Our Perpetual Holiday

To practice night driving, my daughter and I set off after dinner, delivering a book and knitting needles to a friend. We’re laughing on the way there, and my daughter remarks, Why is it so dark?

I answer that I’m going to let that question lie.

At our friends’ house, we can see through the windows where the family is around the wood stove, talking, the walls painted yellow. I have a sudden flash of envy at the intactness of mother, father, two children, and then that passes quickly, too. At our house, warm and well-lit, with interior walls painted limoncello, we’re as intact as any family, too.

With my friend’s book in my lap, my daughter drives up the back roads, over ice and sand, through all that darkness. We reach the crest of hillside. There, as she drives and talks, I see across the valley to where a barn is lit in a long string of lights on the opposite hillside. Sporadic houses glow in the cold night, and not much more.

She drives down, then along the S curves along the river where I remember a terrible accident years ago. We stop and fill the gas tank. Beneath the bright gas station lights, it’s just us. I walk around the car, washing windows. In the driver’s seat, she watches me, and then I step back and bow. She shakes her head at me, amused.

Middle of February. Cold. A little chit in our collage.

Old Photos

The couple who last owned our home mail us old photos. When they bought the house, the 100-year-old dwelling was in ragged shape. My daughters and I spend some time looking at how the house has changed, and how it hasn’t.

I bought the house in good shape, and now we’re wearing into it, scraping and chipping at its shininess with our use. In the spring, we’ll open all the windows and polish our house again. In the summer, I’ll paint, as paint perpetually falls off in New England.

Once, I had thought to sell and move when my youngest graduated from high school. Now, like everything else in our collective lives, the future is uncertain. Shelter in place — a phrase I once believed would never apply to our Vermont life — directs the shape of our lives.

In the afternoon, I ski through the woods on the nearby trails. Just as I click on my bindings, I remember last night’s dream of a snowy owl… and then I wonder, truth or reality? I stand there alone, in the cold and under the overcast sky, wondering. For just a moment, I’m not sure. Maybe I really did see that elusive owl. Then I push off into the woods, silent but for the sound of skis over snow.