(the title of this post is excerpted from "End of Winter" by Louise Gluck)
by Liz Flaherty
We have lots of stuff. After 45 years of marriage, who doesn’t? Usually when winter begins its wind-down, I’ll start thinning out. I’ll have a trash bag in each room half full of things that are too small or not liked anymore or that were a dreadful mistake to begin with. It’s when I’ll start exercising again, too, speaking of thinning out, and get my eating under some semblance of control.
Some of the things we have in this cache of stuff are treasured parts of our family histories. We have a few religious prints Duane’s mom has given us, her first rosary, my mother’s old treadle sewing machine I learned to sew on. I have a couple of teapots from my mother-in-law’s collection and a stack of plates—I think there are five or seven, an odd number; I wonder who broke one—that have been in my family 100 years.
But there’s been illness in my extended family lately. Not only the recurring and lingering flu-like malady of the season, but open heart surgeries and deadly infections that have us walking hospital halls with disquiet nipping at our heels. What if he doesn’t come out of it? What if she never wakes up again?
“Eat this. It will make Kay (my sister-in-law who is a nurse) happy,” I told my mother-in-law the other day, trying to tempt her nonexistent appetite.
Mom gave me the stink-eye—you’ve all seen that; it’s a job requirement of being a mother. “Then let her eat it.” I snorted laughter and Mom's grin was fabulously wicked.
It was then that I was reminded. That stuff doesn’t matter. What matters is the sharing of time. Of memories. Of laughter and wicked grins.
Hopefully all the family members will be well as winter comes to its end. I’ll have my garbage bags out soon, but as long as there are more things to laugh about, more memories to share, more time, I don’t really care if I fill them or not.
And all the while weaving memories into my writing – a turn of phrase in Southern voices, the scent of new hay in the loft, the feel of fresh-turned soil under bare feet in the spring, treasures I can share with readers I’ll never meet.
by Helen DePrima
I disagree with T.S. Eliot. April isn’t the cruelest month – February is. The holidays are a fading memory, New Year’s resolutions have largely gone by the board, and even the earliest planting of peas and spinach is a good month in the future. Here in New Hampshire we have our biggest snowstorms and bitterest cold in February, a boon to skiers but just plain wearisome to those of us whose winter sports are shoveling out and carrying in wood for the stove.
February is a great time to attack closets and shelves, to decide which are treasures and which are only possessions. Extra jackets, mittens and caps fly out of the hall closet to thrift stores and shelters for those who need them more than I do; books I know I won’t re-read find new homes where they’ll be appreciated. Duplicate household items go to the local charity for veterans furnishing homes, sometimes in transition from living on the streets.
And still I feel weighed down with stuff, much of it brought from my grandparents’ farm in Kentucky, links to my childhood home gobbled up by Interstate expansion. I’m not quite ready to start parceling out mementos to nieces and cousins who still recall the white clapboard house among towering maples and oaks, the shadowy barn with horses stamping in box stalls below a huge hayloft, and my uncles’ vegetable garden that fed the whole family. I do like thinking who in the family might enjoy the lithograph of Old Rosebud, the only Louisville horse to win the Derby, and who should get the wall clock taken from a closed-down Louisville & Nashville railway station in Tennessee.