Friday, November 30, 2012

Snow Dreaming

I rose early in the morning, pulled back the curtains, and was thrilled to see a light dusting of snow dotting the neighborhood.  What a lovely surprise!  I wrapped up in my soft robe, grabbed my camera, and slipped outside into the cold dimness of the late autumn dawn.  I desperately wanted to capture this snow before it disappeared from sight.  Years ago, snow began to fall in late November and continued throughout the winter months.  We were blessed in the Northeast with consistent snowcover, lakes and rivers covered with thick ice, and the promise of crisp, cold air each day.  In the 1970's slight changes in our winter weather began -- less frequent snowstorms, less snow volume, and slightly higher temperatures that melted the snows between storms.
Now, due to the global warming which is finally being acknowledged by those who denied it for so long, our winters in the Hudson Valley are shorter, warmer, and much less beautiful.  I miss the snow.  I miss its capacity to smooth the contours of our landscape, to provide protection for the roots of my perennials, to soften the harsh noises of the world.  There is nothing so peaceful as a winter evening walk with fresh snow underfoot, and snowflakes falling gently -- the earth is hushed and so is my soul.  I miss the traditional Northeast Christmas, with its twinkling lights and evergreen trees against a backdrop of white.  I miss moonlight reflecting on a snowy landscape as I take one last look out the window before snuggling under my quilts.  
And so, I am wishing for snow.  Today the temperatures were cold and the air was brisk -- it felt like late November should feel.  But, the weather forecast for Sunday and Monday is predicting temperatures in the high 50's.  So, I wait and wonder.  Will it snow for Christmas?  Will it snow at all?  Will my grandchildren be able to make snowmen and slide down snow-covered hills?  I realize that global warming is bringing with it much more serious problems than the lack of snow in my little corner of the world, but this dearth of snow saddens me.  Maybe my wish will come true, and we will have a few snowstorms this winter -- we have had some winters with snowfalls close to normal.  Maybe one of these mornings I will wake to a snow-covered world; maybe we will walk out of church on Christmas Eve to snowflakes drifting down to gather on the sidewalks.  For now, I will hold my memories of snow-covered winters past closely to my heart.

Friday, November 23, 2012

And Christmas Begins --

As the Black Friday mobs trekked through the malls, my Friday was a gentler, quieter day.  By tradition, I always begin my Christmas decorating early.  On Thanksgiving Eve, I place a single candle in each of my front windows, and I rise early Friday morning to once again carry boxes of my treasures down from the storeroom -- the Christmas season has begun.

When my children were young, my decorations were chosen with them in mind -- I recall a cardboard fireplace, a handmade Advent calendar, a Santa that squeaked, angel chimes, reindeer galore, and a tree decked with colored lights, tinsel and children's ornaments.  Each year we made a special trip for each child to pick out one ornament for the tree -- a collection that they would take with them to their own homes when they were grown.  Christmas in our home was child-centered.

I reminisced about those wonderful years as I carefully unpacked my "grown up" ornaments today.  My tree is small now, with tiny white lights and Victorian ornaments in tones of ivory and mauve, and lovely fabric ribbons cascading from the top.  My collection of St. Nicholas figurines graces the sideboard; a small group of delicate angels resides on the tea cart, tiny birds snuggle into the greenery, and miniature frames holding baby pictures of my children and grandchildren hang from delicate ribbons on the tree. 

While I loved those chaotic family Christmases, today I find much peace and contentment as I sit quietly and savor the beauty around me -- the greenery, the tiny lights, the candles, the music.  I am glad that I labored this morning with the many trips up and down the stairs and the careful placing of greenery and decorations.  My home is filled with the warmth, the beauty, and the spirit of Christmas, and I am content to sit here alone and savor it all --

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Heart of Home

My library nook
For years I have sought to determine the elements that elevate a house from a mere building to a home.  As a child when I visited school friends and relatives, I was drawn to certain houses much more than others.  In retrospect, I realize that the homes that spoke to me were the ones that felt warm and welcoming to a child. 
As an adult, I have come to realize that there are many different opinions on homes.  Some people view their homes as a measure of their success -- they want new, upscale and large.  There are those who love the serene look of a pared down decor -- a few quality furnishings and accessories.  Ease of entertaining is a requirement for many -- an open, flowing floor plan.  Cozy log cabins are a popular choice.

While I can appreciate the beauty of many different houses and styles of decor, what I find most appealing  personally is warmth and comfort, and the look of a home that reflects the personalities of its owners.  I love to see a little "clutter" here and there -- books, magazines, a piece of knitting in a corner, family photos -- something that leaves clues to the everyday living that takes place within its walls.  I love kitchens with children's paintings on the refrigerator and counters lined with well-used utensils.  I love cozy throws in the living room and plants scattered here and there. 

Several years ago I met a woman with the most beautifully decorated apartment.  I loved it.  However, as we became friends I realized that the apartment did not reflect her personality at all.  She had hired a decorator, and while it was lovely, there was nothing in it that was "her."  She was an interesting, vital person, and yet there was no trace of her life and interests in her perfect apartment.

My home is an old Victorian that has been in my husband's family since 1924.  I have loved it since I first saw it, and now it is a comfortable little haven as I grow older.  It shows its age, just as I do, and it has sheltered my children, grandchildren, friends and family through all of these years.  The refrigerator is covered at this moment with my grandchildren's precious drawings; the kitchen cabinets and floors are in dire need of updating; the dining room is graced with a large table which is a bit rickety now, but has been in the family for generations.  The books that I love have overflowed my little library nook; every room could use a fresh coat of paint.  But, it has tremendous heart -- no one could walk into this house without feeling welcome.  It is obvious that I love teacups and flowers and books.  Often, there is something simmering on the stove or baking the oven -- wafting aroma through the air.  It may not be a showplace, but it definitely has heart, and, in my opinion, that is one of the most important elements in the transition from "house" to "home."

What makes a house feel like home to you?


Saturday, November 10, 2012


"Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments." -- Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
My mornings are a tightly scheduled dance -- out of bed and ready for Alivia's arrival at 6:30 AM, a few minutes of cuddling and reading with her, preparing breakfast together, and leaving in time to arrive at Luke & Emma's house by 8:00 AM.   We are greeted with hugs and kisses when we arrive, and then we have about a half hour to be sure everyone has been fed and dressed, enjoyed a bit of playtime, and gathered together schoolbags, coats and hats.  I hurry them all to the car, buckle them into their seats, and we drive to Alivia's house so she can catch the school bus for kindergarten at 8:57.  As soon as Alivia is safely on the bus, we drive across town to Luke's preschool, which begins at 9:15. When Emma and I finally arrive back home at 9:30, I am exhausted.

We soon realized that we were arriving at Luke's preschool a little early, so instead of waiting in the hallway for the door to open, one morning I took a slight detour over a lovely country road nearby.  Luke was immediately captivated.  That first morning the sun was shining brightly, the trees were showing off their magnificent autumn colors, and the dusky mountains rose behind them -- a blue so deep it was almost purple.  There are farms dotted along the road -- some well-kept and others with tired old buildings and machinery lying about.  Luke loves the barns.  A tiny green valley lies at the heart of one farm -- with cattle scattered about and sheep grazing lazily on the hillside.  A small family cemetery sits atop a hill.  Luke calls this the "pretty road," and it has become our morning destination each day. 

One morning we spotted a farmer's field filled with Canadian geese sunning themselves.  It seems there is always something new to see on this quiet old rural road.  Luke points out each of his favorite places and asks the deeper questions that rise in his mind as he travels through this serene landscape.  Yesterday morning we stopped for a group of wild turkeys who couldn't quite decide which side of the road they wanted to explore -- the cornfield or the shady stand of old trees.  We have both grown to cherish this little detour.  I love watching Luke's response to the natural beauty around him, and he loves the old barn that is falling down.  And, I know that this year will be over quickly and Luke will be getting on a school bus next year.  Our little drives over the "pretty road" will be a thing of the past, but, for today, these are moments that we both treasure.