Opinion: Warmth at the darkest time of year

Tis the season to be jolly, with bright lights, cheery songs and good will on earth everywhere. It comes at the darkest time of the year.

To me it feels that the world goes into overdrive at this time. We rush to get to family turkey dinners at Thanksgiving. The day after, Black Friday, it’s Christmas shopping at the crowded malls with Frosty the Snowman blaring from loudspeakers all around, even though Santa isn’t due on our roof tops for another month. When I try to order a wreath from the L.L. Bean catalog on Dec. 1, I find they are already sold out.

Christmas goes by in a blur of torn wrapping paper and discarded ribbons — presents everywhere, covered in spots by the needles from an already shedding tree, cut many weeks ago.

For me, New Year’s Eve is different— anticlimactic. I spend it alone. No fireworks for me, thank you very much. I saw enough real fireworks during my childhood in Nazi-occupied Holland to last me a lifetime. I feel nostalgic and I think of all the people I have lost over the years who were once so important to me.

I also think of my two caring children who shower me with their love and affection. I am so blessed they are not living across the continent, and insist on including me in all family gatherings. I don’t know where the time has gone. I look at their pictures as toddlers, teenagers, young adults. They are now older than their father when he died at age 55 many years ago.

In a sense, the best thing about the holidays is their slow, tentative ending of the darkness. By mid-January the lengthening of the day begins to be noticeable. In another month snowdrops and crocuses poke up their heads through the snow. Soon, signs of new life are everywhere. My body responds to the increasing warmth of the sun and my mood lightens as two busy birds return each year to build a nest in the rhododendron just below my window.

Elisabeth Breslav is a regular essay writer for the Oronoque, Stratford Villager magazine.