Putting the Year to Bed

The cold is coming.
December's winter solstice.
Start of the season.

~Robert Pettit

As I write this, the washing machine is swishing and the dryer is humming, loaded with linens and towels. The beds are stripped, and the guest bath is temporarily towel-less as I give everything a quick onceover, beginning the process of restoring order. Thanksgiving is over and the exciting whirl of the weekend is winding down. 

Two sets of kids have just departed. One doesn’t have too far to go. The other vehicle, with a backseat packed door-to-door with cat carriers stuffed full of three unenthusiastic passengers, is headed back to Chicago. After stashing the last few pieces of almost forgotten this and that, along with some sandwiches, we hugged and made them make the same old promise to let us know when they get back. Long before the digital age, long before unlimited long distance, we used to promise to signal we were home with the “two ring” method. Letting the phone ring twice, and then hanging up let parents know we were home, but didn’t incur any telephone charges. I usually made the call while Tim slung sleeping children over his shoulder and hauled them off to bed.  

As I slowly walked back inside (Tim moved a little faster, as “The Game” was on) I sent up silent prayers for their safety as they journeyed, along with all the other holiday travelers back to their own homes. 

While it has never been my desire to run a bed and breakfast, during the holidays, I definitely do. But, it’s perfectly okay, because although we rarely have guests other than our children, I thoroughly enjoy fussing around making each room cozy and welcoming before people burst in the door. They are laden with bags, usually a guitar, suitcases and train cases, and parcels of goodies. For me this time, there was a bottle of smoked paprika from a favorite Chicago spice shop. One benefit we have over any B&B we’ve stayed in, the guests strip the sheets off their beds before departing. 

I am always grateful when there is a little slice of November left after Thanksgiving. It’s a peaceful time and gives me a chance to regroup and reenergize for the rapidly approaching December marathon. I need a few days of no seasonal décor to reset. Although, as I put the pumpkin spice candles away, my eyes fall on a big ceramic bowl on the table, and unbidden, my mind leaps into decorating mode and thinks about how lovely that bowl would be heaped with cinnamon cones – maybe with that new string of tiny lights strung through it . . . I reel the creative muse in and wrap her snuggly with mental floss, because I have other things to do before the tubs of Christmas decorations in storage chime in with their siren call. 

We are putting the year to bed. Frost sparkles in the mornings often now, and with most of the trees standing stark and bare, the horizon has opened. Summer birds have flown and the slate colored juncos – the snow birds – arrived weeks ago. Extra bird feeders are hung in the wildlife garden and some of the nest boxes are stored away for nesting time. There is always one more garden task to be completed as winter approaches – a forgotten planter is hauled to the shed and a muddy spot by a water spigot requires a top dressing of mulch. Deposed from their place of honor on the front porch, we chunk pumpkins, wizened now after a hard freeze, into the compost. They sink into the mounded leaves, maybe to become wildlife fodder, maybe to be reborn next spring as a mystery vine that will creep up over the hill. 

We pile fallen oak leaves in the banty hens’ run. They are suspicious at first, but coaxed by a piece of stale bread, they gird their feathered loins, poke their beaks out of the coop, and finally wade in. 

It’s time to bring Fizzbit the rabbit into the garage for the winter. He is just a little guy, so I feel better knowing that when the weather is consistently cold and damp, he will be snug and dry – as we will be, too. Early darkness is brightened by a warm supper, a fire on the hearth, and an old cat curled in my lap, contentedly purring. 

Photo: Will Morgan