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  • Writer's pictureSky Moss

UPSTATE GEECHIE

December is celebratory, sentimental and joyous


December is celebratory, sentimental and joyous for me.  As I pursue sixty while perusing the other side of fifty, I still experience brief and unexpected flashes of remembrance and excitement this time of year.


My wife recently taught me the term ‘glimmers’.  I experience the historical variety.  My Upstate Geechie column has been dormant for some time; not unlike the plants, trees and creatures of Upstate this time of year. My life and family are undergoing substantial changes. While some things are no different than they were growing up in Lowman in the 1970s, others certainly are.  


December starts in the throes of deer season, specifically gun season. I hunt every year although, admittedly, less as I get older. It is a time to escape into the woods and languish in humility. While I had two good opportunities to bag some venison, I passed both times. New York State (and I suspect others) divide the geography into zones. I live in zone 8y.  Each year hunters apply for doe tags specific to the zone they intend to hunt. This normally occurs at the end of summer, beginning of fall.  My work schedule was intense this year and I spaced it. If you are not awarded a doe tag, you can only harvest bucks and the two I saw had their best years in front of them. A younger Sky would likely have disregarded that. My family (including in-laws) hunt incessantly and will certainly share their take and some good spirited razzing.


December is Christmas time. While I have never been particularly religious, the season for me is generally euphoric and elicits fond memories. Raising children gives Christmas a profile, I expect grandchildren even more so (I can wait to see). This will be the first year with only four of us gathering downstairs before packing the car to visit family. My son bought a house locally and while, chronologically, it was time, I still miss him daily.  He essentially moved across town so visiting is easy enough. His girlfriend/housemate is awesome and her family, too. It changes the Christmas ritual but life is ultimately about changing and adjusting rituals.

Photos provided by Sky Moss.


December in the Moss home requires a fresh cut Christmas tree. Where we get our Christmas tree changes from year to year. I have cut them from my parent’s land, cut one from a live farm on the Southside of Elmira, gone to LOWES and in recent years Shedden’s in Gillett, Pa. is our chosen destination. My mother is from Northern Pa. and I spent many days and years playing ball and driving in Mansfield, Troy, Towanda, Gillett and East Smithfield, Pa. Shedden’s functions as a Hills, McCrories, Barkers for residents who like to shop close to home. They have a store that features a variety of gifts and a killer snack bar. When we move to our final home (sooner than later) I will try to plant trees (blue spruce and white pines) to harvest during my winter.  


December weather is vastly different than in my youth.  It is the season to most easily experience climate change. While I hunt in zone 8y, I grow in what has historically been considered zone 5b. This is, technically, a zone hardiness map.  According to the USDA, “the map is based on the average annual extreme minimum winter temperature, displayed as 10- degree F zones and 5- degree F half zones.” You can enter your zip code to get detailed predictions.


Five to seven years back I noticed a shift in winter weather that was remarkable. Growing up, snow would cover the ground for weeks on end. The earth would freeze and remain in that state for months. This is no longer the case. I have ‘wintered over’ (left in the ground) cole crops and hardy greens the last three winters.  As I write this I have beet greens growing in Golden Glow, Chemung County. The USDA now rates the Southern Tier a zone 5b/6a. It is literally variegated on their map. Soon we will be a 6b. I think this will happen in my lifetime.  


December is a time to reflect on a year that will soon vanish into the ethereal of a fifty-something life.  The month, in ever fleeting moments, still makes me feel like a kid. The exuberance and anticipation I see in children this time of year is infectious.


I do miss the kids being little. The gifts were cheaper and the excitement more raw. With a 16, 20 and 24-year-old, it is about checking detailed, specific items off a list. This list is law at their age and deviation with the intention of surprise is not permitted and will result in embarrassment for dad. I joke that at their age it is more ‘Requestmas' than ‘Christmas’. 


Still, it is the type of human interaction and happiness that feels rarer and more difficult to witness these days.


So, I will eat too much, drink eggnog on ice, poorly wrap gifts and sing with the confidence of a first tenor.


December will not escape me. January arrives soon and she emotes differently.

About the Author

Sky Moss is a Professor at Corning Community College. From gardening to music to clothing to politics, and sports, ask Sky and he will give you his opinion. Sky is multifaceted and his columns are always thought-provoking.

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