Photo by Radek Grzybowski on Unsplash

By Marilyn Pellini

Humans are not like their bird counterparts, who set out every spring finding twigs, dried grasses, and any other bits of useful materials they spot when flying on high. Birds know that spring is approaching, and the females will soon be having baby birds who need a home. They must feather their nest in preparation. It will need to be sturdy and large enough to hold the mother and squawking babies awaiting the food she or the father will provide. It must be built aloft in the branches of a tree safe and far from the reaches of predators.

Man, on the other hand, begins to prepare his nest when the first chill hits the air in the fall. He gets his yard clear of leaves and takes in all that cannot withstand the harsh winter weather. His windows might need some extra caulking and doors might need to be checked for weather stripping that will keep the heat in and the elements out.

In cold weather areas, winter clothing is out now in abundance in the stores. A sturdy winter jacket is a must and so are boots to plow through piles of deep snow. With the Christmas season fast approaching, this is the time when all is plentiful and in all sizes. It is time to spruce up your winter wardrobe for those long months of cold ahead. It might even be an opportunity to start holiday shopping early, and cash in on pre-season sales and beat the crunch in December.

Warm comforters and throws are dug out of their cleaner’s bags along with that patchwork quilt Grammie made so many years ago. Before my son was a toddler, I decided to knit him an afghan. Alas, I did not know how to crochet, so knit it was. It needed to completely cover his twin bed, and I was so excited to find a modernistic pattern in red, white, and blue. His dad was in the Navy at that time, so what could be more fitting for my little son’s room? Well, being new to knitting, I didn’t realize how much time it would take to complete a work of that size. I brought my knitting anywhere I could, as long as I would not offend anyone. I even brought it to the movie theater. You’d be surprised how light and bright it is in there, and comfy too—perfect for knitting and yet not missing a moment of the picture. It did eventually get completed, and it is now permanently in his possession. 

If you are lucky enough to have a gas fireplace, not too many problems arise when preparing to put it into service. A wood burning fireplace, however, needs an endless supply of wood or those slow-burning composite logs you can buy at the supermarket. What if you have a wood burning stove though? You had better have logs aplenty to literally go out and chop or have a place nearby that can deliver a truckload that is already cut. Be careful not to put the logs too close to the house though, because if you should not use it all during the winter, it begins to deteriorate and can attract termites. We made that mistake one year and had to have that area of the house sprayed by an exterminator. We learned a valuable lesson.

Our cars need their own form of nesting; making sure that all is in working order for the season of cold and ice is a must. Tires should have good tread, and in some areas of the country they should be replaced with tires especially geared to driving in hazardous conditions. Don’t forget to put a window scraper and a shovel (they make folding ones) into your truck; I always carry a spare blanket as well. I only live in New York, but being a woman who travels alone to visit the grandkids in the snow belt of Massachusetts, I want to be prepared for any eventuality. I try to keep a broom and shovel at the entrance of my garage, as sometimes the melting snow from my car makes the edge a bit slippery, and then I can crack up and sweep up whatever is a problem. I try not to be paranoid, but winter hazards, at my less-than-young age, could be a catastrophe with breaking a leg or hip. It is imperative that everyone makes sure their property is clear of ice and snow for the trash collector and mailman. In our town, they clear the sidewalks in the business area and around the schools, but the rest of us have to do our own.

Our pets need special attention and preparation for the harsh effects of winter. Nature has them grow thicker, warmer fur, but they too can suffer the effects of ice and snow. It is not unusual to see a dog wearing a coat these days, especially those little tiny dogs whose own thin bodies could not possibly provide them with enough warmth. Even man’s body prepares itself for the onslaught of winter and cold. It could be that we don’t get enough exercise, or because of holiday overindulging, but I for one have been known to gain ten pounds of winter fat, which keeps me warm! Of course as the new year approaches, I have to make a resolution to have that extra layer of chunk gone by the first day of spring. Well, maybe May 1st would be okay, as we are not in revealing clothes and certainly not in bathing suits until we are well into June. 

We are nested and snug and warm in our cozy houses as the holiday season approaches. I live in a house built in 1933 and am lucky enough to have steam heat. Growing up in New England that was the norm, but I always thought radiators in a room were just so ugly. I simply had mine covered and they totally blend in with my wall color. I don’t care what you say, but I’m a true proponent of oil heat. I set my thermostat at 70 degrees, and every single time I go to look at the thermometer it is exactly 70 degrees. I had another home that had a hot air type of heat. It seemed that one minute you were cold and the next you were too hot.

So, we have battened down the hatches and are ready to face whatever Mother Nature throws at us. Some of us are lucky enough to be retired, and instead of facing walls of snow and ice we are lounging on a warm, sunny beach somewhere. Those of us still out earning a living in areas our ancestors had no business settling in will have some struggles for three, four, and even five months. How can we forfeit, however, the joys and the festivities of the holidays that go along with the coming of cold weather?

Thanksgiving will soon be upon us. The prospect of a turkey roasting in the oven and the smell of fresh baked pies makes the thoughts of home and hearth ever so appealing. The kids will be home from college. Family and friends will be side-by-side in harmony and family togetherness, warm and cozy by the fire talking of this same holiday long ago that the Pilgrims experienced in such harsh conditions. 

We often get nostalgic and remember back to this Thanksgiving when our grandparents were alive, and we sat at the table for hours on end eating courses that were literally soup to nuts. Being of Italian heritage, we would start with antipasto, graduate to soup followed by manicotti or lasagna, and then commence to embrace our new American heritage with a complete turkey dinner. Next came desserts, some traditional pumpkin and apple pie, but also Italian specialties. The nut and fruit course followed, and all was washed down with fine Italian red wine. The day would slowly, hesitatingly end. No one wanted to leave. No one wanted to go out to brace the cold at this hour of the night. Yet, there was an air of excitement as some were preparing for Black Friday. Going out to start holiday shopping in the middle of the night had an air of adventure. Everyone was already excited about the Christmas season and all the other celebrations during that special month to come.

The saying “Home is where the heart is” at holiday time is especially true. Being nestled together for celebrating makes us all realize how bountiful our life and country really are, and how lucky we are to have warm clothes and homes. Thanksgiving is the time we ponder our own Horn of Plenty and appreciate family and abundance. Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

BIO: 

Marilyn Pellini has recently published a grief book entitled Dear Al, A Widow’s Struggles and Remembrances. It has been selling quite well. Her other credits as a writer include a recent article in Brick Magazine entitled “Memories in My Button Jar,” pieces in Westchester Parent Magazine, Bay State Parent Magazine, On The Water, Balanced Rock, and others which she would be happy to provide copies of upon request. In May of 2018, she took the first place prize in the N.Y. State Federation of Women’s Clubs writing contest.