By the grace of Leonard Cohen, we made it home safely tonight. Wrapping protectively around a crock pot half full of tamales. Crunching the wrong boots through the pure, driven snow. Catching that quick hug from one cousin or another. Someone held the child’s hand. Someone else carried a box full of unwrapped gifts, still dangling their ribbons.
We’d managed to keep it all to two hours, plus a few minutes, as we crawled out onto packed snow on nearly bare tires. Despite Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles on the way to the party, the radio failed to provide us with songs to keep us awake and alert on the way home, though there alertness found its way into the tension in my neck and held my hips in suspension while my partner drove.
As we determined the best way to avoid hills along our route, despite living on numerous hills, one overlapping the next, we settled on one of the two CDs in the car, and let Leonard Cohen’s sonorous voice guide us through the circuitous route, the long-longer way toward home.
Wherever I looked I saw my mother in the night. The quiet grief lay between us when my aunt called me Betsy. The warmth of her love enveloped us in songs of the holiday before we left the house. Her joy twinkled from the crystals of snow I held in bare hands before entering the car. Even as I sang along to Cohen, I heard her heartbeat keeping time to his songs.
We played “Bird on a Wire” and “A Singer Must Die” and “Everybody Knows.” We coasted home on “Hallelujah.”
Our car couldn’t make it up the steep driveway, and we settled at the base, checking from various angles to ensure we weren’t hanging into the road.
The moment we entered the warmth of our home, dropping bags and boxes wherever we could find purchase, I fished out the last pork tamale–the mild one–amidst a host of rajas–the not-so-mild-ones. I hadn’t even pulled off the first boot before the lingering warmth and reassurance of corn and meat filled my mouth. My children took bites, as well, wanting the comfort and protein after an hour of singing tension through white trees and black ice.