It’s winter in Massachusetts. The air is cold and damp and the ground is constantly squishy from the disappearing and reappearing frosts each morning or the frequent drizzle. We finally paid someone to clear the leaf, stick, and tree debris from the pre-Halloween hurricane. A task I finally had to admit I was incapable of doing alone as I stared at a two plus acre yard piled high with the memory of fall. Fortunately we only lost a few very large branches thanks to Sandy but they proved too daunting for us to deal with on our own – the lone family in the woods without a chainsaw. The forest took the brunt of the high winds and felled a sea of trees with some still attached to root and earth as they toppled, leaving craters in the ground.
The black and yellow garter snakes that slither through the grass, surprising us with each step when they make their presence known, seem to have retired for good. I’ve seen no evidence of them but for a three-inch piece of tail that suggests our neighborhood mouser came upon the rest. The ticks, abundantly plentiful in summer, show no sign of lessening. The dog still manages to pick them up on her golden coat even after several days of frost, as does my youngest daughter (sans the golden coat) who now has now been bitten by both summer and winter ticks. Thankfully, her overly sensitive skin alerts us to the first bite, which helps us get them off that much sooner. And the moths… In the summer our house is covered with moths, pulled out of the forest by the lights. I had assumed they would die with the first frost, but we have just as many as we did before. The temperatures can be in the 20s, but at night with the kitchen lights shining the windows are covered with tan and fluttering wings by the dozens. I didn’t realize East Coast bugs were so butch.
We have had two brief snow showers. The first was very pretty, but didn’t leave any trace that it had visited. The second put an inch or two on the ground for a couple of days and made the Christmas lights sparkle that much brighter. Ben and I went to the holiday party for the newspaper I write for, our first night out in town socializing as a couple. The snow was falling steadily as we slowly made our way through the woods at 25 MPH, the ever-present and seemingly obligatory white candles shining in windows and lighting our way. I don’t think I ever saw those white candles through all the Christmases we’ve spent outside of Massachusetts and had forgotten how pervasive they are and how much I adore them.
We made our way down a narrow and winding private drive and came upon a magnificent home on a hill aglow with white lights and sweater vests. I will never get used to the jarring experience of visiting a modern and large home after living in our little 18th century tavern. For the first few minutes I find myself inspecting windows, appliances, staircases, layout and molding – discreetly of course. It was not lost on us that the all weather sun porch was more energy efficient than our entire house. I try to imagine how wonderful it would be to live in this town and in a modern, well-insulated home where you don’t feel cold air coming from behind a light switch and can’t see into the basement when on the main floor and looking down at the place where the floor meets the wall.
The gathering made it clear just how many smart and interesting people live in this town, and this was just the over 50 crowd. We must have been the youngest couple in the room give or take a few snacking teenagers. Another jarring experience now that we are back in the land of older parents – we are young again! Only in this town can I be considered a young mother at 43 since my oldest is already 7. The fern covered fountain of youth is still bubbling. We drank our polite servings of wine, engaged with some very interesting party guests, and made our way back outside after a few hours, slowly walking down the steep and snow covered driveway.
After getting to the car, we scraped a thick layer of ice off the windows, and congratulated ourselves for finally purchasing snow tires. We were able to actually drive up a moderate snow-covered incline without incident. Following the Christmas lights back to our house, we pulled into the driveway admiring our twinkling deer and color-changing LED lights on the front lawn before crunching through the snow and entering the side door, back in our small and drafty, but incredibly charming, home.
Seriously. Does this place have a bad season?