Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Subzero Homesick Blues

It’s cold back home — seriously cold. Starting to get into the below-zero range at night, with daytime highs of 11 or 12. (This is the real thing, friends, measured in Fahrenheit. Not that pathetic Centigrade scale.)

It’s cold there, and I am remembering icy nights when I slept wrapped in blankets and comforters, with Gabriel cuddled next to me. I’m remembering the apartment on Lydia Street, high ceilings, spacious windows, the first place that was truly mine since I moved from New Fairfield in 1984. I loved the big bedroom with the walk-in closet, the small but comfortable office and living room, the dining room with the farmhouse table and the Hoosier and the glass-fronted mahogany bookcase. And my own vast kitchen (gas stove!) with the pantry. Decent bathroom, too. And all five minutes from work, so I could go home for lunch when I wanted to.

(I mustn’t forget the deranged and violent neighbors downstairs, drunken and raving at 2AM, with three children whose silence was more frightening than any sound. The only time I ever heard a peep from any of them was the time I heard one wailing quietly, wretchedly, all night long.)

I’m homesick for hills like rising loaves, penciled in slate blues and greys beneath a cloudy sky, that miraculously warm to smoke-brown when the sky is clear. I’m homesick for snowbound fields brilliant under the full moon. Homesick for chill, for coats, for the comfort of heavy sweaters and hot tea. Homesick for leafless trees and frozen rivers, old houses shabby but solid, snow drifting across dark roads.

There’s a sign on a school near our house, announcing the end of the semester. When I saw that today, I felt a moment’s panic, because I didn’t know what semester might be ending, or even what day and month it might be. The seasons are an anchor, and I am unmoored.

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