Yesterday's News

By Scott Snyder

The weather changes, and predictably, we try to adapt. It's a time of the year to bulk up, to grow a winter coat and hunker down. There's a long, cold season in front of us.

I'll be moving soon -- in a month or so -- and winter is a bad time for moving. Ideally, by winter you've lined the cave with insulation and laid in a few quarts of nuts and berries. All of that should be finished by December. The hibernation instinct has taken on a more opposable-thumbed facade over the ages; but about now, night falls before anyone can even get out of work, and the car heater blows icy air for a couple miles, and the sheets are cold at first. And the hibernation instinct is as strong as it ever was.

This is the time of year for foods that recall hot chocolate on a snowday -- things like macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes. It's also a good time to have a friendly cat, though it's not a good time to get one. You want to have the relationship established by now, and not have to spend hours saying, "C'mere, psst psst psst," or worrying whether the cat's entirely litter trained. It's a good time for jigsaw puzzles, and Scrabble -- pastimes that require very little movement, none of it below the quilt-swathed waist.

My mother is near done buying Christmas gifts by this time most years. She doesn't want to contend with the cranky shoppers, dragged out of their caves by a tradition of (grumble grumble) generosity and good cheer. She hates cranky shoppers, and she knows they'll be cranky, because that's how she feels. And she wouldn't want to contend with anyone who feels like she does -- with good reason. Christmas brings out the best in my mother, but the three weeks before Christmas can bring out her worst. I think that's probably true for many of us.

I know a lot of folks who would have trouble riding winter out , were it not for Christmas. They would forget to be nice to anyone -- it's likely they'd forget even how to be nice. Come spring, they would be nearly unthawable, like tundra permafrost that never yields up the earth. I don't like to think about it much. There may be many things wrong with the holiday season. It may be crass and commercialized, and far too loud to let anyone celebrate peace. But I wouldn't want to try doing without it.

I hope to be done moving by Christmas at least, and not in a limbo of cardboard and transition. I'd like to be home for the holidays.

They say there's no place like it.

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