In my first apartment, it was so cold I burned candles from November to February, ran the oven at night, and, when my boyfriend came over, put cherry-flavored (? scented?) pipe tobacco on a thin, warped sheet pan, to make that musty attic apartment (complete with molded avocado green carpet and an orange and white crystal beaded curtain I’m still a little sad I didn’t take when I moved out) smell nice. (Why didn’t I use incense? Because it would’ve made smoke – prohibited in that apartment. Crisped tobacco was somehow… acceptably not smoke? Look, I never said logic was my strong point.)
This poem hits me in memory.
Sugar Water in Winter
A bowl of rose water dreams itself empty
on the radiator: It’s December and we can
hardly afford the heat, our milk money
crinkling hungry over the cold counter
of our convenience store, the very last
of our cash for creamer, for pleasantries,
for cheap tea and cigarettes, for the barely-
there scent of roses burning softly. We trade
our hungers for hearth, for the clank and hiss
of warmth. Small fires, these, but even we,
in our clamorous poverty, demand pleasure:
steal sugar, our neighbor’s flowers, and never,
ever are caught thankless in better weather.
– Ted Kooser
May we indeed never be caught thankless in better weather – or in better years. Will we remember this one and recall all that we avoided, the many “dangers, toils and snares” through which we came? I hope so – and that we store up our small pleasures to remember as we recall our struggle as well.