Magazine article The New Yorker

TURN SIGNALS; WINTER STORY Series: 5/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

TURN SIGNALS; WINTER STORY Series: 5/5

Article excerpt

Three of my four daughters were born in the dead of winter. One made it to early spring only because she was overdue. So for me the shortest days of the year and the deepest cold are a backdrop to the perilous stories of birth and the radiant exhaustion of new motherhood. Now that my three oldest daughters are in their teens, I can add driving to the pleasures and dangers of having children with winter birthdays.

Because the oldest two both took the driver's test the day after their sixteenth birthdays, much of the practice driving--with learner's permits, and me riding as the requisite adult passenger--took place on those slush-ridden, black-iced, snowbound, or low-visibility Minnesota mornings as we made our way harrowingly to school. The rite of passage was conducted on the bitterly cold asphalt of the Golden Valley driver's course. Both daughters passed the test by one point on their first try--a result recounted with pride and excitement to a mother who could react only with a terrified gulp.

Then came the big moment: my daughter would stride to the driver's side of the car, pull the door open, slide in, and drive away. Both times, I was unprepared. After all, when they took their first steps they walked into, not out of, my arms. Once the car had rounded the corner of the street and my daughter had disappeared, I'd stand rooted to the boulevard. Inevitably, an unpredicted ice storm would begin a few minutes later. But there was so much to be scared of in addition to the weather--all the reasons that the cost of car insurance for teen-agers is astronomical. Not to mention the other drivers. I'd experience a form of parental sorrow that should be endowed with a German portmanteau word, say, Mutterkinderwinterfahrenschade.

When I was on the upslope to fifty, I found that I was pregnant again. My due date was, of course, in January. When winter came that year, everything coincided--the novice driving, the hormones (mine and my

teen-agers'), the wretched ice on the streets, and the gorgeous new snow. The time was fraught with my efforts to let my teens be teens, even as I seemed to be regressing into a shadowland of jitters.

My youngest daughter was born during one of those January thaws when the snow packs low to the earth, exuding a heavy mist that turns a golden peach color under halogen street lamps, and everything is muted in a fog of sunset. …

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