Two Thirds Through Twelvetide

Standing at the window at the tail-end of a very cold December day, looking out across the snow-covered garden, I think, “This is a job for Little Cat Z.”

A vivid pink cloud of brick dust—a byproduct of the rebuilding of our house foundation—has settled across the clean surface of the snow, creating an image straight out of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.

I have no VOOM!—the atomic cleaning force activated by the raising of the tiniest cat hat—with which to erase the pink snow spots that, come spring, will be smothering my grass. Nor can I do anything about the obstacle course of tarps and PVC pipes and concrete blocks that make every trip outside with the dog an expedition. But I do see a few silvery flakes sifting past the garage security light. When eradication fails, sometimes concealment serves.

The work we’ve done on the house this year has involved a lot of making things temporarily worse in the hope that in the long run, things will be much better. As a result of this constructive homewrecking, throughout Advent our house had jackhammers instead of jingle bells and muddy boots instead of mistletoe. With the demolition of the foundation immediately preceding the onset of Ohio’s arctic blast, I spent a couple nights babysitting the plumbing. Every hour or so, I wandered through the slumbering house turning faucets on full blast, lest we add busted pipes to a casualty list that already includes the lawn, a great many drywall joints, our driveway pavement, and the back porch.

But on Christmas Eve, we cut the very last tree and headed back home to start the Christmas season anyway, ready or not.

Now that we’ve reached a place in life where we no longer feel obligated to create holiday magic, we’ve also realized that such magic is incredibly easy to conjure, even in the midst of chaos. When the house is lit only by colored lights and candles, we don’t really notice its scars.

Soon after Epiphany, when the tree has been reduced to firewood and the contractors have left and the midwinter thaw has revealed all that the snow has been so benign in concealing, I know I will groan for want of voom. But for now I’m just grateful for the blunting of sharp corners.

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