It's supposed to go down to 29 degrees Fahrenheit here tonight. We had to cover baby plants in our yard to protect them from frost--not a common occurrence here, even this time of year.
There's a little corner of my East Coast heart that wants to wait up, then take the dogs out for a middle-of-the-night walk in that cold, all bundled in heavy woolen things. Real winter clothing faded from my wardrobe a long time ago--parkas and boots--but I can still rustle up a hefty sweater or two. I have this one sweater that was made for me by Betsy, the woman I think of as my other mom, though we've been out of touch for a few years. She's the mother of my best friend from college, Kate, and she comes from a long line of New Englanders, so you can imagine she knows her way around a wool sweater. The sweater she made for me is glorious--all fall leaf colors and that bouncy quality that really great wool has. Knitters know what I'm talking about. I would wear it way more often than I do, but it's absurdly warm for this part of the world most of the time.
Every once in a while though, I like to take the sweater out of storage in my cedar chest and just smell it. It still smells like wood smoke, and the particular laundry detergent Betsy always used. I suppose Kate must always have used the same brand, because it smells like her too, and like her rooms in our college dorms. It's the scent of blissful weeks I got to spend with their family in Connecticut, often over Thanksgiving break, when I would take the train up from Philadelphia after spending the holiday with my own family. One year, Kate's family held Thanksgiving until I could get there on Friday--all of them, Kate; her brother; her mom and dad; Great Uncle M., who came down from Maine every winter to live with them; Betsy's sister, in from Illinois. They waited for me, and I got to have Thanksgiving again with my second family.
I remember taking a walk that Thanksgiving, and it was absolutely freezing--literally freezing, and brightly sunny, with that watery but somehow brittle looking, low sun you get on a winter day. It's always funny to me to look outside on a bright winter day in California--the sun is right, the low angle, the watery look, and I always expect a certain kind of frigid temperature to go along with it, and of course it never happens. Most years around these parts, you could reasonably hold a picnic in the park on Thanksgiving. It used to depress me, but I've come to appreciate the cold where I can get it--tonight, for example.
Kate's mom and great uncle were also the ones who taught me to knit for real. My mom taught me basics when I was seven or eight, and I created one orange acrylic scarf with green fringe for my Paddington Bear, but that was it until my Connecticut family got hold of me in college. Everyone in the family knit except for Kate's dad, and in the winter, there were frequently little unplanned knitting circles going on around the wood stove. After I'd learned to knit, every time he saw me, Great Uncle M. invariably asked me how my knitting was coming along. And I invariably had to admit that it was extremely, very, really, really slow. Oh, the guilt!
Tomorrow, my own real mom is coming over to help cook for Thanksgiving, and I'm trying to give up this idea I've been clinging to of getting anything non-Thanksgiving related done. Honestly, this is one of my favorite holidays, and I'll have my mom in the kitchen with me, making it extra holiday-like. And it's going to be colder than normal--too cold for a picnic! So maybe I'll break out my other mom's gorgeous sweater, and then take a break from the cooking to go for a walk in that bright winter sunshine with my first mom. And maybe I'll sit down and write a long letter to my Connecticut family, to wish them a happy Thanksgiving, and to tell them just how incredibly much I love them all, and just how much the smell of their house on my sweater makes me homesick.