Winter's Wisdom

Sadie Maddock

My hands are wise beyond their years. That’s the nicest way of putting it. They’re old. I have the hands of an old woman, though they’ve not made it through their second decade.

When I was a baby, the New Year wanted to claim me as her own. I was born on the third day of her residence, but she wouldn’t let me elude her grasp. And so, she gifted me with a snowstorm. I don’t remember it, but my parents certainly do. Greying drifts of snow, slush turned to ice on the asphalt, and foggy, smudged glasses. With Winter’s breath, the curse was placed. Ever since I can remember, with the first hint of Winter that hearkens the coming of the New Year, the moisture leaves my hands, they shrivel and crack, representing the…wisdom…bestowed upon me at birth by the New Year.

With wisdom comes pain, and I’ve often wished to exchange naivety for the burden that wisdom brings.

When I was young, the idea of lotion would get me up in arms, which, in turn, would get my parents up in arms. Before they could sing me and my brother to sleep, Mama had to reason, chide, and explain—an ordeal that always ended with her smearing cream on my hands, but an ordeal that I’d make her go through every time as if we didn’t know how it would end. I don’t suppose my parents can blame me, though. After all, it was their Spring pleasure that delivered me to New Year’s arms.

As I got older, I learned to tolerate lotion. I became much better at inflicting it on myself. Even so, I was apt to wait until it was absolutely necessary. Red rivulets of lava sometimes surfaced, spilling over from the cracks of my skin, signaling that it was time for me to intervene. My hands were close to crumbling. I dolloped lotion on my palms, spread it around, and waited for sweet relief. Instead, my hands screamed out in torment. They stung, unbearably. I lay in bed, biting my lip. The only way to escape the sting was to shake my hands until they were disoriented. Succumbing, I dashed out of bed to the sink to wash the lotion from my hands. Immediate discomfort came before long-term consequences.

Now, there’s a boy. We started dating in Winter, slipping through New Year’s fingers by making it official just three days after I was born, though sixteen years down the line. That day, we held hands for the first time, leading us from an awkward half-hug on the bench all the way down the path to the river. The soft pads of my fingers brushed the back of his hand, and it was familiar. His hand was old, too.

Another few months passed before we shared this similarity openly, sitting on a log in the same woods as the bench where it all began. We hold hands a lot, now. And each time we do, we share a little bit of our wisdom with each other. I steal his hand cream, and he steals my hemp lotion, and together we nourish our wisdom.

One thing doesn’t make sense to me.

This boy was born late August, at the advent of the school year. He doesn’t belong to the New Year.

So, where did his curse come from? How did he earn his wisdom?