Our daughter is now twenty and in her second year at UVA. I find myself missing her more than ever recently. And today, as I look through the charming old cards we’ve saved from her childhood, I wish I were on my way to pick her up from preschool so we could enjoy a celebratory afternoon together. My favorite Valentine’s Days were those when my daughter was a toddler. See Fool-proof Valentine’s Days, a post from 2012.
I also have cozily pleasant memories of making Valentines with my mother throughout my elementary and middle school years. The preparation was the high point. The actual day tended to disappoint. Young love, for me, as for many, was elusive and unrequited. See The Best Part of Valentine’s Day: Before the Day.
On this Valentine’s Day, I wish you comfort, love and happiness. Don’t fall prey to the hype. Those false expectations of perfect romance are set by merchandisers hoping we’ll buy into hollow dreams. Instead, call a friend, make a card, spend an hour with a child or an elderly person. Someone out there may need you to be their Valentine.
Three days ago we had more snow in Northern Virginia. We were treated to the Bichon Frise of snowfalls: pretty, petite, very fluffy, and generally non-threatening.
It frosted tree branches and fence railings with crystals of sparkly white.
Accumulation was minimal, only about two inches, so clearing walkways was an easy task. No snow blowers required.
At my mother’s house, the fluffy white of the tree branches anticipates the cherry blossoms that should bloom in a few months.
When I walked Kiko on Tuesday evening, the snow had ceased and the temperature remained pleasantly frosty.
But the bitter cold was on its way. The polar vortex, which has relentlessly gripped the middle of the country in its icy iron fists, has extended its reach to the east coast. On Wednesday, temperatures were falling. The TV weather people talked breathlessly about the extreme “feels like” temperatures we were to expect, due to wind chill. And sure enough, the wind was soon rattling the windows of our old house and making ghost-like moans, such as can be heard in Scooby-Doo episodes. As Kiko and I walked that afternoon, the wind caught up the fine dry snow and tossed it along the road, looking like white sand whipping across a Florida Panhandle boardwalk before a thunderstorm.
Even on grassy areas, the snow looked like beach sand carved by a fierce wind.
Kiko glanced up anxiously each time a car passed, slowly negotiating the frozen surface. The sounds made by tires shattering glass-like ice chunks were improbably loud, akin to fireworks or gunshots. The sweet little Bichon that appeared on Tuesday is turning mean. Seeking revenge for being left out in the cold, maybe?
Wednesday morning, when we walked around 8 AM, the wind had died down, but the temperature was 3. Of course, that’s balmy compared to the sub-zero deep freeze that the mid-west has been experiencing. (No need here yet to set the train tracks on fire as they’ve been doing in Chicago.) I wore my dog-walking layers and several creatively tied wool scarves. (My hair actively rebels against every cold-weather hat I’ve ever tried.) Kiko’s lush, cashmere-like undercoat has grown back after his summer molt. This year my senior dog has become content with a shorter walk when the weather is less comfortable. On days like today I’m grateful that he is no longer compelled to traverse the entire neighborhood on frigid mornings. Until recently, we put in at least a couple of miles no matter what the weather. (See Baby, It’s Cold Outside! from January 7, 2014.)
This morning, a light snow is falling again. The temperature has warmed up considerably, to 17. I let Kiko persuade me to venture out of our immediate neighborhood to the stretch of old country road where we begin our usual walks with the pack in decent weather (when schools aren’t delayed or canceled, as they’ve been much of this week.) The roads didn’t look particularly threatening, and there would be less traffic with no school. But before long, I realized our error. Kiko slipped on an icy patch hidden by new snow. He recovered quickly and didn’t appear to be hurt. His preference is to walk in the street, and it’s always a struggle to keep him safely on the grassy shoulder. Today it was an absolute necessity. Several times I almost went down. Kiko knows what it means when I yell “Slow! Slow!” in my most authoritative pack leader voice. He doesn’t like it, but he understands, and he even obeys. He lives in the moment, so I kept up the commands each time we were forced to cross a street or driveway. Under great emotional duress, we made it to Kiko’s favorite nearby park and back without physical mishap. It was, to say the least, not an enjoyable outing for either of us. It’s also an understatement to say that I had dressed far too warmly.
A reminder to everyone this winter: beware the worst threat of the cold: ice lurking beneath fresh powder. The lesson of the Bichon Frise of snows is this: enjoy its congenial, lap-dog charm. Bask in its pure white fluffiness. But don’t be surprised when, a few days later, it turns nasty. It will still look beautiful and easy-going. You’ll think it’s your old familiar friend. But without warning, it may have unleashed the ice-veined coyote-hyena hybrid that dwells within.
Our first big snow of the new year arrived like a polite and thoughtful visitor: with plenty of advance notice and on a weekend, allowing time to prepare. We even managed, for the first time ever, to put two cars in the garage. Here in Northern Virginia, it was a modest, unobtrusive snowfall; the flakes were often so fine as to be barely visible. But it was persistent, steadfast. By Sunday morning, about seven inches had accumulated. That afternoon, there was a brief lull, prompting my husband to break out the snow blower too soon. Well into the evening, the flakes floated down, tiny and delicate. Our final total was ten inches. A perfect amount, it turns out, for Kiko to romp through with ease and zest.
After our cool, wet spring, the drenching, unrelenting rains of a warm fall, followed by an arctic blast and snow in early November, it was refreshingly odd to experience a taste of weather that actually suited the current season. A deep but manageable snow in mid-January! How quaint! How so last century! And how very pleasant!
It was the perfect snow. The only thing less than ideal was that our daughter, who appreciates frozen precipitation in every form, couldn’t be here to enjoy it with us. She was home for nearly a month, but the winter break had drawn to a close, too quickly. On Saturday morning, well before the first snowflake appeared, she was on her way back to Charlottesville to begin the second semester of her second year.
I’m thankful that my furry child completed his formal education years ago (a few weeks of puppy training, which had a negligible effect on his behavior) and remains home to keep me company.
During the height of pre-Christmas hubbub, as the humans in our household fret the fine points of preparing for the season, Kiko maintains his air of customary quiet serenity.
He is the tranquil eye of our holiday storm.
He gifts us with his presence as we wrap gifts.
Kiko keeps calm as we carry on.
This December I’m taking Kiko’s comforting presence to heart. I’ll step back from the edge when I feel myself about to plunge into holiday overdrive. My gifting will focus less on those who have everything and more on those who have little. I will say no to some proposed, supposedly festive activities. Our Christmas cards will become New Year’s cards, sent out in early January. Maybe mid-January.
I’d like to hold my little dog up as some kind of spiritual mentor. I could pretend that he’s a holy fellow, engaged in prayerful contemplation, actively resisting the rampant secularization of Christmas. Clearly, Kiko abides “in that place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God,” as in the words of a favorite hymn.
But I know he simply enjoys a good snooze. Apparently, as a senior dog, he needs to sleep more now than during his teen years. And should he wish to help with gift-wrapping or cookie-making, he lacks the hands to do so.
But my handsome dog, lying in sweet repose, reminds me that I can allow myself a time-out. Every once in a while, I join him on the sofa for a nap.
Typically, Kiko endures my company for only a short while. Then he gets up, stretches, shakes vigorously and resettles on the floor. Please, he says, don’t mistake his desire to snooze for a need to cuddle. Unless there’s a chance of thunder, of course.
Back in the days when Wild Trumpet Vine was young, I managed to compose many Christmas-themed posts. How did I find the time? I have no idea, except that I was younger then, too. And evidently I had more to say. December has only just begun, but if the past few years have taught me anything, it is this: the month will dash by as though in a sudden sprint. December moves at warp speed. Much like last year and the one before, there will be little time in these short, dark days for writing. So, from the Archives, posts for the season, which I conveniently grouped together this time last year. Some deal with surface treatments, the baubles and the glitz, and others dive deeper.
Winter, it seems, has lost patience with Fall’s indecisive performance. Citing erratic attendance, lack of enthusiasm, failure to fulfill responsibilities, and a prevailing aura of general ineptitude, Winter has pressed for, and now accepted, her predecessor’s letter of resignation. Fall admits that her heart just wasn’t in it this year.
And so on this November 15, the Northern Virginia area is experiencing our first “Winter Weather Event.” A mixture of frozen precipitation has been falling since the pre-dawn hours. Schools were first delayed, then soon cancelled, as the snow-like substance continued to fall, and to accumulate.
In this season of confusion, unexpected sights: snow on roses and red maple leaves, and autumn leaves on snow.
Several hours ago, the snow turned to rain. The neighborhood streets are rivers of slush. My boots, it turns out, are no longer waterproof.
From an undisclosed, pleasant-all-year location, Fall looks up from her Guava Colada, lays aside her Kindle and remarks with a wide smile, My, my, could Winter be having second thoughts about starting work five weeks early? Now who lacks enthusiasm?
The look and feel of fall has been slow to arrive in Northern Virginia this year. The brilliant hues of autumn, in skies and foliage, have been largely absent. Thanks to persistent and soaking rains, the landscape is washed in the dullest of grays and browns, like those of an old trench coat. Like the one that hangs in my closet, ugly but utilitarian. And during these frequent fall downpours, too often worn. It’s only within the last week or so, now that many trees have lost their leaves, that others are finally beginning to show some color.
When the sun does emerge from the clouds and lend its brightness for a while, we’re not accustomed. Above, Kiko appears bewildered by the glowing golden vision ahead. Below, a few images of fall’s all too rare and fleeting glory.
Yesterday Kiko enjoyed the unusual luxury of morning sunshine on my mother’s deck. Today the rain is back, and a winter-worthy chill is headed our way for the weekend. Gather ye sunbeams while ye may. And hold on to that old coat, or pass along to someone who needs it more than you.
A blog about motherhood, marriage and life: the joys and frustrations, beauty and absurdity, blessings and pain. It's about looking back, looking ahead, and walking the dog.