The days are dim and cold and short. I think that’s what it is.
I think that’s why we drape our homes in strings of stars and light the fire and invite people in: Gather close, because your warmth keeps out the wind. Our traditions date from times when winter meant death, when winter meant the very old and very young and very ill were felled sooner than expected, and a community could expect to lose its weakest members and, if they weren’t careful, its strongest as well.
As we still can, in many places. As we still do, so very close to home.
Every year, I complain about the cold, about the inconvenience of travel in the snow, about the seeming endlessness of the overcast sky, but winter speaks to me like a muscle-memory, knit into some deep German part of me that knows that cold outside is imperative for warmth within.
It’s an instinct I obey: Prepare. Stock up. Reinforce the window frames, unroll the rugs, take the thickest blankets out of storage. Bake bread and make stew and chili and fill the freezer, just in case. The pantry is full of seasonings and supplies. Is this all those Little House books I read? There are two grocery stores within walking distance and we live on the second floor; we’re in no danger of being snowed in. Our traditions are about interdependence: Share what you have, because that way everyone has enough. Maybe I just want to have enough to share, so that if you come to the door I can feed you.
(If the Detroit Lions came to the door, I could feed them. We won’t have to grocery shop until June.)
I want to gather everyone in. We’ve had a steady parade of houseguests since Thanksgiving: The only point to having more than one room is to fill the others with people you love. I feel that way about this place, too. Why have this room unless it’s full of people? The Secret Santa thing made me so happy, because it showed me and the rest of the Internet how much you care about each other. I’ve always wanted to have a house full of people like that.
Especially now, when it’s dark, and the wind is howling outside the door.