It was the second day of a three-day blizzard, and she had just come in from shoveling.
She had decided to shovel every time four or five new inches had fallen, because it was heavy, wet snow, and it stuck to the shovel, and she figured that her back would break right in half if she left it all to the bitter end, which was supposed to be two or more feet.
Those she loved were not with her yet, and she made some lemon squares and roasted some vegetables and rubbed the skins off many boiled potatoes.
The snow was falling outside the upstairs room with the blue-green walls where she sat with the dog and the cat, all of them looking out at the street, where two tracks meandered down the nearly-unplowed expanse.
It was beautiful. The big pine outside her window was laden with snow, and so was the one across the street, and colored and white lights on houses and trees and bushes glowed through the falling snow up and down the block.
Earlier that afternoon she had watched as bundled-up women and men came struggling out of the apartment buildings, wrapped gifts piled high in plastic laundry baskets. They had started their cars, brushed snow off windows, shoveled around the tires and then helped push each other out of the drifts and into those two tracks.
Her car with its four new high-performance all-season tires could no longer be called the Death Cab, and so she herself braved the snow and drove to her brother and sister-in-law’s house a few miles away. They ate tortellini and salad, and she partook of a vegetarian Scotch egg, a culinary first.
Her nephew showed her his favorite ornament on the tree, a small beaded candy cane. He told her he would be leaving out some cookies and water.
“Do you mean cookies and milk?”
No. He meant cookies and water.
Earlier in the day, on the first of her several shoveling expeditions, she was shoveling the sidewalk when a man came strolling down the street with a snowblower. Strolling, yes, an odd word, but the only one that fits.
“Are you shoveling that whole sidewalk?”
Indeed she was shoveling that whole sidewalk.
“Let me snowblow it for you. I’m going this way anyway.”
She let him.
She spoke to her mother and father, who were due to fly in the next day from their faraway home in the foothills of upstate New York. They compared respective snowfalls and decided that if they, they being her mother and father, arrived less than 36 hours late they, they being everyone, would all be pleasantly surprised.
She advised her mother to pack extra food and a change of underwear. Her mother advised her to take a prophylactic dose of ibuprofen before her next shoveling expedition.
On her third shoveling expedition she discovered that the snowblowing man hired by her 85-year-old neighbor had snowblown a miniature mountain of snow directly in front of her backyard gate, sealing her in.
This was an interesting challenge which she met full-on, wielding her shovel as both pickaxe and shovel. As she worked she mulled the past tense of snowblow: Snowblew? Snowblowed? Snubled?
She reminded herself that the days were already growing longer and that the time of greatest darkness was already behind her.
She vowed to straighten her back with each shovelful, and lift with her legs, but she broke the vow immediately.
Late that night her best friend called her, sleepy, and they discussed the amount of produce wasted when one was forced, by lack of time, to do one large grocery shop per week rather than a little shop daily, basket in hand, as the French do. Or as they would like to believe the French do.
They discussed the habit some people have of sending a single family emissary early to an event, an event such as a candlelight service at a small church, say, with many extra coats in hand, and draping those coats up and down an entire pew.
They discussed the habit each had of buying gifts, wrapping gifts, hiding gifts so they would remain safe and undiscovered, and then forgetting that they had bought, wrapped, and hidden these gifts.
Her best friend wished her sweet dreams and hung up. She looked around the blue-green walls of the upstairs room, at the orange and fuchsia silky curtains flung over the curtain rod, at the little white lights strung around the window, at the snow falling outside on the laden pines.
Near midnight, she put on her coat and scarf and mittens and her giant men’s boots and went to be with others, to sing songs and light candles.
She smiled at everyone, and they all smiled back.