Growing up, I spent Thursday nights with my grandparents. My parents always had choir rehearsal, so Thursdays were Grandmere and Grandpere days. We had our routines - I would practice the piano, Grandmere would cook dinner, I'd tidy the dishes, we'd watch Dick van Dyke in Diagnosis Murder. Grandmere told me about her family, and we'd do our nails, and she'd show me her jewelry boxes full of treasures. Friday mornings meant buttered toast, or oatmeal, or cereal topped with sliced banana and honey. In the winter, those mornings were also taken up with watching the news for signs of snow.
Before the internet was what it is today, the only real source for up-to-date weather information was local television. Nothing was so delightful as watching the line at the bottom of the screen cycling through school closings. Grandpere and I would sit enraptured as school names flew by; now, as an adult, I wonder if his years in the school system as a teacher and administrator informed his excitement. After working as a Paraeducator, and watching my parents rejoice in snow days now, I can understand that grown ups want their days off, too. Maybe Grandpere never gave up that thrilling feeling of an unexpected holiday - maybe he just loved the snow.
I have many memories of snow, though in the midatlantic region, wintry precipitation is never guaranteed. A lot of my memories revolve around Christmas. I don't think I've ever again experienced the peace and calm which was waking up at my grandparents' house after a Christmas afternoon nap, the smell of dinner cooking and snow falling softly on the giant holly tree out back. And there are few moments which can compare to two in the morning on Christmas Day, snowflakes after midnight mass, Grandpere, our poodle, and I leaving our paw- and footprints in the snow. Otterbein's cookies, eggnog, fatigue and anticipation.
So, it's snowing today. My parents and sister have the day off. I was supposed to spend the day with Grandmere - understandably, we had to postpone. My husband went in to work, but I'm secretly hoping that he'll be able to come home early so that we can snuggle up with a soft blanket and a Christmas movie (or Doctor Who - what's more romantic than science fiction?). But at the moment, I am, as always, sitting on the porch. I've got my mug of rapidly cooling coffee, my choral Christmas station on Pandora, and the hope that the view of snow falling on the pine trees behind our apartment might match those mornings with Grandmere and Grandpere.
It's a bit cold. But that's okay.
There are so many times, so many memories, when winter was troublesome or difficult for me. Having an extra allotment of parents led to crowded and sometimes tense Christmases; the dividing up of presents, for example, could be difficult - what things went to which house? Would my mom get to see me play with the gifts she bought, labeled "From Santa?" And Grandpere - he so wanted, as I have stated, for us all to share in Christmas together, but as I grew into a young adult it became more stressful, I think, for all of us. As I struck out on my own, I couldn't shake that feeling, the forced nature of the holidays, the idea that I should be happy when so often I wasn't.
Now, with my husband, every year is getting better. He loves Christmas, really loves it, and his love has made me want to be happy - not only for him but for myself. I have endeavored to be reborn into Christmas - and now that I think of it, isn't rebirth what Christmas is all about? Whether you're celebrating the birth of Christ or the return of the sun or just the huddling around warmth on the longest night, we are all ushered into a new day, a new year, a new self. Each year I make Christmas better because I've realized my need to be reborn, to let go of past struggle and become something more complete, someone happier.
As I sit on my porch, writing and drinking cold coffee, I'm watching the snow fall and thinking about all of the good things which come at winter. The ticker tape on WBAL, paper-thin sugar cookies, eggnog with Pikesville Rye, gilded advent calendars, choosing plates and silver for Christmas dinner, lighting candles, dancing to the Christmas Revels while decorating the tree, ruby glass cups filled with green and silver foiled chocolates, picking out the smallest tabletop trees with my mother - happy things, loving things, things done in the cold. Poodles, choral music, string quintets, my stepfather's arrangements, M&M Christmas lights; my husband's cookies, crab points, football, bowling, Waterford crystal, big families.
I know it isn't Christmas yet - it's Advent. Christmas is a solid twelve days (there's a song about that, you know) and the month before is supposed to be about quiet reflection and preparation. But today, snow is falling, and I have my coffee, and Rankin and Bass are calling to me with glitter and a red glow. And I'm remembering those other mornings, Grandmere and Grandpere and laughter and delight. I don't think it's wrong to celebrate those things a bit early.
I think I should celebrate them all year.