old (2007), Uncategorized

this is a story about snow

She can’t remember building a snowman as a child (which doesn’t mean it never happened). There are vague memories of pulling a sleigh to a nearby hill and feeling the rush of snowy-moist winter air against her cheeks and making snow angels and having snowball fights with neighborhood children — but these are fuzzy and unclear and as likely to be things she read about in a storybook as they are to have happened to her. More distinct memories are of coming in from the cold, wet all over, stripping naked in the front room, putting her clothes and mittens and socks and boots on or near the radiator, hustling into “bunny pajamas” (the kind with feet), and drinking hot chocolate — sometimes made with milk and stirred on the stove instead of the cheap powdered version mixed with water.

When the blizzard of ’99 shut the city down and no one could get anywhere and she stayed tucked inside her warm house with an infant child, she remembered 1979 as if it were the day before: the day her father stayed home from work and her mother let loose and they helped her climb onto the roof and jump down — over and over again — into the high drifts of snow that had piled in the backyard and then went inside to make pizza with piles of cheese and homemade sauce and watch the flakes through steamy double-hung windows that let in a whiff of a draft.

The only snowman she remembers building was twelve inches tall, and it was the winter before her older son turned four. (The boy, now ten, recalls none of this, even when prodded.) They lived in an apartment in front of a small lake that only half iced over when it got cold and where geese lived year-round. There are pictures; in them both mother and son are proud, and afterward they drank (real) hot chocolate in front of the (gas) fireplace.

She thinks, now: The snow seems rather beside the point after all. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, she promises her boys they will all make snow angels this year.

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