Standing in a hilly field of snow, I’m surrounded by the silhouettes of leafless trees set against the pink, winter sunset. There’s a row of old houses in the distance. Each, with a single column of white smoke extending from their snow-covered roofs. On the eastern horizon, night has come. And it has brought with it a brilliant, full moon and a few speckled dots of light. One or two of these dots are moving, transporting hundreds of people to or from far away places. Maybe warm places like Miami! I don’t mind the cold. But I’m only a child so I don’t know any better.
I’ve been sledding here all day, and somehow snow has gotten inside my moon boots and turned into water. My socks are soaked and my toes feel squishy. When I get home, I’ll have to put them in front of the heat register to dry… moon boots, socks, toes, and all. And if I’m lucky, my mother will have some hot cocoa with little white marshmallows for me. My older brother and sister left hours ago and are probably dry and have long since finished their cocoa. Maybe I should have gone home with them.
My house is the second one from the end, the green one with the glowing yellow windows. It’s not very far but I’m so tired and cold and soggy, it may as well be Miami. I often wish a helicopter would come down and pick me up and take me home. It never does.
I start gathering snow into a pile, using my plastic sled to haul it in. When there is enough, I carve out a boy-size niche and lay down. Now, even more tired than before, I stare at the moon and stars and watch my frozen breath float away with every exhale. All seems extra quiet now. I’m contemplating the need for a roof, if this makeshift fort is to be my new home, when I hear the familiar melody of the Morning Dove in the distance. Only it’s not morning and that’s not a dove. It’s the sound my mother makes by standing on the front porch, cupping her hands together and blowing into her thumbs like a whistle. She can control the pitch by wiggling her fingers. It’s a sound to which my siblings and I are so calibrated, that we can hear it for blocks in all directions. You can expect to hear it whenever dinner is ready or when she needs you for something. You can expect to hear it when it’s dark and time to come home.
I burst from my fort and dash for home, nearly forgetting my sled and completely forgetting that only a moment ago I was too tired to move. It’s hard enough to run in moon boots on an even surface, but the snow makes it nearly impossible. I want to get home before she gives up calling and goes inside. She might get worried if she thinks I’m not coming, so I run faster. I’m trying not to kick the sled with my heels as I run, but the string I’m towing it with is too short. The whistling continues. The field seems endless, but I can see her standing on the porch now. I hope she can see me. I call out to her. The whistling stops. She’s waiting for me! I cross the road, enter the front yard and up the steps. I’m happy to see her. She tells me we’re having fried chicken for dinner but I could smell that before I crossed the road.
I have to leave my sled on the porch and my moon boots at the door. My father is on the couch watching the CBS evening news. I’m trying to pull off my wet socks when he says he’s glad I could make it. By that, he means to say I’m late. I think he’s being sarcastic, but at least he’s not yelling at me. My brother is sitting in a chair reading a comic book while my sister helps my mother set the table. There’s no time for the heat register nor is there any hot cocoa with little white marshmallows. What there is, is fried chicken, mashed potatoes, peas and Pepsi.
My mother shouts to my father, come and eat, Fred. She always calls him that even though his name is Floyd. I assume it must somehow have something to do with the Flintstones but it doesn’t occur to any of us to ask. Soon we’re all gathered at the table in the kitchen chowing down and discussing this or that. My brother says something funny and we all laugh. The TV is still on in the living room. They’re talking about the weather and a man’s voice says to expect more snow tonight.
It’s good to be home.