December is the Month of Cold Sky

gretchen kast southboro winter

By Gretchen Kast

On a cold night, the four of us will pile into the car to ride circles around town and listen to the radio station that begins playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving. We will drive slowly and deliberately, eyes peering from the windows to look at holiday decorations, mocking those deemed tacky, exalting the classic wreaths and sparkling white lights. We will go visit our old house to observe the changes the new owners have made to the paint color and the bushes out front. We will drive away quietly, nostalgic for the years when it was right and the five of us lived there.

Eventually we’ll grow tired of our ambling, return home and descend from our blue mini van onto the driveway. “Look at the sky!” I’ll exclaim, craning my neck upwards to the clear inky night, filled to capacity with stars.

My mom will look to appease me, but her gaze will return Earth-bound quickly. “I don’t like to look at the stars,” she’ll say. “It makes me feel cold.”

We’ll go through the front door and peel off the layers of coats and sweaters and sit down at the kitchen table. Perhaps we’ll make something to eat and just sit and talk. The four of us, around the table, maybe for hours.

***

One time I told my mother that I liked to piece together different aspects of different religions and she told me that was cheating. Cheating how? I wondered. Like a shifty-eyed student or like those Russian ice dancers? Did it mean I was undeserving? Did I have to give my medal back? Did I ever even get one?

Religion is the too-cold sky, rich with turquoises and vibrant plums, streaked with blackberry clouds or spotted with stars. It’s the universe (the too-big, the everything I don’t know). It controls the weather. And the months. It tells them when to change. It tells us when it’s time to pile into our car and be together and look at the lights. That I can handle. That I can feel.

***

Perhaps this New Years Eve will be warm. Perhaps the sun will shine brightly until it dips below the Earth and the calendars change. But maybe it won’t. Maybe this is the year that I will feel the pull of something new in my bones. Maybe I’ll want to be different. Maybe I will be already. Maybe I’ll feel full. Of love or excitement or anger or joy or fear. Perhaps none of this will matter anymore. Maybe these titles will seem silly, reduced to prickly classifications, chafing to the mind. Maybe I’ll run, searching for new ones to discover, to establish and attempt to explain. Maybe that is enough.

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