To say that you and I are not soul mates, Old Man Winter, would be an understatement of absurd proportions. My soul, which yearns only for warmth and sunshine and lightness of being, feels nothing but oppression under your dark, brooding skies. And yet, in one of life’s more amusing ironies, I now find myself deeply indebted to you for a granting me gift as gracious as any I’ve ever known.
It was in your steel-cold gaze this year, that I found my path back to motherhood after becoming a mother of a mother for the first time. Your harshness, the very thing from which my spirit instinctively recoils and retreats, ensured I would be a mighty protector of the tiny one in my care. After all, an infant needs little protection from a gentle summer breeze, a wrap of sheerest gossamer will surely do. But protection from a merciless New England winter, well, that’s a different matter altogether. For that, the fierce defense of a mother—or a mother’s mother—is needed.
The first moment my daughter’s daughter was entrusted to my arms, I began fashioning the fortress, weaving together strong and sinewy fibers of love and nurturance, secure enough to withstand your toughest onslaught. And you didn’t disappoint, Old Man. Within days, you unleashed not one, but two genuine “Nor’easters” on us, but that only served to drive the tiny one to me closer still. The more bitter your temperatures grew, the more tightly my arms sheltered her. The stronger your icy winds gusted, the further she and I nestled down, snug in our cocoon of blankets on the couch.
For hours on end, trees branches thrashed violently to and fro, and fat, wet snowflakes slapped hard and loud against the window panes, but inside our fortress, all was a hushed calm, punctuated only by the soft, rhythmic breathing of contented infant slumber. For eight weeks I lived in this magical world within a world, a chrysalis of transformation.
Now you have largely packed your bags and headed on your way, Old Man, and for the first time in my life I feel a bittersweetness at our parting. Our joint work here is done. It’s time for both of us to loosen our grip. Just like the tender green shoots pushing through the soil in the front yard, sturdy little arms and legs are now stretching out, kicking off the confines of swaddling. The little baby-bird mouth that once searched blindly only for milk now opens wide for cereal and mashed bananas and other growing-up food. The full glory of spring is nearly here for all of God’s precious creatures.
So, I must thank you as you go. Within your forced confines, I retraced my steps back to the some of my happiest days of early motherhood. You gave me the chance to love again as a young mother loves, not with gift cards and flower deliveries, but with showers of kisses, squeezes and rocking to sleep. My baby has not been a baby for more than thirty years, but the yearning to cradle her in my arms never diminished. For years I ached to feel again the fullness of heart that only a full lap can bring. And, Old Man Winter, you gave me that and more. Huddled together with my new granddaughter on the couch, decades somehow mysteriously collapsed and I was once again holding my own infant daughter. In loving my granddaughter, I was able to experience loving my daughter all over again.
Next November when a brisk wind sends the last leaves scattering to the ground, I’ll still turn up my collar and scurry inside to the heat of the fire. But, not before I turn my face skyward, to gray and threatening clouds, and send you a knowing wink for all that you have given me. Because a mother—or the mother of a mother—never forgets.
Lee Gaitan has worn many hats in her 25 years as a professional communicator, from public relations writer and television host to stand-up comedienne and educator. She is the author of two books, Falling Flesh Just Ahead, and the recently released My Pineapples Went to Houston—Finding the Humor in My Dashed Hopes, Broken Dreams and Plans Gone Outrageously Awry. She has also authored a chapter in the bestselling book, The Divinity of Dogs, and is a blogger for The Huffington Post, Midlife Boulevard and The Good Men Project. She lives in suburban Atlanta with her husband and dog. Connect with her at www.leegaitan.com; https://www.facebook.com/mypineappleswenttohouston; www.twitter.com/LGPineapple.Winter