Make Your Own Light

December 9, 2014 by Ellen Stimson in Christmas, Decorating, Family, Living With Intention, Marriage, Mothering

 It sure happened fast didn’t it? One day we were walking with the dogs in the woods and smelling that loamy leafy smell of leftover autumn and the next we were snowed in for Thanksgiving. It’s been cold too and now there is a nor’easter on the way.  The days are all a run of pewter. Early winter in the mountains is a lot like living inside an Ansel Adams gallery. Only colder. The dark comes early and the low temperatures dip even faster with the sun.  We come inside sooner, cook more deeply, and tend a fire almost every day. The veil feels thinner this time of year. We notice and feel things that the color and noise of spring and summer cover up. There is a reason big feelings get described as raw just like this December weather does. There is a wistfulness in early winter and memories tend to echo. The dark days feel full of wishes and probably some regret. 

But the celebrations have also begun. It will be a mountain Christmas around here so dog walks  in the woods are a good excuse to cut holly and pick up white birch and pine cones.  There are piney boughs draped everywhere and winter berries and north country juniper in all the vases. We fight all this darkness with little white fairy lights strung along every porch and balcony. 

For the first time ever John and I will decorate the annual tree all by ourselves. For the last twenty-seven years our family has launched Christmas the first weekend in December by going to someplace new together. We have a big fancy dinner and everyone gets a new ornament and we drink egg nog and put the tree up oohing and ahhing over the ornaments they made in kindergarten and the bright white star that has traveled with this family our whole lives.  But this year our favorite teenager has been having a lifetime adventure in Fiji and New Zealand. He asked to extend his trip into Australia where he would be diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Yes was the answer we had to figure out how to give. And now he hopes to come home to Christmas in full bloom. And so he will. Our girl is in the middle of choosing a new life on a boat sailing around the Caribbean. And even our oldest who has made his own mountain home near ours is off in the American south producing a movie. They are all making up their own interesting stories and  big juicy lives. There is a wonderful contentment in that but there is also no pile of sneakers by the radiator when I get up to make the coffee. It’s true that I  can -and have- cried on a whole bunch of these cold mornings as a result.  But it’s also true that they are all coming home. They are loving their new stories and they want to come here and tell them to us. We get calls about Australian gifts that will go under the tree. Yesterday we heard about a shark our girl watched eating upside down on the bottom of her boat. And the filmmaker met one of his flyfishing heroes on the latest movie shoot. On those same calls they all decided Christmas Adventure still needed to happen. Just later. Fine by us. And they want to know if we’ve made any Oreshki yet and if the dogs are wearing Christmas collars. ” Thanks for making  Christmas Adventure late this year” “Did you guys get the lights up before the snowstorm?” “How big is the tree?”  

And so I will light one hundred tea lights and my John and I will open some winter wine and decorate this tree. We’ll drag down a bunch of big thick blankets and pile pillows all around the tree and neck like teenagers underneath in celebration and remembrance of the tree we got married under almost three decades ago. We’ll eat and drink at Abbie and Rogan’s, and kiss and act out in their restaurant where we don’t have to be anybody’s role models. People will wonder if we are having an affair. Little do they know.  

Sometimes you have to make your own light. Luckily we know just how …






  • Suzette

    Okay, I’m feeling the spirit. Serious decorating starts tonight. I have holly and pine in the backyard (even tho’ i’m not in Vermont) and will gather in between the rain drops.
    Thanks for a lovely column!

  • Librarylady

    I’ve been trapped in my dining room for over a week. First there were the Christmas cards, then the first round of boxes to be mailed. Now I’m up to my neck in tissue paper, ornaments, more boxes to be mailed and the gifts for here. We have no snow, but the symphony in gray skies and cold wind. You and John will miss the family, but I know as long as you’re together, it will be fine!

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