The Heart of Winter



It snowed! Gone, the soggy days and confused tulips. The sun was bright and the trees cast long blue shadows against the drifts. Clumps of snow clung to the bare branches. The bitter cold meant even the streets were white like the streets of my youth, winters long past. Finally, snow that sticks.

Earlier in the week we’d gone to the craft store, one of those chains full of fake flowers and holiday knick-knacks. Red hearts and doilies and paper valentines gave way to St. Patrick’s Day displays with shamrocks and glittery green top hats and signs shaped like bottle tops that read “Kiss Me I’m Irish.” A thought bloomed like a tiny crocus: winter isn’t interminable. The grey will give way to green. In a month, we’ll gather for corned beef and cabbage. The kids will circle the house screaming and laughing and we’ll walk uptown to the parade.

Every year I’m tricked into believing winter is a static state. Lulled into a myopic daze, I’m unable to see the inevitable spring.

My daughter disrupts my train of thought, darting around the living room announcing “Happy Valentine’s Day” as she places paper hearts in front of the cats and pastes a few to the window. My husband is locked in his office busy with work. I re-pot the purple cyclamen, and already six new blooms shoot up and promise to unfurl.  Winnie the Pooh sings exuberantly in the next room. As I write that sentence, I think, adverb, indulgent like a piece of chocolate I shouldn’t eat. I think of other writing advice: to use specific detail and avoid writing “dramatically” or about “feelings.” Still, I want to confide. In this static winter state I flit from guilt to ambition, malaise to joy, surrender to perseverance, despair to hope like a bee trapped in a cup softly banging against its enclosure not realizing it can fly straight up and into the open air.

We sledded down the high school hill at sunset, screaming as the snow hit our boots and sprayed into our faces. Later, my best friend treated us to dinner. The kids ate the basket of tortilla chips while we sipped margaritas from salty rims. We had one of those disjointed conversations made of snippets strung amidst toddler chatter, where every sentence begins with, “What was I just saying?” Eventually we gave up and discussed dinosaurs and played I-Spy and laughed with the kind folks at the next table who retrieved my daughter’s balloon again and again as she let it float up to the ceiling.