Sunday, January 6, 2013
Our Christmas tree sits on the curb, ready for tomorrow’s yard waste truck. Yesterday Alexi and the boys watched USA win the World Junior Hockey Championship while I packed away the last of the holiday decorations. Our snow gear is back on its shelf in the garage. I took a second pass through our pile of holiday cards and letters as I ate lunch today, studying each one with a leisure I didn’t have as they came in. There were lengthy typed letters, some embellished with computer graphics, that included details about family vacations, lost teeth, geography bees and injured dogs. There were photos of the children of our childhood friends; of the boys’ long-ago preschool classmates, some almost unrecognizable to us now, some the same as ever. So many photos and stories of a multitude of lives entwined with ours, near and distant. We’re getting ourselves in order, inside and out, for the resumption of our individual lives tomorrow: school for the boys, work for Alexi, tasks at home for me.
New Years Eve, at the end of an afternoon of packing and organizing and preparing to leave town, as the sun set, Alexi opened a bottle of champagne for us; I opened a bottle of sparkling cider for the boys. The four of us ate dinner in stages, starting with small, clean-tasting Kusshi oysters at the kitchen counter until Alexi’s hand ached from the opening. We moved on to king crab legs at the dining room table, picking the succulent meat out of the shells. I put artichokes on to steam, and it took longer than I remembered it should. We ate them last, sitting on the floor around the coffee table as we watched a movie, pulling off the leaves and dipping them in melted butter before stripping them of their tender meat with our teeth. The ease of the evening combined with the exquisite flavors gave it a celebratory air.
New Year’s morning, not too early, we drove to the mountains. We snacked on clementines; the boys played Minecraft. When we arrived at our hotel, I checked in as Alexi took the boys to play in a patch of snow alongside the parking lot. The three of them were alight with unparalleled joy: pelting snowballs, fleeing; cackling, wrestling, cavorting. They do everything in the snow with an abandon that never ceases to amaze me. I have never lived with abandon.
My senses go on hyperdrive in a new climate. There is always an initial shock to the cold. The snow crunched under our boots. There were icicles on every surface that could form them. The fir trees were encrusted with frost. The initial tedium to the layering and the bundling with every trip in and out quickly transitioned to habit. The day ended with making s'mores - marshmallows take forever to roast when it’s 15 degrees outside - then soaking in a hot tub surrounded by snow. Alexi read from one of the Harry Potter books until the boys fell asleep. Years ago, traveling to and from the same mountains, Alexi read aloud to me from the same book as I drove. It was a surprise and a pleasure to find the snow still there when we woke.
They each want Alexi to read with them at bedtime; compete for him all the time. But in the middle of the night, when they can't find the light switch in the unfamiliar hotel bathroom they come to me. When they're sick and they’re tired it’s me they ask for. The trip was not perfect. Cal woke up with a stomachache, which turned into a full-blown stomach flu. I spent the day in our room with him while Alexi and Abbott skied and skated; he, piteously sick; I, looking out at the ice and snow as I read and offered comfort. The following day, I woke up sick, and the next night, back at home, Abbott and Alexi followed suit. Still, we were all very glad for the time away. The trip has added to our memory bank of family time in the snow. It’s always good getting away, and it’s always good coming home.
Epiphany Sunday is almost over. Our house feels empty where the tree once stood, yet more light gets in. The Seahawks have won. Downton Abbey will premiere in a short while. I’m ready for this year and all it holds.