We had a lovely Christmas in the mountains, and we had dutifully checked off each real winter experience on our lists: skiing, sledding, snowball fights, snow angels, Christmas day sleigh ride, hot chocolate. We stomped our boots at the front door to knock off the snow clumped around their laces and hung wet mittens to dry while little ones were changed into warm pajamas. It was a perfect little dose of winter for these warm weather bones, but our vacation was scheduled to be over that morning thank you very much.
The unwrapped presents were packed in the back of the car next to the overstuffed suitcases, the kids were strapped in their seats, but the tires would only spin maddeningly, looking for purchase on the stretch of road just at the base of the driveway. The inches of snow that had erased all evidence of our loping winter games from the hillside also erased all hope of us sleeping in our own soft beds in our own warm house that night. I looked over at Sam, his hands draped hopelessly across the steering wheel and his jaw clenched to bury the tirade he wanted to offer the layer of snow sparkling peacefully in every direction.
Sometimes when there's nothing else to be done, perhaps especially when there's nothing else to be done, I cannot stop bumping up against what feels like the distinct unfairness of my lot. Back in the house, the rest of Sam's family was still eating breakfast and shoving last minute items in their suitcases when we filed back in to wait out the weather. I looked out the windows, nursing a bitter kind of frustration at being reminded just how little control I have over anything. The sun was coming up over the mountains, a fiery red sliver that became more and more orange as it revealed itself.
Surrender is rare for a control freak like me, and when it comes it's like a wordless prayer that just hums right through me. That morning I looked out at the mountains, at the speckling of trees far as I could see and the red sun climbing doggedly into another day, and I gave myself to that wordless prayer of not-my-will-but-yours-be-done, that blessed relief of acknowledging how little control I have over anything.
Tonight another year groans with the insistent ache of the dying. Its midwinter breath is cold and thin, its light weak like the watery eyes of an old man. The skeletons of spring's proud trees rattle their arms in a brittle dance of mourning.
I slip from this year as if releasing myself from a shroud, leaving behind a handful of sorrows I have carried with me throughout the year, clutched like stones in an angry fist. I am reminded that the only memento I will carry with me into the new year is a fresh batch of lines pressed into my forehead. Though I yearn for the hopefulness of other New Year's dreaming and scheming, I am clouded by the death rattle of a year in which I feel I was angry and sad and disappointed. How can the new come from this, I ask myself.
But tonight, I also think of that morning in the snow. I remember how I threw my coat on and grabbed Lincoln and threw his coat on, too. I remember how I took him outside to let the snow fall on our faces, to let the beauty wash away our disappointment. I remember how he stood on the bottom step of the patio because he hates walking in the snow, and yet he gave a happy yawp to the sky when he saw how the snow made his mamma smile. I remember how I spread my arms to greet the damnable snow, how I turned my face to feel it, how I laughed into that moment of surrender. All day long, that joy stayed with me, though our plans were shot and we did not, indeed, get to sleep in our own soft beds that night. Still, that night, when I closed my eyes, it was in the arms of the man I love, with my babies snoring in sleeping bags in the next room. It was in a warm room because my sweet in-laws, who put us up for the night, know how we hate to be cold.
Tonight is New Year's Eve eve, and my boys are asleep in their rooms. My husband is on his way home from work, full of stories and probably cold and ready to warm his hands on my cheeks. Tomorrow we will say goodbye to the year that I had as little control over as any other I have ever known, though I admit it feels a more fiercely independent set of a dozen months than most I have known.
So, I will close my eyes and throw a blanket of snow over this dying year. A blanket of redemption to erase the scars and ruts and divots that tripped me time and again these months past. I will throw my arms out and tip my chin up to the sky and laugh that next year I will be just as helpless to control anything as I was this year. But I will laugh, too, because for every scar and rut and divot waiting for me, there is also a blanket of snow to blot it out. For every sorrow, there is a red sliver of sun coming over the mountains. For every angry fistful of loss, there is the hum of surrender, just waiting to surprise me when I least expect it.