Leaves have fallen. Trees huddle without leaves. Winter's whispering edge and the sky's color slice time apart.
I am a child again, standing somewhere on the edge of a frozen snowy white field, my breath surrounding me. Stalks thrust up out of the new blanket. Animal tracks blemish the white perfection.
Everything is so white. "Where did the pond go?"
"It's still there, under the snow, so be careful."
Under the snow. Where has the sound gone? It's so quiet. There is no wind. Listening, I don't want to speak, I don't want to disturb this perfection. The sky is blue but the world is white. Where are all the animals? Where are all the birds? They must be under the snow.
The sky is dusk dark outside the big classroom windows even though it's early afternoon. Student artwork themed in pumpkins, fall leaves, turkeys and pilgrims cover the walls.
"Look, it's snowing," a class mate calls.
We look. We echo him, a mic in a classroom. Whatever we were doing is forgotten.
"Let's all go to the window and look at the snow," the teacher says. Chairs and desk legs scrapping the floor as they're shoved away, we rush the windows.
Overweight flakes hurtle down outside. A few swirl toward the window and rush away, remembering the rules, the windows are off limts for them.
Everything else is game on! Flakes crowd together, racing to see what can be colored white fastest. Look at the road, how quickly it is white. Look at the cars, look at the sky and the dark, leafless trees, everything is turning white.
Everything is turning white. Thanksgiving is coming. Christmas is coming.
White snow packs the roads and parking lots. Cars lumber past one another, slowed by snow's threat. The fan blasts out heat from dash vents and floor vents, and windshield wipers defend the windshield against the attacking snow. Thanksgiving was last week, eaten, forgotten.
It is Friday. It is December. Spotlight lit lots in shopping center corners offer Christmas trees, ten dollars, twelve dollars. Their signs are hand painted, black and white, mostly on sandwich boards, but some have red and green lettering, some are lit by strings of wind blown lights. Most of these are white but a few offer red, green, yellow and blue spots. The lights are pretty.
"What do you guys think of this one?" Mom asks.
'You guys' are the three of us children, my sisters and I. We answer, uncertainty coloring voices and answers, because we're not sure what we're doing, why we're doing it, what our roles are.
Mom guides her finned ship into a parking lot, edging past other ships until a space is found. Nothing is marked. How can it be marked in the snow? The snow won't stop. It falls patiently, waiting for us to give up. We bundle up, don gloves, ensure hats are on. I take my little sister's hand. We leave the warm car for the pine scented storm, creeping into a crowded forest of needles and talking. Questions and comments pass over my head as a man helps Mom, and my sisters and I follow, hands together, me, licking my upper lip as my nose runs.
A tree is found, purchased, loaded into the car. I still don't know what's going on. This is our tree? Why is it our tree? What are we going to do with it?
"It's Christmas," Mom says. She laughs. "We're going to put the tree up and decorate it. Won't that be fun?"
It means nothing to me. It's still snowing outside but we're safe and warm together, crowded in the front seat, watching the world pass. "It's really coming down," Mom says.
The Christmas Tree's smell fills the living room and sneaks into the dining room. Mom placed it in the living room corner but it can be seen outside through the window, too, so other people can see it. She's brought out boxes that smell like moldy paper. Inside are big, colorful glass ornaments, long tangled strings of lights, metal hooks, silver garland. She purchased new silver icicles and candy canes on the way home from work. These are brought out of brown paper shopping bags.
We untangle strands of lights, plug them in, looking for bulbs out of action, replacing them, Mom guiding us, doing five things at once. After the lights wrap the trees, we add hooks to ornaments and hang them, adjusting arrangments so no two colors or styles are too close, and there are no gaps. Garland is added. A star is put on top. Icicles are strewn along the branches. We are taught to properly strewn in handfuls of twos and threes, to avoid clumping. Candy canes are added.
Extensions cords are brought out. Lights and cords might. We turn off the living room lights and televison. I plug in the tree. Color fills the room, dancing with the pine smell. Snow is falling outside. We make popcorn and watch television and look at the tree and watch the snow.
Christmas is coming.
Thanksgiving is coming. The schedule is winding down. Most of my team is off next week. I'm not taking time off. Wednesday will be slow. I'm off Thursday and Friday, a four day weekend, a mini-vacation to recharge. I need to renew my health benefits by the 29th.
I have three vacation days to burn before the end of the year. Many engineers will be out during December. They can't take vacation during the year because there aren't enough engineers and we have so many projects.
Projects will stop in December during the holidays and vacations. Focus will turn to the holiday season, and closing out the quarter and the year. Today's first meeting is in a few minutes. Chat is acting up, it just went amber.
It's raining outside. The forecast is calling for snow. The snow level is 2500 feet. The furnace is running, its fan pushing its wind out of the vents. The sky is growing lighter. A reporter on the radio is talking about Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky, and Penn State, and the cats are asking for their breakfast menus.
I hope it snows.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com