This afternoon Kendell and I drove out to my mom's house so we could take her Christmas lights down for her. Hers is the only house that Kendell will deign putting icicle lights on, as he hates hanging them, the tangling and the shorting out, but when we pulled into her driveway I was enchanted for a moment: her icicle lights were spiked through with real icicles.
As Kendell likes to remind me when I complain, our usual lack of icicles is simply proof that our gutters work like they are supposed to. We almost never have icicles on our house, except for a tiny one every now and then during extra-cold winters. This year, however, has been extremely cold. And we received 12" of snow on the day after Christmas, and then an icicle grew, on the corner of my house where the garage meets the front porch. It grew longer, and thicker; it grew a few spurs and became a tentacled, twisted glorious thing, and when I would admire the icicles on other houses, my own made me feel less winsome.
They spark a sort of delicious shiveriness for me, icicles. I see them hanging and the urge to knock them off is nearly irresistible, and yet I want them to stay and grow. They are beautiful, violent things, temporary and vulnerable to sun and yet glitter so appealingly in its light.
Mine stayed, and grew; it stayed despite my boys’ repeated beggings to knock it down; it stayed until a warm day last week, when the sky got blue again (real, smog-free blue) and the cold broke a little, and it fell when no one was around to witness it.
But my mom’s icicles hadn’t fallen. They lined the line of her roof, thick and sturdy, delicate and fragile, an entire gallery of ice artwork.
But to take down her icicles we had to knock down her icicles.
I stood under the eaves, roping the lengths of icicle lights as Kendell unhooked them, looking at the icicles before he knocked them down. Dad would love these, I couldn’t help thinking, and then his brother, who lives a mile or so up the road, drove past in the car that was Dad’s, back when he could still drive without getting lost, and he waved and I thought Roe would like them, too, and I caught myself up in the mythology of the Allman heritage, how we are, because our father’s father was an artist, the kind of people who notice things like the shape of an icicle, how it is ridged or carved or fantastical, how that is a part of who we are and so maybe because I noticed the icicles and Dad would’ve noticed the icicles, would've noted their form and the way their color changes depending on where the sun is, and the perfect image one can find, standing behind a veil of icicles, with naked trees still holding snow and the blue sky beyond—because he would’ve seen his own version of that image, it was a sort of solace; it didn’t bring him back but it made him come back to me there, anyway, listening to the icicles fall. It makes a sort of music, cracking from the eave, a beautiful protest, each icicle before it impales itself through snow into frozen soil, an arpeggio that is remarkably like grief, like loneliness, like the shadow of a person passing through you.