmas is celebrated so early in the winter. Couldn’t people have waited until winter got good and nasty to have a big celebration? In December, even here in Minnesota, we can never be sure if we will even have snow for Christmas. In February, it’s a sure thing. In February, I am hungry for something to celebrate. I have become half-bear, convinced that hibernation would solve all my troubles. I, who love to get out of bed and go for a run at 5:00 on summer mornings, can hardly roll over by 8:00 on February mornings. I feel sleepy, swollen, and stupid; weary of the piles of clothes from which I must exhume myself every night for bed, weary of shoveling snow, weary of refereeing the ridiculous arguments and murderous brawls my small children have made their full-time occupation.
I know, the Christmas celebration lines up with the winter solstice, celebrating the return of the sun and longer days. And I do feel a glint of joy in February when I notice it is 5:00 and the sun is still shining. But, oh, how lovely it would be in February to saturate the house with the crooning of Nat King Cole, bake up a passel of Christmas cookies, fill up the calendar with parties and . . . the kids’ room with newly opened presents . . . and . . . hey, wait a minute, that sounds exhausting.
Skip it. The afternoon winter sun is radiating through the window, and I can just sit here and let it warm me, with no mental stress over cookies I’m not baking, parties I’m not planning, or even weeds I’m not pulling or gorgeous summer day I’m not taking full advantage of. I’ll bet there will be brilliant stars out tonight, with moonlight glowing over the snow. Alright, February, I surrender.
I’ve been surrendering too – lately to the fact that excercise, the intensity of which I would pay healthclub fees for in the summer, is free of charge in the winter when you don’t own a snowblower!
yeah – and i always give myself extra chocolate after a shoveling job!
Very nice, as always Julia. Canned ketchup, I’m so impressed!
thanks Karl! Yeah, it’s really good ketchup, although nothing like the grocery store variety – which has been disappointing for my kids, but they’re coming around. We’ll make gourmands of them yet!
i can relate with the idealized version of life and the real one being not quite so relaxing, especially with little kids around! currently they are bit under the weather and both napping… a bit surreal! thanks for this post. i enjoy your writing very much.
Thanks Sarah! I must admit, i sort of like a day when the kids are under the weather. I mean, only just a little, which is the way they always seem to get sick – just tired and sluggish, not really in pain. Then they lie around on the couch and I can lie around too 🙂 We are looking forward to seeing you this summer!
My how I laughed when I read this one. Especially after an evening of jumping, rumbling and wrestling with Silas and Luthien. Cabin Fever is setting in big time for them as well as for us “mature” adults. I’m sitting here typing and looking at a cobweb that goes from my front window to the light fixture and I don’t even care. It will still be there tomorrow. Cleaning can wait. I’ve gotta get out of here and go see Avatar!I love you Julia Bloom! – Hey, how about a chocolate chip cookie night next weekend – it’s my birthday and we should party.
mmm . . . did you say chocolate?!
Thank you for the gift of a smile! I chuckled when I read this. At first I felt a little jealous of your perfect life. As I read on I found comfort in the familiarity of noisy children and sneaking chocolate. I really enjoy your writing. Thanks for giving me a knew perspective on February!