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"Not Everything's Singing, You Know"



A lot of people hate winter. I decided a few years ago to embrace it, partly because heat and humidity make me miserable and I can't complain all year long, and partly because I do sincerely enjoy the cocooning aspect of midwinter: blankets and sweatshirts and reading on the sofa by a fire going strong in the woodstove.


Also oranges.



Also because, if you're suggestible to seasonal rhythms, winter offers a respite. A blizzard not only forces you to submit, it grants you permission (for a little while, at least) to do absolutely nothing (unless you're a kid and thus compelled to tumble outside before breakfast and get frostbite).



Longer nights suggest an earlier bedtime. Though I'm an inveterate insomniac, I tend to sleep better in the wintertime, with dreaming that is deeper and more vivid and accompanied by the delightful bonus of a cranked-up volume on my mental jukebox, such that I can't get properly going in the morning until my coffee and I have cracked the code on what song is playing on repeat inside my head.



Playing detective in your own brain can be a daunting process. My unconscious, for example, did not reveal that it had absorbed "She's a Rainbow" from Ted Lasso when I was agitatedly la-la-la-ing the piano hook and demanding of Sean what the fucking hell that song was. On the morning when the elusive song was "Rush" by Big Audio Dynamite, Sean's reply to my humming was "That's just you sitting over there making noise"; and while I was certain the vocalist belonged to the Clash, and pretty sure this song was a solo effort, the snippet of lyric submitted by my brain was sending me wrong. So I went through Joe Strummer's albums, listening to a clip of every song, until I realized it wasn't his voice in my mind's ear at all, it was Mick Jones's, and the lyric fragment wasn't "fully clothed," it was "fully grown," and with that, oh blessed relief I could listen to the whole song, which always feels like the resumption of regular breath after a hiccuping fit.



While it's likelier that I picked up a song of the day from the radio or TV, I like to view it as the deep recesses of my brain communicating with my waking self. Too often for mere coincidence, the lyrics seem relevant to what's going on in my life.



In terms of belief systems, I also appreciate and dabble in without fully subscribing to astrological signs, chakras, auras, fortune cookies, personality-type theory, enneagrams, and fate. How can I not, when I ask Alexa to "play music I like" and she selects "Puff the Magic Dragon" by Peter, Paul & Mary, a childhood favorite that always makes me cry and features lyrics that are altogether too apt these days--"A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys / Painted wings and giants' rings make way for other toys."



Physical growth spurts are measurable nearly from one day to the next, so it makes sense that emotional growth would spike in the same way. We should be able to anticipate it, make allowances for it, like we do a lost tooth or a new shoe size. Even so, we never fail--around our house, anyway--to crash headlong into a new phase and strew hurt feelings like shards of metal and glass before figuring out how to limp back on the road. It all hurts, really; the Spider-Man Band-Aids are no longer coveted decor but abandoned leftovers to be used up by the frugal (and undiscriminating) parents. The twelve-year-old's astute observation at the dinner table ("So your mom was kind of . . . cold when you were growing up?") is the flip side of his rudely exclaimed "WHAAAAAT?" in reply to a question about video games, whose intonation (and literal translation) is "How can you possibly be alive when you're this stupid?"



Life gets even more exciting when the child's growth is the inverse ratio of your own decline, inevitable of course but more vivid if you got a late start on your childrearing years. When your face suffuses and he queries your wintertime sheen, you're thankful for a different reason to have chickens, because "henopause" is less threatening to explain.



Reed just got home from school. Sensing that he's in a receptive or at least not closed-to-mom mood, possibly because I replaced his Michael Jordan Wheaties that Sean scarfed with the assumption that he was saving them from neglect of a product purchased for packaging, I ask my kid for a hug. I do that anyway, every single day, often several times, and sometimes he's a taut muscle ready to fire, mutter "I'm done" and shove off, but sometimes he parks on my knee and leans in, and even if it's just a few seconds of voluntary affection, I accede when he answers a FaceTime call and then tells me he needs to go play Xbox could I make his ramen noodles, I allow not just him but myself that, and to correct him when he tells his friend that he has good bribery skills: "That's negotiation."








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