Dark and Wintry Thoughts

Darkness and snow descend.
The clock on the mantelpiece has nothing to recommend.

--W.H. Auden
lame old defender of high culture.

Joy and Peace.

In winter, like many campers, Your Uncle Jerry finds himself a little blue. The snow. The darkness. The neighbors pass by on the street, judging decorations and straining to be cheerful.

There are so many things about winter that care nothing about you. Cold weather’s only purpose is to snuff out your life. The sun has turned away. You hate your boots, and there’s a hole in your glove. At night, the ice weasels sniff at the gaps around the door.

The holidays are all about family, but we both know that relatives are a mixed bag. When you’re a young person, especially, it’s amazing to discover that aunts and uncles can be so completely wrong about who you are.

“Here you go, Buddy. You love the white meat. And LOTS of gravy.”

“No, he hates white meat—don’t you, Buddy. Have some green-bean casserole.”

“What you wanna be when you grow up, kiddo? Stock broker, like me?”

“Buddy likes music. He wants to be a singer.”

“Give him some of my cranberry relish; he’ll eat that.”

“He’ll eat what he’s told to eat!”

“Oh, like you should talk.”

“Can’t make any money singing, you know. Terrible waste of time.”

“When I was coming up, the kids ate in the kitchen, and they were quiet . . .”

Uncle Jerry understands. It’s the crowd, my friend. The crowd itself makes you lonesome, and this is what your English teacher would call a paradox. (Crowd = Loneliness. Get it? You need to brush up, Camper; school starts again soon.)

Not that long ago, there was one person in your family who really understood. Maybe she was your grandmother, or an older cousin, or maybe that unmarried friend of the family who everybody winked about behind the hand. Unfortunately for you, it’s winter, and that person has died.

Here’s chapter three.

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