The sky was blue. The sun was high in the sky. And these were the smiles of my brother’s daughters.
We made New Year’s cards this year that had a cover with the image of the sun sitting on the horizon. We left if up to the viewer to derive a meaning — something like Ben Franklin’s observation about George Washington’s chair.
If I know the fair and industrious Trudy well, her preferred interpretation might differ from mine. Which is fine; that was after all the design’s purpose. But I’ll leave you with a less unambiguous version of mine:
The radar shows pink and purple to the west — the stuff of severe thunderstorms and tornados. The rain hasn’t arrived, yet. There’s no thunder or lightning. The storms are approaching only slowly and are still far away.
Still, the wind is picking up, and the wind chimes hanging from the eves are ringing. And if you walk into the back corner of the yard, back far enough from the eve-hanging chimes, back by the compost pile, you can hear the harmony of the new wind chimes that we hung beside Guinness when we laid him in the ground. They don’t ring loudly, so we don’t usually hear them from the house, but their gentle music is a joy to hear.
I wonder what Guinness thinks of this. The wind. The ringing of those gentle chimes. He wasn’t much for windy days. And bells would always set him to barking. But somehow those chimes seem sufficiently soothing that perhaps tonite the storms won’t bother him as they pass over his grave.
Perhaps. Or then maybe perhaps not. He really didn’t like the thunder, and here it comes now.
They stood there looking at the blackboard, craning their necks, staring at the equations and the calculations and the trajectories. The white men in their white shirts and skinny early 60s ties and the colored computer Katherine Goble Johnson.
They puzzled over math they didn’t know — elliptical to parabolic trajectories. And then her eyes went wide.
“Euler’s method,” she whispered and ran off to get a book.
“Euler’s method? That’s ancient!” one of the others said.
My brother: Four helicopters flew over our house again — the usual.
Me: Black olives!
Me: Deep dish?
Him: Grilled cheese actually. With tomato soup.
Me: Ha! That’s what we had for lunch. No olives.
Me: Our furnace is on the blink. Blower kaput. Lucky we got good insulation on this house.
Him: How cold there? 7 degrees here.
Me: Low of 20 at night. Only 40s tonite, though.
Me: The blower is covered by the warranty.
Him: Oh good.
Me: Three year old unit.
Him: Nice. Will repair guys come tomorrow?
Me: Maybe. Depends on availability of a Lennox part.
Him: What color?
A purple hoodie. He was wearing a purple hoodie and running along the sidewalk. Two of his friends were nearby, one ahead of him looking back, the other running alongside. It was a sunny day at the end of the year. The holidays were just around the corner. And it was the beginning of the weekend.
And he was running down the sidewalk in a purple hoodie.
Out by the curb late at night. Orion is overhead. It’s the holidays. No cars are on the road. Down the street five or six houses, there is a riot of kids out in the front yard. They’re laughing and playing basketball. There’s no school tomorrow, because … it’s the holidays.
And they are running around in the dark of night playing basketball.
The holidays end tonite. Tomorrow it starts up again. And a decidedly lower-case new year.
I don’t know what to think or write or say when I sit here, these days. These nights. I’m stunned beyond my usual cynical self.
So I will sit in the sun on the weekends if it’s warm. And maybe even when it’s not. Looking down the street for the boy in the hoodie. Or listening for the racket of kids playing basketball.
Because their frames of mind are a better place to be.
The wind chimes are chiming in the wind in the backyard. The breeze is warm enough that the patio door is open, and the music is ringing in from the yard.
Other than the chimes, it is quiet out there. No cars. No kids. No racket in the alley. Undoubtedly, children all about have set out cookies and milk (if that’s still a thing) and hastened off to bed.
Miss Izzy is looking sleepy; she did a bit of hastening herself not too long ago. And the fair and industrious Trudy has also given up the ghost, having suffered an ignominious defeat at Scrabble — it was a one point game (to make up for that 100 point defeat I suffered at her hands over Thanksgiving). Ignominious indeed, as in marked by shame or disgrace, degrading, debasing. Yep. That was it. So she gave up the ghost only moments ago.
And here I sit, gloating alone at the keyboard. What fun is there in that? Maybe it’s time for this one to give up the ghost, too.
May the sugar plums be with you.
It’s cold for us, although it might be colder for you. You might look down your nose at our definition of cold. (I did, if I recall, see minus signs on temperature maps last night.) But thankfully minus signs never reach down here, so cold for us is when outside faucets get wrapped and cold-not-so-hardy plants get covered and a 75 watt incandescent lightbulb gets hung in the greenhouse.
So snippets from a cold day…
Izzy walks into the study and looks at me, certain that I will catch her drift. If I don’t, she’ll put her paws up on the side of the chair, and if I still don’t, she’ll scratch at my legs until I pick her up and slip her under the American Hearing Impaired Hockey Association sweatshirt that my brother gave me years ago. She curls up and lets out a contented sigh, and unless I get up, she will stay there — a lump under the sweatshirt — for the rest of the day (unless of course, the fair and industrious Trudy has something better to offer, like a browning chuck roast in the kitchen).
2. Mr. Guinness
His ears were always sensitive. He was wary of anyone reaching down to pet him, because they might rub his ears, and his ears often hurt. And he didn’t like the sound of unrolling packing tape — that scraping, unsticking sound that accompanies any effort to seal up a box before taking it to the post office.
As she seals up a box before taking it to the post office, the fair and industrious Trudy pulls on a roll of packing tape, making that unpacking tape sound. From the next room, I think the same thing she does. Guinness always objected to this, barking loudly to voice his complaint. This year, for the first time in 16, there is no complaint.
“Remind me,” I said a few days ago, “when it gets cold, I need to knock down the wasp nests by the front and back doors.”
Yes. We typically have wasps by the front and back doors. But we like our bugs, by and large, and those we don’t like are generally kept in check by wasps, and so the coming and going of wasps just above our heads is a cost we are willing to pay for the service they provide. Still, there’s a limit, and so typically we knock down their nests at the end of the year, so that at least they have to start over from scratch in the spring. Otherwise, the headstart leads to comings and goings of wasps not above our heads, but rather at chin-level, which has obvious downsides.
“David, come here,” the fair and industrious Trudy calls.
We stand at the patio door and watch a Titmouse come fluttering up to the eaves and pick determinedly at the wasp nest. It flies off and then returns and picks at it some more. And yet again.
I won’t have to knock down the nests, after all.
The weather was tolerable for our run today. Only a tiny bit of chill for the first five minutes leading those who had jackets (because it’s December, for cry-yai) to hurriedly shed them and tie them around their waists. The sky was a featureless gray, and there was a spitting drizzle that forced us to take off our glasses.
But the drizzle eventually let up, and the temperatures climbed even further. By afternoon, the sun was out, and the temperatures were approaching the upper 70s. The house was colder inside than the yard was outside; so we opened the doors and windows and let the warmth stream in.
But that warmth is about to be a thing of the past. A front approaches from the north. The wind is blowing in the canopies of the trees. The fair and industrious Trudy just completed the closing of all our open doors and windows, and she is studiously focused on online weather maps — maps that tell us within the hour the temperatures are going to drop from the 70s into the 30s.
And with that, winter will be upon us.