Given the beautiful days we've had this week I suppose it's difficult for most people to think about winter comforts. But for me it takes only the cooler nights and these first few frosts . . . and I'm there. Give me that winter robe, the flannel pj's, and the woolly cardigan then lead me to my nest in the den, the wing chair in the little room with the big TV. Oh, and the warm cat curled up on my lap.
In the office one day last week we got to talking about the things that mean comfort to each of us. The most obvious similarity was comfort food, but everyone has definable comforts that they look forward to, and they are mostly associated with cold weather. I guess in the summer we're contented enough with the sun warming our skin and our dispositions, the lack of multiple clothing layers, and the freedoms of the outdoors. Oh sure, watermelon, swimming, barbeques, that's all very nice, but I prefer the hunker-down, snuggly, cozy season and it begins when my down comforter comes out of summer storage. It seems that the same weekend the air-conditioners get struggled out of the windows, it's time to open those windows at night and put the fluffy, white duvet on the bed. I'm sure Freud would have his say about this, but I drift off faster and sleep more deeply when I'm cuddled up under that airy puff.
Sigmund would probably say it's either a return to the womb, or at the very least an early bassinet. I know when I was a kid that snuggling up under lots of covers not only kept me warm but protected me from that terrifying monster that lived under the bed. Although I slept near the edge, I never dangled a hand or foot over the side knowing full well he would grab me and pull me under. Those layers of heavy blankets protected me from the green, hairy ogre. My current midnight monsters, sleeplessness and arthritis, are usually subdued when I surrender under the miraculous down protector. I now know why it's called a comforter.
Chattering cold mornings find me crawling out of the sack directly into my beloved, pink, fuzzy bathrobe. I noticed this autumn that eight years of non-stop warming have taken a toll on this cozy, old friend The sleeves are tattered, the collar is worn but its shabbiness makes it somehow even more comfortable. Fresh home from work each evening I shrug back into its welcoming contours, not surprisingly shaped now like me. I don't imagine that the weekly washings are contributing to the robe's longevity but the morning newsprint and English muffin crumbs pretty much dictate its regular time in the laundry room. Come to think of it, I probably wear this ratty robe more than any other garment I own. If I figured out its purchase price on a cost-per-wearing basis it's probably been less than a penny a day. That's enough to make a frugal Yankee proud . . . and a small price for comfort.
Both scientists and psychologists tell us that more memories are evoked by our sense of smell than any other sense. I could find an argument for the sounds of favorite old music, but it's hard to fight the aroma of an apple pie in the oven. We're heading quickly into the season of homecomings and the time of year I love my house the most when its aromatic welcome accompanies the bear hugs. . . comfort food and comforting kisses, what could be better?
When my daughter's family arrives the weekend before Thanksgiving, they know they can count on the old comfort foods ready and waiting . . . homemade corn chowder and biscuits, something that works no matter what the hour of arrival. By the time the whole house smells like turkey, pumpkin pie and cranberry bread, we've all spent a few days slipping back into the way home is supposed to be morning coffee aromas wafting up the front stairs, jabbering little people romping and squealing around the kitchen island, evening fires crackling while a cork is being popped. Pure comfort.
Since the grandchildren have arrived, Christmas is no longer here and we head to Boston for Santa's visit. But since I miss living that month with the tree and the aromas of Christmas, the day after Thanksgiving the aromas at my house change from turkey to evergreens and the yuletide moves in. Many holiday decorations are up so they can see what Christmas was like when their parents were little.
I've heard a few twists on the old axioms, "There's no place like home" and "Home is where the heart is." One of my black humor favorites was "Home is where no matter how bad you screw up, they have to take you in." That just doesn't sound really homey to me and not a bit comfortable, but then again I luckily never strayed quite that far.
I think home is where you can't wait to be whether it's after a hard day's work or a long weekend. As much as I've loved the most perfect long vacation, I've enjoyed coming home just as much. The ratty pink robe that I'd be too embarrassed to travel with awaits. The two perfect bed pillows are plumped next to the just-right reading lamp. And the cat? Well the cat, as usual, couldn't care less. And that's part of normal too. . . comfortable, everyday home.
Marcy O'Brien lives with Ollie, the Fraidy Cat, who doesn't like strangers, but loves a familiar, comfortable lap. She can be reached at Moby.32 @hotmail.com.