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Suzanne Tobias: Winter forces us to look inward

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, at 10:44 p.m.

The holiday decorations have barely come down.

Some still wait by the basement door to be packed in boxes and hauled downstairs, like kids at a bus stop wondering whether it’s Saturday. They’ll wait a little longer because I hate this chore, this signal that the festive, twinkly, evergreen-scented part of winter is over and the cold, brutal months lie ahead.

“All right,” my husband announced on New Year’s Day, “I’m ready for spring.”

I understand the feeling, but I don’t go that far. Because this year, like most, I’m working on contentment. On peace. I want to practice what we preach to our kids nearly every day: that they don’t even realize how lucky they are.

That concept is confusing enough for little kids and tricky for grown-ups. It may be impossible for teenagers, their every cell and muscle in dazzling limbo, every thought a revelation. They gallop toward the future like racehorses with blinders, the finish line in sight but just out of reach.

Can’t wait for Saturday.

When’s spring break?

Gotta enroll for next year. The form’s due tomorrow.

So-and-so got her permit already.

When I go to college …

College? Wait a second. But yes, my daughter hadn’t finished her first high school test before the postcards and glossy brochures started to arrive, reminding us of the next big milestone down the line.

Enough.

I sit on the couch – no television or music blaring, no computer on my lap or phone in my hand – and take a deep breath. I try to forget all the things on my plate: The dogs need a bath. The car needs an oil change. The bathroom’s a mess. We really need to put away those Christmas decorations. Meeting tonight. Appointment tomorrow.

I sit, and breathe, and just listen.

Jack’s whistling. Again. He whistles almost constantly now. This time it’s a “Les Miserables” tune he’s been trying to master ever since we saw the movie and resurrected our CD soundtrack.

At the end of the day you’re another day older …

Hannah’s filling the kettle with water for hot chocolate, her new favorite after-dinner treat.

Randy’s feeding the dogs.

It’s a struggle, it’s a war

And there’s nothing that anyone’s giving,

One more day, standing about, what is it for?

One day less to be living …

People say January is a cruel month, all gnarly branches and flint-gray skies. But with the right perspective, I suddenly realize, it can be warm and comforting.

The weather drives us indoors like bears to a den, where we rest and wait, huddling up and conserving energy for the big thaw that will happen soon enough. Post-holiday winter means roaring fires, red wine, basketball games and cozy sweaters. It means dinner cooked up in one burbling pot, scooped out for the masses and sprinkled with cheese. Winter forces us inward, its darkness more blanket than blinders.

Ready for spring? Sure.

But right now, winter.

Long, cold, glorious winter.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SuzanneTobias.

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