The arc of the sun is so small these days—I watched the sunrise at 7:20, while I hustled children into snow pants and checked for lunches, admonished children to finish breakfast. By seven-forty I needed to turn off the heat, the morning sun blazing in for my morning cup of coffee.
Children left for school and I headed north for The Big Shopping Trip: I make one trek per year to the Hanna Anderssen Outlet, a little more than an hour away, just past the border of Maine. No traffic, beautiful snow-lined highways, a gorgeous day for driving. While a minivan on the highway is not the best way to take in sunlight and sky, some days it will do. I arrived today to find everything I touched listed as “an additional 50% off,” so I doubled the quantities of children’s underwear, socks, tights. I meant to buy pajamas but the clothes were actually cheaper than pjs, and likely as comfortable.
I looked up from the parking lot of The Gap Outlet and gasped—I come here once a year, maybe twice, and I’ve never noticed the town is located alongside a beautiful tidal river. What a sad waste of beauty, this world of parking lots. My two shopping hours were over, though, so I left the river and the parking lot with my stash of practical goods.
Of course, I have a parking lot, too, and it’s useful. My kids are sliding on the ice below, now dragging the sleds up the stairs. I just dropped three cups of navy beans into the pressure cooker with a half a gallon of ham stock, frozen from last Easter. When the whole pot is cooked I’ll see if I need onions and carrots, cloves and orange zest—or if I put in good flavors long ago, in which case it will need nothing but cornbread. We’ve eaten luxuriously over the weekend, and I’d like nothing better than this simple soup. Others may hold different opinions.
The last of the winter-pink sky is nearly gone—it’s five p.m. The moon shines brighter than the last remnants of sunlight, still glowing to the right of my window perch. The pressure cooker hisses and the window steams. Time to call them up, to begin the daily rounds of drying out boots, mittens, snowpants, socks. Tomorrow when they leave for school I will see how my stuff stacks up, what treasures I've collected through the year. Treasures from my Santa Fe trip for each child, from August. Other treasures hidden from view while I shopped in Indiana, right beneath their noses, in October. I need to learn to tune a ukelele for a girl who likes to sing (shhhhhhh! Don’t tell!), and how to hide the paucity of gifts for mama and daddy, always a challenge.
Five-ten p.m. and the sky is pure night, now. Kids moved to the snow in the backyard, unwilling to let the day go. The soup smells like perfection to me, though it needs another twenty minutes or so. If my nose is any judge, I added the good flavors at stock-making time. My mother would laugh at me asking "what kind of wine goes with ham and bean soup and cornbread?" (My mother would say, there's no such thing. My answer is, the bottle that is open...) Time to preheat the oven and set out ingredients for kids to make cornbread. Time to set up things for the evening routine of baths, violin practice, homework, and construction of Christmas gifts.
I’m unwilling to let the day go, too, it seems, sitting here typing into the dark. Red wine, shiraz, that is the bottle that is open, and a good choice to go with winter dark and smells of home.