BY suzy

12/01 Direct Link
The phone rings. It’s my man’s father, who rarely calls. His voice breaks slightly as he tells me that his brother has died suddenly. I walk out into the sunshine, feeling its warmth on my skin and thinking of how this man, who led such a wonderful life, will never feel the sun again, look with joy upon a blue sky. I listen as the bereaved man talks, but I’m also wondering how to tell the man I love that his uncle is gone. The hours until he comes home drag. I rehearse the words in my mind. Nothing works.
12/02 Direct Link
I see the lights in the darkness as the car pulls up. He comes in, talking about traffic. Kisses me, tosses his keys on the mantel. At this moment, we are entirely separate. I know. He doesn’t. As soon as I speak the words, his life will change forever. He’ll know, and I’ll be the one who told him. “Sweetheart,” I say, looking at those deep blue eyes, “I have some bad news.” As he gazes at me, I say the words, and watch his eyes change. He shakes his head, disbelieving. He walks away from me, shocked. Different. Forever.
12/03 Direct Link
I think of him walking, alone, through the echoing halls of the late night airport. I don’t know what thoughts accompany him on this long, lonely journey. Soon he’ll be on the plane, that familiar yet utterly strange place, speeding at hundreds miles of an hour through the dark night. Across the Rockies, maybe in his sleep, the wide plains, the lights of cities, to that other ocean. And to his father, who has lost his only brother, who is looking to his son for strength and love, a healing of old wounds, the beginning of a new era. Together.
12/04 Direct Link
What a life he had, the man whose death has brought together family and friends from all over the world! The little church in a small, country town, blanketed in snow, echoes with words about one whose life was made of words. He was “Time” magazine’s bureau chief in more cities than anyone else in the history of that august publication. He was a war correspondent, an intrepid reporter all over the world. The man who threw Bobby Kennedy’s 40th birthday party. Father, brother, uncle. Raconteur, bon vivant. No stranger to tragedy, no stranger to joy. A life well lived.
12/05 Direct Link
I awaken alone in the night, heart thudding quickly, heavily. The nightmare recedes as I lie in the dark, still hours between moonset and sunrise, trying to calm my tell-tale heart. I could turn on the light and read. I could get up, have a shot of brandy or one of the pills I have for waking panic attacks. But I don’t. I reach out for my cats, sleeping innocent of dreams or fears, curled together the way they have been since before they were born. Their peaceful, sleeping breathing calms me enough to again brave the dangers of sleep.
12/06 Direct Link
She takes the train to work, but she doesn’t leave the station. She announces the arrivals and departures of trains she’ll never take, trains she’ll never meet. She looks at the destinations scrolling on the computer screen. Before reading them out, she imagines what these cities are like, what kind of people live there and what kind of people visit them. From her office, she can’t see the throngs of passengers rushing through the great vaulted station or hear the welcomes and farewells. It’s a hushed, quiet cocoon, with her microphone at the ready, her computer screen, and her dreams.
12/07 Direct Link
Finally. She pulls into her driveway, noting that it’s trash day and she’ll have to haul the bins to the curb (her town is recycling conscious, so there are several: one for glass, one for plastic, one for paper, and one for good old garbage, if it’s absolutely necessary). Pulling her coat tightly around her, she dashes lightly up the front steps in her high-heeled boots, careless of the snow. She puts her key in the lock, opens the door, and steps into her house. She is greeted by the perfect calm and peace, the faint smell of vanilla. Home.
12/08 Direct Link
He’s not the type to write love letters, notes, poems, but when he looks at her, he wishes he were. She always says she hates love songs. He loves them. They laugh about this, and then say, “But I love you.” It’s one of the many little jokes they have acquired through their years together. No matter how the weeks and months turn inexorably to years, he is still delighted by her smile, the sun on her bright hair, her odd turns of phrase, the way she fits perfectly into his arms, the way she always says, “Goodnight, sweet boy.”
12/09 Direct Link
The display window is enticing, but so elegant that nothing as mundane as price tags are allowed to mar its perfection. She’ll have to go in. The shop is empty as she ventures inside. The superior man behind the counter asks if he can help her. She immediately feels unsure of herself, and he presses her, asking what food she is planning to serve. “I’m not sure…” she responds. She’s sure he can guess. He suggests a light red, a rosé, and a full-bodied white to cover all possibilities. She pays nervously, anxious to go home and open the bottles.
12/10 Direct Link
The night comes down, the way it always does. He stokes up the fire, knowing it will be burned out by morning and the house cold. So far, this has been the coldest winter in years, and the only heat in his little wooden cottage is the woodstove. Wearily, he climbs the steep steps to his bedroom. He puts off going to bed as long as he can. It’s not reluctance to leave the warmth of the fireside. It’s reluctance to approach his cold bed, where she waited for him for so many years, companions in life and in dreams.
12/11 Direct Link
They walk down the street hand in hand. She senses his fingers fidgeting slightly, as if they are restless or anxious to escape. It’s a cold day with a sharp wind, and she wishes she had gloves on, or those mittens she saw in a catalogue once where two could share one mitten while each having an individual mitten on the unengaged hand. “Smittens”, they were called. She thought it a clever name, imagined the creator presenting her idea to a delighted boardroom for approval. She looks up at his profile. She doesn’t think he’s smitten enough for Smittens, though.
12/12 Direct Link
Clatter. Clatter! Clatter!! CLATTER!!!

It sounds like it’s raining rocks outside, but it looks like it’s snowing. The kittens and I, equally unnerved, peer out of the window, amazed. I run out to take a picture and slide around on the windy porch in a mixture of hail and melted hail, pointing the camera towards the street. Pink petals fly from the camellia bush as I click away, then dash inside. My hair is full of hail, and for the next half hour, I feel it slowly melt, as the hail melts outside, too. Gone as if it never happened.

12/13 Direct Link
I really should have started my Christmas cards sooner. I used to start writing the envelopes the weekend after Thanksgiving, and send the European ones the first week of December, then the Canadian ones, and finally the American ones. Sometimes I look back at how efficient and organized I was, and it’s as if I were a completely different person. Now I’m so untidy and disorganized. Was I trying to keep busy, so I couldn’t think about how unhappy I was? Which is the real me? The new one, or the old one? Or someone I still have to discover?
12/14 Direct Link
Writing Christmas cards gives me almost instant writer’s cramp. My handwriting, always eccentric looking, has become almost illegible from lack of use, and the inside of the cards appear to have been visited by an extremely drunk spider who stumbled into an unattended inkwell. But as I scrawl in each, I hope the recipient will be as delighted to know I am thinking of him or her as I am to think of the friend for whom I am scribbling a seasonal message of love and caring. Isn’t everyone glad to get a Christmas card, if not to write one?
12/15 Direct Link
Writing Christmas cards makes me think of Dad. Nearly everything does, but he was a big believer in keeping in touch. He sent out (and received) hundreds of cards every year. He placed a high value on friendship, and warned me how easily we can lose touch with people we care about. “Just one unreturned phone call or email”, he said, could do it. When he died, we were deluged with cards, letters, phone calls from people who knew and loved him. He had friends who had known him since childhood. He knew how to keep friends. And Christmas. Well.
12/16 Direct Link
Last year, we didn’t really celebrate Christmas. Not only had I just moved, but my brother-in-law had neurosurgery. Once he was out of the operating room and out of danger, my sister and I returned to the hotel she was staying at in the city, where the surgery took place. We drank wine and watched “Gilmore Girls” and were thankful her husband, who has also been our brother’s best friend since they were nine years old, was safe. This year, he needs more surgery. Here’s hoping that it goes well again and he will be healthy soon, free of pain.
12/17 Direct Link
We drew names for Christmas stockings this year. My sister used to make them all herself, but we thought it would be fun if we could all get involved, so at Thanksgiving, we drew names. I got my sister, and I have had a wonderful time getting things to put in it: a bag of chocolate coins, like we got when we were kids; fancy Italian candies; bubble gum that looks like coal; a little handmade notebook with a butterfly on the cover; a set of much needed undies, tied with a ribbon. Don’t forget the orange for the toe!
12/18 Direct Link
The house I grew up in had a grove of pines. Around the first Saturday in December, Dad would get his red-handled axe from the garage, and we’d all tramp through the snow to choose our Christmas tree. I don’t remember who got to decide, but I do remember the sound of the axe ringing through the cold winter air, the thrill of the tree crashing down, sending waves of glittering snow into the air, the sharp scent of pine resin, the long, violet shadows as we dragged the tree home in triumph, as if we had somehow captured it.
12/19 Direct Link
My mother’s parents lived in a big Victorian house about two hours’ drive from where we lived. The ground floor had 14 foot ceilings, and they always had a grand Christmas tree, lavishly decorated. When we had taken off our snowy boots and coats, we assembled in the more casual of the two parlors. Grandfather would ceremoniously fling open the double pocket doors that connected the two rooms revealing the tree in all its glory. We’d gasp with delight and gaze at the glittering branches while our grandparents and parents smiled. I’ll never forget that pleasure, both given and received.
12/20 Direct Link
We rarely used our grandparents’ front door. We came in the back door, which led through the porch to the pantry and then to the kitchen, where there were always cookies. But at Christmas time, we’d peer through the glass in the front door at the great Christmas tree in the town square. I still remember being in my pajamas, pressing my nose against the cold glass to get a better look at the tree lit up at the end of the street. It was far more magical from a glassy distance, at night, than up close during the daytime.
12/21 Direct Link
Winter solstice.

This is the coldest winter I can remember in California. There was the hailstorm. Temperatures have dipped to the freezing mark; there is snow in the mountains. The house is drafty and hard to heat. I’m already dreading my gas and electricity bill this month.

I have propped open the back porch door so Henry the stray cat can come in out of the rain and cold. He has a blanket on the little couch there, and I can see him from my desk. The kittens watch him raptly, as if he were a TV. He ignores them.

12/22 Direct Link
I have been commissioned to buy a bathrobe for my sister by her husband, so I head into the city. On arrival, I am amazed by the length of the line to get on the cable car (when I still lived in the city, it used to annoy me that I could rarely get on a cable car because they were clogged with tourists) and all the visitors meandering around and staring at everything, making it very difficult to reach the store, shop, and get out. If people are cutting back, they’re not cutting back on trips to San Francisco.
12/23 Direct Link
Almost ready to go. My neighbor B will keep an eye on the house for me and put out the trash cans – I figure an empty driveway + garbage bins at the curb for days = please rob me. Christmas shopping done. Vintage suitcase packed. Tomorrow I’ll turn down the heat, leave lots of food and water for the cats, put on some lights, drop off a card and a box of truffles for B, and hit the road. It’s supposed to be rainy and it will also be Christmas Eve, so I imagine it will be a long trip…
12/24 Direct Link
Well, that was not fun. Note to Self: do not drive to Mendocino on Christmas Eve. The traffic was horrendous. I literally could have walked faster for part of it, and some of it the car wasn’t moving at all: a freeway turned into a parking lot. It took more than half an hour to get to Berkeley, which should be a ten minute drive. It was raining, so passing cars sent jets of water onto my windshield, temporarily blinding me. There were patches of phantom fog. Nearly 6 hours to drive 150 miles. No wonder Santa takes the sleigh!
12/25 Direct Link
It was an awesome Christmas. We slept in, had coffee, and then our friend E came over with her five year old daughter J. We had drawn names for Christmas stockings. I got my sister, and I made sure hers was full of extra good things after the horrible year she’s had. When E and J arrived, we all opened our stockings, then J opened her presents. We had a wonderful dinner with our brother’s homemade hard cider, followed by pie made from huckleberries they had picked in the summer. After dinner, our brother read out loud. It was wonderful.
12/26 Direct Link
Our brother made pancakes for breakfast with the huckleberries that didn’t fit into last night’s pie. The Christmas tree twinkled through the sliding glass doors – it’s a live tree, too big to bring inside, so it’s on the porch, where it can be seen from most of the house. After pancakes, we ventured into the frosty morning air to walk our sister’s dog on the property. She trotted happily through the ancient redwoods and into the creek, full of water from the winter rains. We were all glad to get home to a warm fire, good books, music and conversation.
12/27 Direct Link
Time to go home. It was a wonderful Christmas, a memory to treasure. I think it’s the happiest one we’ve had since Dad died. Our sister’s little house was so full of love and joy. I’ll be carrying some home with me.

The traffic was nowhere near as bad as it was going up, though it slowed to a crawl on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge, giving me the opportunity to admire the dreaming spires of San Francisco.

When I came in the door, the kittens ran up to greet me. I missed them so much! It’s good to be home.

12/28 Direct Link
“It’s not the way it is on TV,” the paramedic says. “You don’t want to know the things we do. We don’t shock people back to life. There has to be a heartbeat for a defibrillator to work. When people die, they hardly ever come back. And when they do, at first it’s an amazing rush, seeing their skin turn pink and their eyes light up again. But after a while, you wonder. Was it fate, or just luck? Did it matter that I was there? Am I responsible for life when things go well, or death when it doesn’t?”
12/29 Direct Link
Driving to work in the deep country dark, his car’s headlights sweep over the curves of the road, bringing the towering redwoods into shocking relief. He lights a cigarette. This is the time he uses to think before starting his shift, though he never knows if it will be a quiet night, swapping stories and playing cards with his co-workers, or one bringing injuries or death, the price of human follies and errors in judgment. Sometimes he likes not knowing; others, being prepared would help. Mostly, he thinks, stubbing out his cigarette, no-one knows. It’s just the way it is.
12/30 Direct Link
When they talk among themselves, it’s a relief. No-one asks, “How can you do that? Why doesn’t it bother you?” They ‘re always more concerned with the blood and gore than what it takes to see the light fade from a person’s eyes as they leave this world, or what it takes to tell a parent their child has died. Those are the things that really haunt you, not the spilled blood or cries of pain. The truth is, they can do their jobs, go home, clean up, and ask what’s for dinner as if it were any other job.
12/31 Direct Link
Glad to see the end of the old year. I watch the ball drop in Times Square for the 100th time and imagine what it would be like to be there in the cold, bundled up in a huge, excited crowd. I sip champagne by the sparkling light of my white Christmas tree and the soft glow of candles. I miss the witching hour here on the west coast, and realize the moment has passed when I hear people in the street tooting little horns and calling out new year’s greetings with the muffled thud of fireworks in the background.