It’s not only my favorite mantra. It’s a spell, and a benediction, an aspiration, and a prayer.
Just now, there’s rain on the roof and, snug in the guest room bed, G/Son is sound asleep underneath the soft cotton sheets, the green woven blanket, the thick bedspread, and the Moon and Stars blanket that I spread over them — the one his parents gave me as a gift, years before he was born. He’s clean from his bath, his teeth are brushed, his tummy is full, his ears still ring with the spell that I sang for him: hoof and horn, hoof and horn; all that dies shall be reborn.
Whenever this happens, I feel all the grandmas, all over the world, and especially the ones who worry every night about a drone, a knock on the door, a bullet through the slum walls. We’re all of us one grandma; they’re all of them our own, one, precious grandchild.
This evening, G/Son asked me, over pumpkin squares and apple cider, “Nonna, what’s the worst winter you’ve ever known?”
I didn’t tell him about the winter when I took the metro all alone to the office on K Street, over and over, and, listening to chants by Hildegard von Bingen on the CD player, let them put a tube of poison into my arm: chemotherapy to get me “over” breast cancer.
I didn’t tell him about the winter when we ran out of heating oil and Son and I snuggled under blankets, ran the oven to stay warm, watched the ice thicken on the pond outside, and I decided to leave my marriage.
I didn’t tell him about the winter when an ice storm closed the school where I taught (and the law school where I studied) for two weeks, while I stayed home, in a tiny apartment alone, and studied for 18 hours a day to catch up. In the end, that wasn’t a bad winter; it was a good one. That ice storm saved my ass and got me through law school.
Instead, I told him about the winter when he was four years old and we had the Biggest Blizzard Ever. In DC, they still call it the Snowmageddon. There was more snow than I’d ever seen. My fox came out on the first night, looked deep into my eyes, and asked me to go back inside so that she could hunt. And, I did. I told G/Son how the snow was taller than he was and how it took forever to melt. I told him how I went out two days later to knock the snow off the new magnolia trees and fell down on my way back to the house. I told him how I crawled over to the deck to find something I could push on to stand up. I told him how, if I’d been really hurt, no ambulance or truck could have gotten down my street to save me.
G/Son said, “Remember how, a few years ago, we got snowed in and I played nerf basketball with the little net that Daddy put up on the guest room door? And how we played Uno and Chinese Checkers and made soup, and hot chocolate, and snow ice cream? And remember how we lit incense in your altar room, and left honey and milk for the fairies, and finally they plowed the roads and we went to the arcades? That was a good winter.
And, he’s right. It was. There won’t be any more “normal” winters. But G/Son and I had that one.
May it be so for you.