Last week I had a couple meetings I scheduled in the late afternoon. I do this on days I don't have Edie in daycare, strategically overlapping the beginning of my workday with the end of my husband's. Because we live 30 miles and a good 45 minutes from town, the planning can be a little tricky and usually involves a quick stop and drop at Gramma's store so Edie can destroy the place before her daddy picks her up.
Last weekend we slowed down our typical agenda and spent some much-needed time with our good friends. Because we both live in rural North Dakota, we thought it would be fun to meet in the big town to do some shopping, eat out and take our babies swimming in the hotel pool. My friend and her husband have a son who turns one soon and in the years prior to the arrival of our long-awaited children, we would spend hours on the phone together discussing doctors appointments, crying over losses and wondering why it was so hard for us and so easy for others.
We were all sitting around in the living room visiting about weather, politics and how Edie managed to get her second bloody nose in two days in church that morning when Dad came sneaking sort of quietly through the door, slipping off his snow boots and wool cap before shuffling down the hall and sliding into the chair. The last time we saw him he was at the top of the neighbors' sledding hill, brushing the snow off of his Carharts after a lightning speed solo trip on the orange toboggan.
Northerners. We like to boast that we're hardy and resilient and can stand up against the biting, sub-zero, blizzardy cold without much consequence besides a bad case of hat head. We can handle our feet and our pickup tires on icy paths, and we know how to hunker down and make it through on hot dish and hot soup. We like to say this place isn't for the faint of heart.
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — Every farm or ranch needs an old horse, an animal with a long story of seeing it all so that he can be trusted with the smallest rider or the most inexperienced visitor who wants to see the place on horseback, a request that can be sort of nerve-wracking if you don't have a trustworthy grandpa or gramma in the pen. Because an old horse can make up in experience what your rider lacks. He won't shy from that weird-shaped rock on the hill because he's seen it a thousand times.
Every farm or ranch needs an old horse, an animal with a long story of seeing it all so that he can be trusted with the smallest rider or the most inexperienced visitor who wants to see the place on horseback, a request that can be sort of nerve-wracking if you don't have a trustworthy grandpa or gramma in the pen. Because an old horse can make up in experience what your rider lacks. He won't shy from that weird-shaped rock on the hill because he's seen it a thousand times.
I'm finding it hard to concentrate this morning. After another two days of more snow, the sun is finally shining bright through my window and the arctic, frosty air is creating a big rainbow halo over the stock dam. If I didn't know better, I would think it might actually be a nice day out there. But I've lived here long enough. This is what five below zero looks like.
My gramma Edie used to keep a diary of her life here at the Veeder Ranch. They weren't particularly thorough, and most were written in tiny scrawl on pocket calendars with most every entry detailing accounts of the weather, work, cattle and who stopped by the place for a cup of coffee or to borrow something. It makes me wonder today, as I sit staring at the chest-deep snow drift that has piled up against my glass living room doors, how she might have documented the snow-pocalypse Christmas blizzard of 2016 if she were still alive today. I imagine it like this:
I was too old to believe in Santa Clause when reality finally started tugging at my sleeves. I tried to shoo the truth away as long as I could, not so eager to grow up and exist in a world surrounded by it because the truth never seemed quite as thrilling as the dreamed up. I suppose I've always been one to hang on to the coattails of magic as long as it lets me, as long as it doesn't grow too wild and reckless, sending me spinning and whipping off its haunches.
When I was dreaming of having a baby of our own for all those years, I ran through how it might look in our house at Christmas: cozy and warm tucked in the trees, hot cider on the stove, a fire crackling in the fireplace, our baby crawling playfully around the fresh-cut cedar we found together on the ranch under a blue sky and after a little impromptu snowball fight. And that tree we cut would fill the house with its wild scent and twinkle throughout the long nights, reminding me when I was a kid and Christmas was magic.