Midwinter Mail

On a day when winter seems determined to seal over our house in a re-emergence of the Ice Age, the mailbox yields something interesting besides the usual jumble of instant recycling.

My daughters collected the mail and left it on the kitchen counter. When I walk in from work, the girls tell me about their days. One daughter fries bacon, the other presses pecan halves in a geometric pattern in a pan of brownie batter.

I toss out the junk assortment of credit card inquiries, a bank’s repeated request to sell me life insurance. The state has kept us on their health insurance, and announces this in three different envelopes. Glossy Taproot magazine sends two copies of their recent issues with an essay of mine, utterly satisfying me. At the stack’s bottom is a fat envelope with court papers in my attempt to collect child support. Earlier that morning, I’d decided to walk away from that battle, but perhaps not. I toss the envelope on my desk.

The jumble of mail, I can’t help but note, reflects a tiny facet of our life, and I’m wondering what jammed up the neighboring mailboxes. The girls are full of energy about a walk they took that afternoon on the local trails. Well after five o’clock, daylight hasn’t given up yet, and that seems a kind of promise, despite the snow surrounding us in a mimicry of Shackleton’s ice. A better ritual than mail is dinner. One daughter lights the candles. The cat mews an inquiry for bacon scraps.

Living with two teenagers through a prolonged winter, with heaps of snow and nearly endless cold has likely brought me to this same and extremely familiar place: what the heck, exactly, am I doing? This has been a philosophical winter, but, good lord, I’m ready for some barefoot weather. But enough. We’re warm and well, and did I mention a collection of essays about schizophrenia came in the mail, too…..?

All I see in hindsight is the chaos of history repeated, over and over, reenacted, reinterpreted, the world, its fucked-up heart palpitating underneath us, failing, messing up again and again as it winds its way around a sun. And in the middle of it all, tribes, families, people, all beautiful things falling apart, debris, dust, erasure.

— Valeria Luiselli, Lost Children Archive

Kids’ trampoline, hibernating on the lawn….

By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

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