As Yule and Christmas have drawn closer, I've started taking stock, about as far back as I could easily remember.
1990. 7 years old, entrenched in the Mojave. Holidays on base are occasionally interrupted by the roar of air planes. Eventually, you stop hearing them. Christmases are chilly in the desert. There is no snow. The sky is cold blue, cobalt, missing clouds. I roll outside in brand new skates, looking up.
1992. Southern Georgia. It's warm. The nights are cool. We carry wood from the pile in the backyard, drop the logs on porch before we bring them into the house. Our tree takes up a whole corner of the living room and with the companionship of the fireplace looks like something out of a Christmas card; add in a Christmas kitten, who will be with me for the next 11 years of her life, and you have one.
1993. Oberkail, Germany. It's not the first time I've seen snow, but it is the first time it's snowed where I live. The roads turn to ice in winter; the cow pastures, so green throughout the rest of the year, are drenched in white. We go sledding on the steepest pasture, starting early in the morning. By afternoon, the slope we've created has turned to ice and we have to brake with our feet to avoid slamming into the mean wooden fence.
1995. Sonoran Desert. Seven years from now, I will have spent most of my life in deserts. This one is different from the Mojave. Lusher, greener. But the winter days are similar, grey one moment and cobalt blue the next. I miss the snow, but welcome the ability to walk around unencumbered by winter clothes.
1999. My first Solstice. I light silver candles on my altar, burn a sweet incense and welcome the longest night of the year.
2003. East again. My boyfriend, (who will, years later, become my husband), and I celebrate the solstice. We go to see The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and stay up all night. We go outside to greet the rising of the sun, the turning of the year toward spring.
2007. A town away from my parents. My boyfriend and I in our own apartment (though it leaves something to be desired). My own tree, my own decor but Christmas day will still be spent under the roof I used to call home.
2011. Several cities away. This is the first year I will spend Christmas Day in my own apartment. Just me, my husband, and the four cats. My first year cooking the holiday meal and it turns out good, though there seems to be something missing.
Over the next few years, I improve. I find that missing midwinter magic.