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Except when it makes me want to weep

This morning we were dealing with a little bit of chaos.

Not as much as years ago, when the day after Christmas you needed to sort through drifts of used wrapping paper to make sure you didn’t chuck a baby or two out with the trash. There’s much less wrapping paper these days – most of the crowd has as much stuff as they need. The gifts run more toward road trips, theatre tickets and things that satisfy a sentimental goober such as myself, but we still created a significant amount of clutter.

We have family members who are supposed to be heading in three different directions today. The road conditions aren’t catastrophically bad, but not great either. That’ll change fast – the sun is shining, and the wind has died down, which means the people who maintain the roads are hard at work restoring order. I got up early and cleaned out the yard and driveway, so my work here is done. I don’t give people advice about whether they should travel – that's more responsibility than I really want. It was a nice morning’s work. The weather was warm enough that everything started, but cold enough to have a satisfying plume of pure white snow spewing from the snowblowers. Some of you might find it silly to have a temperature preference for moving snow, but I’ve experienced weather so cold that just getting engines started was a half day job - and sometimes longer. I still have a clear memory of a rod poking through the side of an engine block when the engine started, but the oil was too cold to provide any lubrication. I’ve also seen it so warm that the half-liquid snow could only bloop from the spout of the snowblower, until everything froze up, plugged up and I had to go back to work with a shovel and loader.

Like most of the United States, we had a significant storm just before Christmas. When I saw the headlights of the last expected vehicle on Christmas morning, I took a deep breath. Once everyone was here, the rest of the world could do without us. It’s a great feeling to have the people you care most about in the world tucked in safe and sound, the house full of good smells, soft conversation, and a pleasant jumble of children and pets underfoot. It helps that our driveway is a quarter of a mile long and we’re surrounded by ten acres of trees. Even without a storm, we’re largely unaware of what’s going on around us, and when the snow falls and the wind blows, it’s easy to feel like we live in a world of our own.

The noise and activity, not to mention the good smells, amped up considerably over the next couple days, but today it’s all unwinding. With each departure, the house gets a little bigger and a little quieter. The dishwasher is churning through its fourth load of the weekend and the pine needles are forming a drift of their own under the Christmas tree.

The last two headed east, with their two cats. We’ve been watching road conditions and it looks like they can get back to work on time, no matter how much we wish they couldn’t.

And now we’re back to usual. One cat, two dogs, two people in a big quiet house on the edge of the prairie. It’s a place and a situation that makes me very happy, except for those times when it makes me want to weep.

Copyright 2022 Brent Olson


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