Chestnuts roasting on an open fire settles softly in my ears like snow, and this time, right now, it doesn’t seem festive. It seems filled with longing and a wistful sadness. Or maybe it’s just me. Or Tony Bennett’s voice. I stare and stare out the window, lost in the space-like abyss of snowflakes.
My baby makes a mess of her black beans, off to the left my boy whines. My husband attempts conversation. I imagine the moment from an outside perspective as the soft glow of colored lights encircles a beam above us, my kids cozy in winter sweaters, warm food in front of us, the restaurant festive. And I see the frosty edges of the window, the ice crystalline and cold, the snow like powder, and dusty.
When I was a girl, I thought little for the future because I expected life to stay the same. It didn’t; and now I mourn the loss of a hope I didn’t know I had. Simply: there are five siblings, two parents, nine grandkids, four spouses, four different states, too many different traditions, and not enough wherewithal to endure a holiday airport. I want a house teeming with family. I want a year when there will be no more heartache, no more bad news, no more hurt feelings, no more death, no more questions about who-what-when-where-why-how-could-you-do-this-to-me?
Right before dinner there was a text: my younger brother would by flying in that very night—for moneymaking though, and not merrymaking. Simply: two days, lots of real estate, no time for fun, but what about snowboarding? In the hopes I unknowingly pinned on my brother as a child, our future-adult December visit was supposed to be under alternate pretense: he would tote along his own children (he doesn’t want kids) and we would celebrate Christmas together (he doesn’t want to celebrate). Harrumph.
The snow finds frenzy in the path of overhead light cascading from a street lamp, Tony keeps singing, Although it’s been said many times many ways, Merry Christmas to you, someone launches an ice cube, my baby’s hand is warm on mine. I’m done with my tamale and I don’t remember chewing. Many times, many ways”¦
Who knows? Maybe there will be a moment for us—me and my brother—to sneak away and get up on the mountain. Maybe we will share a chair ride to the top. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll be wearing his ski mask so I’ll forget that we’re grow-ups and as the snow falls around us and we try to catch each fleeting flake on our tongues, we will laugh. But until then, I resolved to be delighted, to stop focusing on the window’s edges of frost and pay more attention to the rosy scene, playing out center stage.
Because even though life seems less golden, it’s still gold. And even though I try to perfect it, my brother is still here. For the holidays. But more importantly, so are they. My pink-cheeked, throwers of ice and beans.
(And they aren’t going anywhere.)
Outside in the parking lot, a car turns on its headlights momentarily blinding me. Inside, I look away from the window and back to my family while my oldest asks in earnest, “What’s for dessert?”