Posted by jdg | Thursday, December 24, 2009

One kid sits in the backseat and tells her parents it won't be winter until there's snow on the ground. "I can't make it snow, kid," her dad says. Having grown up with the constant annoyance of lake-effect snow, even if he could, it's unlikely he would. They are driving west across the state, back to where he grew up, and when they cross that line where the snow stops and starts, where the grass in the highway median disappears and the pine boughs are draped with the last hurrah of the latest storm, the boy in the back seat (who has no memory for snow) looks out his window and says: ice cream.

This is what it means to be a bit shy of two: the world is still amazing enough that you might suddenly find it covered in ice cream.

* * * * *

For a lark he snaps up some mistletoe at the farmer's market. He ties it just above the third step of the staircase, telling his daughter, "When you stand under the mistletoe, you have to let someone kiss you." Just shy of five, she misinterprets this to mean she cannot pass under it without a kiss, as though the sprig were some enchanted object right out of her fairy stories. For a week, she will not go up or down the stairs without pausing there under the mistletoe, waiting for someone to notice, silent, longnecked, lip-pursed, anticipating the kiss that will grant her passage.

* * * * *

The snow finally sticks around their house on the sun's shyest day. By the time they're all swaddled in snowsuits and wool, the sun's long gone so they wander around their neighborhood by streetlight, looking for the best Christmas display. Though the salted sidewalks are clear, both kids choose to walk off the path, the snow crunching under new boots, the dog's tail swatting their polyester armor. More snow is falling and people like this might forget that the winter is long, and cold, so long as there are moments like this to help them survive it. "Watch it, Red," he says to the woman who has pelted him in the back with a snowball, her arm cocked with another. His daughter, cackling, attempts to throw a powdery clump that turns to snowdust before leaving her grip; still, he spirals backwards and feigns injury. His son piles on top of him, and their laughter cleaves the silence of this night.