Saturday, January 17, 2009

In the Bleak Mid-Winter, January 17, 2009

Prompt: In the bleak mid-winter

In the bleak mid-winter
frosty winds made moan
earth stood hard as iron
water like a stone . . .


Michele said...

In the Bleak mid winter –

I have sung this beautiful Christmas carol in high school and in college and love the harmonies. Seeing a choir in a big church – Westminster Abbey? National Cathedral? It made me so happy and the tune woke me up this morning.

Bleak, bleak, bleat? The lamb in the stable? Bleak as they crossed the desert, dark, never ending night and where was that Inn? However Mary got pregnant, we know she had the babe and we know there was a star – actually a planet. This was explained to me by an aging, legally blind priest on a recent Sunday sermon in Amagansett.

Here was another really smart man breaking the stereotype of a doddering old priest with no interest beyond feeding his flock the same old, same old. He spoke at length about the star being really a planet and he had read all about it in the Encyclopedia Britannica on line! I will always remember him for the effort he had to put in to read – I assume large type encyclopedia -- about the stars in the first century AD or at the turning of BC to AD.

But bleak has a more current meaning for me. A bleak winter comes to mind, which delivered its own blessing.

I still remember the dark coffee shop of the hotel in downtown Bridgeport, circa 1949 or 50 when I was about seven years old. Some winters ice storms raged in my rural town of Easton Connecticut and we lived atop a hill.

We arrived looking for something to eat and something warm to drink. The electricity was off and the room was lit by the blue light from the windows. When a lot of snow accumulates outside, it gives off an eerie light.

The waitress apologized,
“ We had power but it went off again. I know they are working on it.
“We are trying to get the stove lit so we can get you some bacon and eggs; right now we have a Bunsen burner so we do have coffee and of course we have milk for the little girl.”

My mother said” that’s fine – some cereal and fruit if you have any.” My dad agreed and we all sat for a rare breakfast together.

In those cold winter days, ice formed quickly on the trees bringing down telephone and power lines in their wake, and wrapping us into a cocoon of three – mother father and baby bear.

A few cars would pass, ka-ching, ka chings, the chains on their tires ringing. The rain and ice slapped against the window as I watched the weather. Great glee filled me at the prospect of no school and a day to stay at home. Even my father, who was always out going someplace, couldn’t drive the country roads to see patients and few if any made it into his office which was attached to our house. He had to stay with us.

One time Ray and Gertrude Thibodaux were marooned with us one evening. She was a fun woman and we laughed a lot together. We all slept in the living room, they on the couch or couch pillows and I on a mattress by the fire – not too close, just near.
In the morning, my father cobbled some kind of grate and bricks together and my mother found a couple cans of Dinty Moore Beef stew to simmer in a pot in the fireplace. Later there was water boiling for coffee. What a delight – it was a party – no heat in our old farm house but it felt warm to me. Eventually Ray said they would be able to drive back to Hartford.

Another time, however, we had two nights of this and parents’ tempers wore thin. When the lights still didn’t go on, my father decided it was time to go to a hotel. Oh Joy! We gathered up few things including some teddy of the moment and dressed warmly. Mother, who was raised in Northern Maine, had us dress layer on layer for fear the heat in our bodies would give out before we made the 12 mile trip to Bridgeport’s finest lodging.

Slowly, slowly and silently, my father drove – we did NOT have chains . But after a few slips and slides down Sport Hill road we arrived a little disheveled and happy to be where there was civilization.

Having little experience with hotels I thought it was a marvelous adventure – and we were all together. So few times like this that I could remember. Maybe the Cape Cod trip when I was about four. . .

Carol Henderson said...

I want to hear more about the farmhouse with the father's office attached. That sounds fascinating. And the lucky little girl who gets these rare moments of family time. Touching.
For me the bleak midwinter always takes me to the winter after my son died. On the day we moved from the house we had bought to raise our family--and now we couldn't bear to be in it anymore--the furnace gave out. It was a bitter January day and the movers saw their breath in our living room, the place where I had labored, so full of hope and child, on the couch.
We moved to a dingy apartment outside of Boston and I traipsed in the woods of a nearby park, all winter, alone with my two dogs. A gray icy pond, black bare trees, and snow-covered paths. Round and round I walked, my heart hard as stone.

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