I don’t care much for winter, at all. Yes, fresh fallen snow is beautiful for about an hour and I do love listening to The Nutcracker for all the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, but other than my great love of decorating for Christmas and enjoying the most splendid and cozy ambiance of my gas fireplace, there is very little that makes me feel really “happy it’s winter.” I’m pretty sure I have never uttered such a sentence. I don’t like to be cold & I prefer my windows to be open, so during these short biting months of the year I find myself mostly just wishing for the end of it.
A raw January morning 32 years ago, a perfectly round & pink & healthy baby girl was born, and that first winter of her life, oh good lord that was dreadful…a poorly insulated house on a cold empty island with nothing much to do, and my job being closed until April, and a bad husband and a bad marriage; it’s a wonder really we made it through to the spring, but we did, that perfect little baby and I, and we grew together from that winter on. While it’s true that we ebbed and flowed in and out of the other’s schedule and life for a short while after she graduated from high school, we have otherwise been a fixture in each other’s world for all of the days of her life. When my daughter texts me something like, “please come help me” be it because of a mouse (once), a mess (many), a bird in the house (twice), a spill, some blood, an injury, a husband, a child, a dog, or troubles or tears, I can be there, to help her, in about 117 steps. I can also be there to celebrate any achievement or joy, or kitchen creation or copied from Pinterest perfection. The point being, I am here, right here next door for her, no matter what. We have been neighbors for more than eight years now, and while I don’t care much for winter, I do care, a lot, for my proximity to my daughter and her daughters.
When I built this house on this piece of land it was with the knowledge and intention of helping my daughter to raise her children and while her house was finished four months before mine, there was no question that we were doing this together. Despite the cold and snow, the bitter blowing winds, and too early for my liking sunsets, and bleak gray days that fill the weeks of winter, there is always a bit of sunshine in my heart knowing they are so close to me. I feel glad knowing I am there for any of them if they need me and I am content here at the back-end of our compound when they don’t. Any woman who is a mother knows that the feeling of helplessness and agony one has, how positively heart-wrenching it is, when a child, be it a wee one or a grown one, is hurting and there is nothing to do to help…so while I don’t like upset or troubles, or messes or mice or blood and injuries, I do like, very much, that when I am needed I’m more often than not, able to respond immediately…no matter how old your baby grows, she is always your baby, and wanting to soothe and comfort your baby, however necessary, is part of the job of ‘mother,’ and it never goes away.
There are mornings that I really don’t want to go to the bus stops at 7:02 and 8:02, but taking the children to their buses gives my daughter extra minutes for herself every work day, and it allows me to be the last kiss and kind words each little girl receives as she begins her school day. My daughter’s job as a teacher gives her the summer off and paid holidays, but it does not afford her the flexibility with her time that my job does. In fact, the few times I have been away, my daughter’s thanks and gratitude is overwhelming when she realizes how much I do that helps her. Being available to help is part of my job right here right now, but I’m also well aware that it’s temporary…we all grow, and circumstances change, and soon none of those three will need me, and I will know that this phase of my life’s purpose, and my place on this earth is complete, and I will move onto my own next chapter.
EVERY time I have traveled south of south Jersey I think the same thing; why don’t I live here? And while I love this house I’m almost certain that when I’m an old lady I don’t want to be near cold and snow, and bitter blowing winds, and too early for my liking sunsets, and bleak gray days…when I am an old woman I want to be where it’s hot, sunny, with palm trees and warm breezes and sunsets that don’t arrive until dinner time…but as long as this woman next door is raising her children and I am needed, no matter the weather, there’s no place I’d rather be…