Allow me to fast forward: Olive was born via Cesarean section, and then we took her home, and seven weeks after that the two of us boarded a flight to Burlington, Vermont. We arrived at the beginning of December when the earth was bare, and as the days flew past we watched as the world grew white around us. What unfolded over the next month was the snowiest, the coldest, and the best Christmas season there's ever been. It was the coldest because of the gulf stream, the bomb cyclone, and other unknowable things swirling around in the atmosphere. It was the best because of Olive.
I am going to let the disorganization of this post serve as a testament to the current (and no doubt future) state of my brain. There appears to be a blizzard in my head at all times, and each twirling crystal is just a flake of a thought, some small particle of something I ought to be doing or ought to have done (my teeth, the bills, removing the toast from the toaster, fixing her sock, becoming famous in my field, choosing a field in which to be famous, the laundry.)
The specks of purpose and bits of intentions blow and accumulate and deepen throughout the day, and what continues to bewilder me is how I can never, ever accomplish anything at all. I'm home all day with her and yet my time is so splintered- three minutes here while she's content lying on a blanket, two minutes there as she stares, spellbound, at a bowl of fruit- it's as if even the possibility of productivity has been vacuumed away. When she does nap for more than half an hour, I'm so bowled over by the wealth of minutes available to me that I mostly just sit there, trying to arrange my to-do list by order of importance, and once that's figured out she's awake again.
Our days are peaceful, yet punctuated by quick spikes of panic- such as when I wake up in the morning WHERE IS OLIVE? oh that's right, there she is, she's right next to me HAS SHE BEEN SMOTHERED BY THE BLANKETS? No. Right then, on with the day- or when her father and I yank her from the depths of her enormous snowsuit and discover she's deeply asleep and pale with cold cheeks and we frantically pinch her awake just to ensure she's still alive, then just as frantically try and soothe her back to sleep.
Olive is a little bag of fluids, constantly spewing onto herself all the stuff that I just spent an hour putting into her, living in a world where every pillow is a potential death trap, and the one thing I accomplish at the end of every day is having kept her alive.
The thing is, she's so cute that I'm completely happy doing nothing but tending to her, and being otherwise useless to the world as the snow piles up around us. She's my smooth, shimmering, spun-sugar baby, created entirely of royal icing.
We took a trip into Woodstock for the annual Christmas Wassail parade. We were a little late- in truth, we missed the entire parade- and on our walk into town from Billings Farm, we passed about three hundred people shuffling back to their cars. They were wrapped up brightly in scarves and shawls and even little antlers fixed onto headbands, and yet not one of them made eye contact, smiled, said Merry Christmas!- because this is New England, and we do not acknowledge a stranger on the street, not even on this most festive occasion. (Oh, how I love that about the North. I can't explain it, there's just something truly wonderful about it.)
We enjoyed the bonfire on the town green, the soft glow of four hundred luminaires, the old friends we saw and the caroling that struck up as the day deepened into a cobalt evening. But what we really loved, truly, was watching in a sort of awe-struck horror as children from New York ransacked the life-sized gingerbread house in the lobby of the Woodstock Inn, prying the swirly suckers from the roof and chomping off big bites of the chimney as their parents watched passively from over the rims of their lemon-drop martinis and peppermint schnnaps while in the corner of the room, the pastry chef fainted in despair.
Every morning before Christmas we spent one hundred and twenty five minutes layering on long underwear, locating mittens, zipping up jackets and vests, and shoveling out the sleds, only to spend a fraction of that time outside before we lost Olive inside the folds of her snowsuit and had to rummage about to find her again, at which point I'd have to retreat back to the house to recover from the trauma of it all.
(Not really. I mean, not exactly, but that's certainly how it felt at the time.)
After Christmas day, the temperature took an unexpected turn and plummeted below zero, where it has remained ever since. I cannot stress how rare it is to have such arctic conditions continue for so many days- now weeks- in a row. I'm sorry to say this, but the big, drafty, poorly insulated farm houses of Vermont are a real bitch to keep heated, and I heard on the radio this morning that even the oil companies are running out of oil. The ancient farmer at the end of our road, Mr. Clay, has actually stacked hay bales against the sides of his home.
One morning, it was so frigid that I awoke to see this outside my window- a beam of suspended ice particles lit by the sun, reaching from the ground into the sky in a sparkling column. The bits of ice glittered and turned, neither falling nor lifting, as if the very air was frozen still. In thirty two years of looking out that window, I've never seen such a thing.
Throughout each wickedly cold night and sub-zero day, Olive napped warmly and often.
You may have noticed that I've told you about some things we did before Christmas, and what the weather was like after Christmas, but I've said nothing at all about the day itself. Olive received a tiny white rocking chair and a stack of chewable books that she already owned, and that was good, but Christmas morning did not stand out as it usually does. This is not because it lacked any of its usual luster and chaos, or because my older sister did not get overwhelmed and break down as she always does, she certainly did, but rather because every single day since Olive was surgically removed from me has felt like Christmas morning. In that I wake up bouncing with excitement- in that I can't believe my luck- in that every moment is infused with a sort of bright coziness and thrill.
And that's the truth.