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.