When I dream of a white Christmas, I wake to one too. On the heels of the ice storm came a blizzard dumping 14 inches on coastal Maine and over two feet on the mountains. It was winter solstice and the first night of Hanukkah. More snow is falling on Christmas Eve; it hopefully won't switch to light rain. There's still too much snow to melt.
At night frost paints the windows. The low winter sun melts the images slowly. The snow stays pure white.
It takes courage to step outside to retrieve the newspaper.
Between storms the skies are blue. Winter berries are bright red against the pines. I bought a bouquet for our home.
The growing collection of holiday cards brings delight and guilt. Once again I failed on the card front. Maybe next year?
We did get the tree up before my family arrived yesterday. When the children were little, we used to alternate years of Christmas with my family in NYC and with my husband’s family in England. Now the children prefer Christmas at home where pine trees grow and snow falls.
This year my husband found Christmas crackers at the British export store in Freeport. You form a chain around the table and pull. They open with a crack. Inside is a paper crown, a prize and a joke. See it live on Just a Plane Ride Away. My husband brings an English flavor to our Christmases. He’ll be roasting a turkey, and our tree will stay up until 12th night.
Our tree also has a Maine theme. Who else has a lobster?
Or a Star of David ornament? We’ve raised our children with two religions. It creates some confusion especially when the eight days of Hanukkah overlap with Christmas. The year my son started Hebrew School, he made both of these ornaments at home with Model Magic clay. The Christmas tree has its roots in Pagan tradition. Why not hang what you will? Our tree represents all the many branches of our family.
There is nothing better than sitting by the tree and fire with a good book. I just finished Black & White by Dani Shapiro. The fictional protagonist, Clara, has a similar background to mine. Clara was raised in Manhattan by an artist mother and moves as an adult to coastal Maine. She is half Jewish and half Episcopalian.
Happily our narratives diverge at this point: my mother did not exploit me for art. Clara’s mother became famous taking nude photos of her young daughter. At eighteen Clara runs away from home but returns 14 years later when her mother falls gravely ill.
I could relate to Clara’s ambivalence because my mother once painted our family nude at the beach. The figures are abstracted, but I was relieved the painting hung in my parents’ bedroom where my school friends couldn’t see it. I was proud of my mother’s art and didn’t mind the other nudes, but that was too personal, even if I hadn’t posed for it.
I’ve avoided using my own children as models for my art, and you won’t see their faces or their names in my blog. This is for their safety since I blog under my real name. I’m also sensitive to their future desire for privacy.
With these issues in mind, I’d recommend Black & White to artists and bloggers. Shapiro makes the parent photographer look through the lens from the other side. That doesn’t mean that all child photography is exploitive, but it does raise some important questions on where to draw the line and the future implications. Shapiro writes beautifully about sensitive and disturbing issues. Her portrayal of a New York childhood was spot on.
My one criticism was that Shapiro’s portrait of off-season Maine was somewhat off. A Mainer short on cash would not take taxis and fly to NYC; she would take the bus. She wouldn’t order clothes from the L.L. Bean catalog but would shop at the factory outlet or some place more affordable. In Maine, L.L. Bean is considered top quality, not a bargain or dressing down.
Shapiro captured the insular, gossipy side of small town life but at the expense of the warmth of it. The implication might be that Clara was too damaged to form friendships. She can barely appreciate her surroundings. Maine is a remote hideaway more than it is her home. This makes the haunting story all the more tragic.
What I loved about Shapiro’s writing was the bare bones honesty of it. Shapiro lets you see the world from a certain perspective, but she avoids preaching. The reader is left to ponder the issues. There are no easy answers. Between black and white is grey.
There isn’t much color, but isn’t Maine beautiful in winter? I wish we could share a corner of our snow blanket.