Thursday, December 26, 2019

Winter Wonders

Early this week, my youngest child and I walked home together through the sparkling darkness of the first night of winter. It’s not a long walk from my folks’ house, where we’d been to a Christmas party. Maybe a quarter of a mile, a journey of 10 minutes or so. Short though it was, that was the best part of my day.

At first, my daughter wanted to use the flashlight of my phone to see, but I convinced her to turn that off, said our eyes would get used to the darkness – that we could find our way by starlight. “The stars give off so little light,” she said, though she acquiesced.

Off went the phone light, and we set out to navigate through the dark, with only the glint of stars above us and the glimmer of snow below. Vague outlines of tree branches reached inward and upward from the sides of the road as we stepped toward home. No cars drove by, no dogs barked, and we heard no voices but our own, talking about this and that.

We walked slowly through a wide tunnel of trees, descended the little hill near home, and turned onto our own driveway. As we reached the openness of our field, our view of the stars expanded, and I picked out the few constellations I could and pointed them out to my daughter. The Seven Sisters, Cassiopeia, Orion with his distinctive belt. We searched for the Little Dipper and speculated where others might be, shifted now from their summer locations.

With our heads turned upward, we exclaimed quietly together when we identified a recognizable form in the sky and marveled at the vastness of so many stars twinkling overhead. They may give off little light, those stars, but that does not diminish their magic when you’re gazing at them from Earth, as a tiny human amid a vast universe.

We both agreed we had made a good decision in choosing to walk home, rather than drive.

This type of quiet, one-on-one time with any of my children is rare. And as they approach teenagehood – with two of them arriving there in mere weeks – we are all often busy with various activities and responsibilities. And our mother-child discussions are, well, not always so relaxed and agreeable.

As I held my daughter’s hand and listened to her sweet voice, I breathed it all in – the cold December air, the twinkle of stars and snow sparkle, the serenity of this moment under the winter sky.

I’ll tuck it away with other winter wonders. The richly layered colors of sunrise, late though it comes these winter mornings, and the alpenglow lighting the peaks in the evening. The sparkle of snow on trees. Rosy cheeks and warm socks. Hot cocoa and a blaze in the fireplace. A soft blanket to wrap up in.

The quiet of darkness. Stars shining in the cold night sky. My child’s hand to hold, as long as she’ll let me.

Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted to her blog, Writings From a Full Life. This essay also appears as Meghan's Close to Home column in the December 27, 2019 issue of the Littleton Record.

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