As mostly happens, the snow storm that came through New England last weekend didn’t deliver the expected depths here in Northwood. New York and southern New England got slammed, but we only got about 8″, disappointingly less than the predicted 12″ — 18″. But I’ve been snowed in anyway, for reasons beyond the storm.
First, there was the storm. We got home Sunday night after three days of visiting and parties, just as the wind was whipping up the flakes. We woke Monday morning to continued snow and got right out into it, skiing for hours. By the time we got back to the house, cozy and snug in front of the fire, the wind got truly fierce, blowing sheets across the fields so the view out the windows was nothing but white, white, white-out. Tuesday morning when we got up to go to work, there were two almost four-foot drifts in the walkway between the porch and cars. I decided to work at home and spent a good part of the daylight hours shoveling and listening to the beep beep of the back hoe backing up as it cleared the drifting snow from my road. The pastures to the west are slightly higher than the road, so when the wind drives the snow off the field, it dumps it in the road, often sculpting beautiful drift lines along the top of the bank. I’ve seen a plow truck stuck trying to clear the road — now the road agent is smart enough to send a back hoe over when the snow and wind combine in a blizzard like this one.
But as I said, it wasn’t all that much snow. Still, I’ve felt snowed in all week, hovering in suspension. I’m waiting for a phone call from Adrienne, to tell me her labor has started. But I think I’m also waiting for 30 years ago to happen. As the dusk collected in the living room this evening I could feel the sadness welling up. Thirty years ago my labor started at dusk on New Year’s Eve, and Adrienne was born at 1:30 a.m. 1/1/81.
In many of the years since, Eric and I hosted what was for us, and many of our friends, the party of the year. Eric and I would start planning the menu months in advance, and then would shop and cook and set up for days, throwing a gourmet dinner party for a dozen or so of our closest friends. The group varied a bit over the decades, but a core knot stayed with us. The New Year’s Eve after Eric died I had the party. I didn’t know what else to do. Late into the night, I was sitting at the table with a good friend. “Look at you,” he said. “You’re proof of the resiliency of the human spirit. Here you are, going on with your life, with the party.” “I think this may just be proof that I like to party,” I said, at least a bit drunk, I’m sure, as I proceeded to be for much of the next year.
I got over that, but the next year I agonized about the New Year’s Eve party. It had been an excruciating year. I’d let myself get conned into an email relationship, and then a date, with a literal genius I met at Vermont Studio Center. The process of deciding to possibly let another man into my life had been highly anxiety producing, and he turned out to be a cad, trying to cheat on his famous poet girlfriend. That was layered and intertwined, in complicated ways that make their own entire story, with losing my best friend in the fall out from her husband crossing some boundary of affection and imagined passion with me. Nothing ever happened, but I’d been too grief-stricken, and frankly intoxicated, most of the time to realize what was happening until too much damage had been done. So all I wanted to do that New Year’s Eve was crawl into a cave. I didn’t do that, but I came close.
This week the cad emailed me again. After 3 years. I figure he’s run out of prospects for a side cheat on his famous poet girlfriend (they’re still together, it was all I asked in my reply to him). Which makes me think of losing my best friend, who was with me 30 years ago tonight, there with me as I had Adrienne, there with me through Adrienne’s childhood and teenage years and young adulthood. There with me when Eric died. Eric who isn’t here tonight, cooking a fabulous New Year’s Eve dinner with me.
And now Adrienne is about to have a baby and here I am. Snowed in by sadness and memories and some regrets. But the benefit of staying present to all that’s happened all these years is I know how to carry whatever I’m feeling. And I’m free to walk out the door as soon as the phone rings.