Between the Woods and Frozen Lake
The Christmas lights weren't going to hang themselves. The box of lights, staples and some plastic clips designed to adhere electrical wires to the overflowing gutters had been working as a doorstop for days. It was time they earned their keep. Besides, it wasn't getting any warmer.
The overnight low had been in the single digits. The high wasn't even old enough to drink. I finished my second pot of coffee and like Griswald before me I plugged into the season.
I stood on a ladder made of ice. Visions of sugarplums breaking their necks danced in my head. I was, for a moment, glad that my children were not there to see it. But I lived and I am lit and I never even touch the stuff.
Today I woke to another sunny, frozen morning. Yellow-breasted robins appeared outside my window. A number of blue jays bounced from branch to branch and perched upon the rail in front of me - their colors vibrant and brisk.
They put the lights to shame.
If I stand on my rooftop I can see a lake and hills and then another lake and hills again. Beyond that, blocked from view, is a skyline that falls into the sea and a coast that leads south to a place where my family can't see the ocean but for the mountains between them.
It's mostly side streets from there.
The boys play loudly on a floor with the toys that they packed themselves. There are no holiday lights or signs of the season. There are no stockings or carols or television specials, just the gift that they don't know they are giving.
In the corner of the room there is a bed with their grandfather in it, watching them play and whispering their names and every new goodnight is their last goodbye.