The Sunday before the end of winter break.
Emerging from the shortest days of the year, according to the sun.
(Though harried parents, craving quiet, may disagree.)
Backpacks unearthed, lunch boxes taken from their shelves, leaving squares of clean wood in their place.
(There will be time to dust when they go back.)
And then, it begins.
Unexpected, unpredicted. Unusual for Portland.
(Vacation isn’t over yet.)
Big, fat globs of it, falling so fast you can see it stick.
All three children run to the window, noses pressed against the cold glass.
(Except the youngest, whose nose doesn’t clear the ledge.)
Boots are released from behind the vacuum in the closet.
Mittens rediscovered in bins too high up for little hands to reach.
Backpacks reburied, lunch boxes re-shelved.
(Back-to-school eve no more.)
Our first crunchy steps outside.
Thoughts of school as blanketed as the grass.
It’s so bright, so light.
The clouds almost as white and shiny as the flakes hitting the ground.
My children stand frozen.
Their hands, yes.
But mainly by indecision.
(What to do in this changed world?)
An east coaster, I’m used to this stuff.
I know all the tricks:
Snow angels! Snow balls! Snow babies!
(Not enough for full-grown men.)
I teach them all of it.
Their pants quickly turn white and sticky, their cheeks red and slick.
But I’ve somehow forgotten.
(This is childhood.)
We are ill-equipped.
My daughter, in her excitement, shirtless under her coat.
Hand-knit woolen mittens sodden.
Snow coming in through the tops of rain boots.
(But they will dry. We will too.)
The ice is already forming, glass atop the clean white drifts.
“Shark attack!” my daughter cries, kicking at the stuff so hard she falls into the ocean, in among the sharks.
Then laughing so hard she can’t get up.
“Shark attack!” echoes the oldest, stomping and kicking impossibly huge chunks of it into the air.
(Careful to avoid the toddler.)
Another day with these three. Red and white. Shiny and sticky. Laughing and stomping.
Quiet can wait. Dusting can too.
This – this cannot.