The view west is expansive, the rising blue of this enormous sky so clear and shining, especially in contrast to the washed-out grays and browns of the bare trees tumbling toward the horizon. I’m in Springfield, Missouri, a city with one of the largest per capital populations of conservative Christians and, incidentally, one of the largest atheist conventions each year. Just on the northern entrance to the Ozarks, this city is surrounded by rolling hills and, to the south, ancient mountains and the decidedly non-ancient chimes and surrealism of Branson (think Las Vegas a la Ozarks and pop Christianity).
We’re here to be with beloved family, to eat turkey, reach for another chocolate the consequent aspirin, see a giant-screened version of Tin Tin, party just a bit for my sister-in-law’s birthday, hope our kids don’t argue too much (so far so good), and generally just be together. This is the third year we’re all doing this, a relatively new tradition with decades of Christmas at my in-laws (just over the hill from us), and it’s been a good tradition, quickly plugging into place its parts: a latke party on Christmas eve, a mid-day dinner on Christmas, family yoga in the living room, a big movie, a birthday cake for Karen, and for our family (minus Natalie who squirrels away at my sister-in-law’s house with her cousin, listening to dubstep for hours), a stay at a very inexpensive and outrageously luxurious Marriott (as if we need more free cookies).
I write this looking west toward where we came from, give or take four hours. Last year, it was overcast and snowy, and the year before, freezing, but today is unfolding into one of those astonishing winter days. The sky is clearer, the sun at a different angle that lifts up the light in new ways than we saw in the summer, and air just brisk enough without chilling our bones. Although we stayed up late watching two movies at once (between commercials on one or another) — The Santa Claus and The Christmas Story (which fit together well) — we’re bright even if a little shaky from too many sweets last night. And now it’s time to leave the view and go into the day.