I’m sitting on the window seat in my library, covered with a black and green flannel blanket. I hear occasional cracks as the fire dies down in the living room, the dogs are curled up on beds, the cat has taken to his spot on a beam over the living room. Children are asleep throughout the house—some mine, some belonging to other people. I’ve always wanted a house where other people’s children feel welcome, where there’s noise and space to play and permission to turn trash into toys. A house where it makes perfect sense to run in the door enthusing, “We found some things in the dumpster.” I was never allowed a childhood, so as an adult I am fierce in my support of children being children.
I’m surrounded by books, the night dark out my window. Winters are long in Vermont. They are a gift, if we’ll take it. To me, the winter is a chance to slow down, read a book, contemplate in a way I just can’t during the exuberance of summer and autumn.
I always put on a bit of weight in the winter. But this winter appears to be extra cushiony. Two weeks in, and baking every day is having some side effects. Jeans aren’t fitting as they used to. I’ll cop to reaching for leggings and yoga pants with increasing frequency.
There are two points of light all the way down the meadow. Those neighbors came over for dinner last night. We’ve owned this land for four years, but we had no more than a passing acquaintance with them. They brought pesto canned during their summer harvest; I made pie from our apples frozen in September. We talked about local issues and made plans for the tree stand he’d like to build on the far tip of our property. “It’s fine with us,” I said. “But the kids would like to help.” It was understood that the rest of the neighborhood kids were included in that statement. “And it would be great if you could teach our kids a bit about hunting.” When we lived in Massachusetts, neighborliness meant watering someone’s houseplants. It’s different here.
We sent them home with apple butter and kept the rest of the pesto.
Today, I made bread pudding. “You have weeks,” Zach said. “It’s like on the Great British Baking Show. This is Bread Pudding Week.” I adapted the chocolate recipe, pulling out the alcohol and adding bananas and peanut butter. For obvious reasons.
Tomorrow, a friend comes over to bake with me. Children will be running about the house, most likely making weapons out of kindling and duct tape. There will be shouting and there will be craft projects and there will be multiple requests for video game time.
And there will be butter.