On these dark January mornings, unalleviated by the lights of Christmas, my mind drifts back to a day in Iceland. I was in my mid twenties, studying Icelandic at the university in Reykjavik, and that January morning I was shopping with my father.
I’d never been shopping with him in my life, in any country at any time, but he was visiting me for a couple of days and it was bitterly cold and snowy. He wanted to buy me a ‘proper’ coat to keep me warm and dry – something that Icelanders would wear, with their thick boots and fur hats. I politely drew the line at the Russian Cossack hat, but I loved the coat. It was long and grey and belted, with a shiny, silky lining. Being the 1980s, it also had slightly padded shoulders and, remembering it now, I think I did look a bit like a Russian soldier.
But I tell this story of a dark January morning in Iceland, not because of the coat – but because of the memory of the coat. Which was the memory of being with my father in his home country, strolling down the road, speaking some Icelandic together. I think I held his arm. I know I loved hearing him talking Icelandic to people in the street, and smelling his pipe smoke as we walked.
I had that coat for twenty years at least, until eventually I took it to a charity shop one January, at the beginning of a new year. I wonder what became of it.
God, who gives winter’s cold darkness and memory’s piercing light – thank you for the blessing of a new day, and the comfort of the old days we carry. Amen