December

Hello from the end of December, the end of the calendar year. Though the whole world disagrees with me, I have always preferred to think of winter as the last quarter of years that begin in springtime. It makes more sense to me to be starting afresh when the snow is melting, the green things are greening, the baby animals are being born, and people are venturing outside again after their long winter naps… but as I say, the rest of the world disagrees with me, and so be it.

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It has been a mild, wet December for us, after the early snows in November. We are breathing a sigh of relief about it. Nothing we do depends on having a hard winter, so we’ll take rain and gloom over snow and ice any day. The less shoveling the better. My husband and daughter have even taken several long rambles in the woods this month, which is nearly unprecedented. Me, I prefer a tidier approach to being outdoors: if I need to wear mittens to be comfortable doing it, I don’t.

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We did have our daughter’s first small disaster while they were on one of these walks. She was running, and she tripped and fell. Her forehead broke the fall. She ended up with admirable scabs on her forehead and nose, but her teeth–which my husband was initially concerned about–are fine. So is she. This was the first time she had shed any considerable amount of blood in her short life. Yes, we know we are lucky. I thank stars every day that my child is a physical coward.

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December is, of course, the month of holidays. We are a Christmas family ourselves. Near the beginning of the month I spent a morning making my stab at decorations. I really love them–at my age, the decorations are the best part of the holiday. My husband is more of a cynic when it comes to celebrations, so I never expect him to appreciate such efforts… but he took it upon himself to thank me for them. That was a warm spot in the middle of a chilly month.

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December is also the month for baking. My daughter is the perfect age to want to “help” in the kitchen. I measure out cups of things, she pours them into the mixing bowl. She’ll tell you herself that she can’t do eggs or molasses, though. Too sticky, slippery, and all-around difficult for three-year-old hands. We attempted a gingerbread house and some gingerbread cut-out cookies early in the month. She promptly ate them, long before the real holiday began. Such is life.

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I am getting really old this year, I can tell, because overeating isn’t worth it anymore. There’s been a glut of good things to eat in the house, as there should be, and I enjoy eating them but the payback is miserable. I will be glad to get back to my workaday diet, grumpy as that sounds. Probably I should be scouting for gray hairs and shouting at the children to get off of my lawn.

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Mild as it has been, this has been a winter for deer. Great flocks of them roam around the house. It isn’t unusual to see four, six, or eight at a time. A nearby house feeds them on purpose, which is part of the reason why. The increasing clearings in the woods do it, too. Many parts had previously been too thick for them to make their way through. Over the summer a lot of brush was cleared out. Now they can congregate comfortably among the tree trunks, and graze on what grew new before the weather turned.

In the really cold winters we don’t seem to see them. I have always wondered where they go, in deep snow. They don’t hunker down like bears.

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And now we enter the rebound from the holidays: the cozy-at-home time. The days have begun to lengthen, and ordinarily the cold would begin to strengthen. January is the month of being happy indoors, of soup and socks and making idle dreams about gardens in the summer to come. I’ll see you at the end of it… at which point we’ll talk about February.

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