Holiday Blues

December 23rd, 2008

December hits me with the blues even before the official first day of winter. My wife died during this season, among other things. The frantic pace of manufacturing holiday cheer leaves me exhausted. It gets dark so early, I’m ready for bed before supper. I decided to beat the holiday blues by visiting my parents. They live in the snow belt of upstate New York. My toes are still frozen from growing up in that clammy climate.

I wasn’t there two days and a big storm blew in. My parents don’t have a computer. The only thing interesting on TV was the weather reports. The weather person would say snow was falling all over the region, hour after hour. I could see that out the window.

My parents are full of true stories about the old days—like the Blizzard of ‘58. My father recalled how the snow drifts were higher than the telephone wires. I recalled pulling a sled carting a box of groceries over those humongous snow drifts to the isolated home of some friends who lived way outside of town. The whole region was buried under glacier conditions that closed the roads for about a week. That was a memorable storm.  It was a big reason—along with minus zero degree winds—that I headed south after growing up in the icy Finger Lakes region. South Carolina. Southern Georgia. South Vietnam. I needed to warm up my bones.   

As we sat reminiscing at the kitchen table, we also watched the antics of the feathered critters at the bird feeders by the window. A little woodpecker hung upside down while pecking at a block of suet. A big, red-headed woodpecker with an impressive display of black and white stripes zoomed in and scared off all the little birds. A cardinal stood like a red-coated sentinel on a snow-covered branch of a nearby spruce tree. Another cardinal buzzed past and instantly the two birds were a blur of red chasing red into the whiteout.

Early in the storm, I went for a walk across a snowfield behind the house. A band of geese flew overhead frenetically honking in the swirling wind and swung north. “Hey!” I shouted at the disappearing V of hard flapping wings. “You’re going the wrong way!” But, hey, they’re Canada geese. They probably figured this storm’s a good time to check on things back home.

I couldn’t wait to get back to my home in New Jersey’s milder climes. Driving out of snow country the next day into the more lightly dusted Garden State, I was looking forward to joining friends at a holiday gathering. Then I ran into a long line of red brake lights backed up in the dusk for miles around a cluster of shopping malls. I tried calling my friends. But cell phone circuits were overloaded.

Human behavior during the winter holidays is more frenetic than birds of a feather flocking together in storms. 


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3 Responses to “Holiday Blues”



  1. Kevin |

    Well written post, Jan. It’s obvious that you are an experienced writer.

    I can easily identify with having Holiday Blues. But in my case the explanation is simply an affliction with Season Affective Disorder for which I take mild antidepresents from November through about March. Fortunately it is a relatively mild case compared to the norm.

    One of these years I hope to move South of the 45th Parallel where S.A.D. will no longer be an issue. What I never really connected the dots on until fairly recently was my life-long fascination with all things tropical. My sole tattoo is of a tropical island sunset, for example. I suspect that this fascination was probably subconsciously associated with the S.A.D., which I only had diagnosed a few years ago.

    Anyway… nice post. I enjoyed reading it. Having spent time in Canada I particularly enjoyed the Canada Geese quip!


  2. Tom |

    Jan, I agree with Kevin, which isn’t unusual. Nice post! My toes began feeling chilly as I read it.

    I remember going up to the Finger Lakes with you aeons ago. It wasn’t winter–probably that Spring before you began your sojourn on the Hudson. Beautiful area, but I wouldn’t want to be there in winter. I’ve spent my time in that kind of weather (e.g., three winters in Moscow), and I’ll take the tropics, along with Kevin, anytime!


  3. Dave |

    I sympathise with you. This time of year can take alot out of people. Cold and snow maketh not for happy people.

    I personally find it interesting how angry this time of year makes people. I’ll share an antecdote about this with you – one day I was at a Wal-Mart standing in line waiting for a customer to pay before proceeding, and the gentleman behind me was blowing a gasket that I hadn’t moved half a foot forward but was insteading giving the lady space to conduct her transaction. He ended up throwing his stuff angrily on the cash belt while cursing at me.

    Something about the hustle and bustle of Christmas is a little ridiculous – it’s like throttling the gas, moving ten feet, and slamming on the brakes at a red light.


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