My childhood bedroom had windows facing out to the street where we lived. Under one of the windows was a radiator. Whenever it would snow at night, I would climb out of my bed and perch atop the radiator watching the flakes swirl under the beam of the streetlight, watching the quiet astonishment of snow until my bum couldn’t handle the hard metal perch I had chosen for it, and then I would slip back into bed to fall asleep.
I realized yesterday that I hadn’t stopped to appreciate the snow this year. We’ve had over 30 gorgeous inches of it. But, I’ve barely paused a moment to bask in its purity, to soak in the vastness of the light that bounces off of it, to flop and sink into the banks of it trying to make a snow angel, to yell with glee as I ski down a hill under the branches of the evergreens that are iced with it. Instead, I’ve looked out at it as it accumulates and thought, “oh for heaven’s sakes, now how am I going to haul the baby and the dog anywhere? How are we going to have time to shovel again?” I’ve looked at it as a nuisance.
I realized this, and I knew I had let something go wrong inside of me.
Admittedly, we’re really freaking busy. We’ve done the classic biting off more than you can chew thing this year, barreling ahead with optimistic abandon, and then the whole holiday business hit. The holidays are always busy, but to me it has always felt like joyful business. Like the noisy madness of a large group of friends arriving at a party – doorbell ringing, dog barking, coats and shoes flying everywhere, loud hellos, giant hugs, drinks being handed out and mixed up – that kind of happy busy. This year, it just feels busy.
I let Christmas, my favorite, favorite time of year, become an item on my to-do list. I’m ignoring the twinkliness of the twinkle lights, the cheerfulness of the bells. I’m rushing through the snowy, decorated streets with my head down, going out to ski a loop in the woods just to get it done without looking around me. Choosing gifts for loved ones has felt like something I needed to power through, decorating the tree was one of the weekend chores. A chore!
Rush, rush, rush, rush. Where do I think I’m going, just trying to rush through it all?
In the last week we’ve lost two dear people from this world. A friend’s husband, an amazing person, died tragically after a hard-fought battle with cancer. He was 36. I prayed so, so hard for a miracle. I felt desperate for him to live to see his little boy grow up, graduate college, get married, give him grandkids. I don’t know what I actually believe these days, but I guess now my prayer is that he will still get to see all these things from the other side, wherever he is. Joel’s grandmother, a brilliant woman, passed away this morning. She was 96. She had seen wars and peace, a man landing on the moon, the internet, children, grandchildren, a great grandchild.
We don’t know what cards we will be dealt in life. Only that every day that we’re handed is as beautiful as clean white snow falling under a streetlight. It’s snowing again, and I’m trying to feel my breath expand my body and to stop and watch, in spite of the clamoring in my mind about everything I “need” to do. What are we here for if we rush through it? What’s the point of everything I’m getting done if I don’t even remember the feeling of grace that comes from a blanket of clean white covering the ground, or how absurdly much I love twinkle lights, how they make me want to dance, and clap, and sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing so loud it makes my lungs hurt.
I am blessed to come from a family where we have a lot of traditions, daily traditions and holiday traditions that mark time and are there to remind us that every moment is not a time to pass but rather a time to keep. These are traditions and a message I want to make sure to teach our baby, but I have to remember it myself.
One of Joel’s family’s traditions is to eat cioppino on Christmas Eve. We’re doing Christmas in Minnesota this year, which means it will be Norwegian style (several forms of pork and a river of gravy), but I wanted to mark his tradition too, so I made us bowls of this simple but flavorful brothy, tomatoey seafood soup. I’m eating leftovers for lunch, and I’m turning on some Christmas music and watching the snow.
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 bulb of fennel, cored and diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1, 28-oz can of whole plum tomatoes
- 3 cups seafood stock, homemade if possible
- ½ lb. cod (or other sturdy white fish), cut into 1-inch chunks
- ½ lb. bay scallops (you could also replace these with another shellfish or fish)
- ½ lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
- salt and pepper
- 1 Tbs. chopped parsley
- fennel fronds for garnish
- Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a soup pot. Add the chopped fennel and garlic and cook until golden and softened, about 3-5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, drain the juice from the canned tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the pot and use a wooden spoon to smash them and break them apart. Let them simmer for 5 minutes, then add the seafood stock. Bring the pot to a boil.
- Add the seafood and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook until everything is just cooked through, 3-5 more minutes, then stir in the parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with fennel fronds. Serve with crusty bread and a salad.