Having returned from a brief trip home to Mom and Dad yesterday, I've already enjoyed a big part of my Christmas. This week's "Merry Early Christmas!" visit, as it's come to be known in our family, at least according to my older niece and nephew's now-traditional greetings, was one of the sweetest ever. I had so much fun--I think we all did--everyone seemed to be happy with the gifts they gave and received, my newest niece was even tinier than she'd looked in pictures and just as cuddly as I'd imagined and spent a good deal of our meeting asleep snuggled into my shoulder, I did some cupcake-decorating for Mom, enjoyed a lasagna dinner with my parents, brothers, and their wives and children Tuesday evening, and exchanged gifts with my parents while watching the Waltons' Homecoming movie--one of my all-time favorites--until midnight Tuesday night. Mom and I went to bed at two in the morning then got up three hours later to head to the bus station with Dad. I said "I love you" to him at the same moment he said "A short Christmas is better than none," and I cried while I watched his and Mom's car pull out of the bus station parking lot a minute later. All the snow--more than a foot--in their yard added to the magic of this Christmas. Temperatures are warming up--it's supposed to be in the lower sixties here on Saturday--but while I was home, it was a winter wonderland, and after I'd finished wrapping the gifts I'd had shipped to my parents' address and before my brothers and their families arrived for dinner, I borrowed a pair of Dad's boots and clomped around the yard taking pictures.
Mom always decorates the back steps. The only shame of heading outside to take snow pictures Tuesday afternoon was that doing so temporarily scared away all the birds that come to my parents' trees and feeders. Dad and I both love Chicadees best of all, and we spend a good amount of any wintertime visit standing still at the sliding glass door or one of the kitchen windows watching them flit around. Chubby loves, they're such dear little birds.
These are the steps I kept checking and worrying over before baby Bianca was carried up them for this first visit to my parents' house Tuesday. Dad had kept an eye on them too, and I think they and the yard were more thick-with-snow than slippery.
The Rhododendrons had had the sweetest cone-shaped piles of snow on top of each leaf cluster Tuesday morning, but by the time I ventured outside, the snow had melted some. Off and on all Tuesday morning and afternoon, Mom, Dad, and I would call out bird updates to each other as we watched this feeder and a few others that can be seen from the kitchen. "The female Cardinal's back!" ♥ ". . .Look to your right"--"I'm still not seeing her"--"She's not the red one, the males are red"--"I know that, Dad, but I still don't--Oh, I see her now, yeah." ♥ "Look how CHUBBY this one is! Oh, I love Chicadees! They look like little wind-up toys!" ♥ "Mom, move slowly, but look at this Dove. It's HUGE. I thought a CAT had jumped into the tree." ♥ "And there's that nasty Blue Jay, scaring them all away." --"It's so pretty, though, Dad." ♥ On and on, all day Tuesday until it grew dark out.
At our last apartment, Mike and I saw birds in our yard and on our fire escape all the time, but not so in this one--a couple Gold Finches spent some time in a tree out back months ago, and that was the last memorable bird-sighting--so it is always a joy to watch the trees and feeders while at my parents' house.
Such a gorgeous snow.
One of my parents' neighbors kindly plowed their long driveway while I was trudging around taking these pictures.
I stepped off to the side to get out of his way and ended up in snow almost to my knees, but oh! It was all so beautiful.
The Sumac trees out back are lovely all year long, but their drupes show so vividly against the winter sky.
I think gardens are every bit as beautiful in winter. It's easier to admire the tree branches' shapes and the flowers' forms when they're bare but for the snow.
I love winter skies. Christmas decorations and cards always seem to feature greenery, but it's the bare trees that really say winter to me. This hill is across the road from my parents' front yard and their view from the living room and my former bedroom.
'Amazing that this all will have melted in a few day's time.
From inside the living room--
--and looking toward my former bedroom's windows.
And back inside and looking out the kitchen window before beginning cupcake-decorating and table-setting.
The one snow picture I didn't get was one I shared with my parents after I came inside: While the three of us watched the birds for a few moments from inside the sliding glass door, the sun began to set over the sparkling field behind their house, and its last hurrah was to make it and the trees around it glow in the day's first--and last--truly golden light. For a minute before my brief visit home's Tuesday afternoon became Tuesday evening, the entire backyard was a shining soft yellow, and those moments, while Mom, Dad, and I watched, standing together on the sheets of newspaper beside my dripping borrowed boots, was one of my favorites from this sweet visit. Photographers call this the "golden hour" or "magic hour." And it was. It really was. Merry Early Christmas, indeed. ♥