My kid is wearing his brother’s coat and my shoes–the waterproof ones with the Sherpa lining. The coat is too big for his thirteen-year-old frame; surprisingly, the shoes are not. He stands in the middle of the driveway, looking out at the houses, watching. The trees are blanketed with white and blend seamlessly with the gray sky. Fragments of barren branches stand out, haphazard and stark–like a picture that’s been shattered into a thousand pieces, leaving you to guess what used to be. The snow falls from the boughs above his head, making it look like we’re mid-storm even though it’s long passed.
He turns around but doesn’t see me watching from the window, coffee cooling in my mug. He’s all long arms and gangly legs and shaggy hair; the coat’s weight makes him look smaller than I think he is. The angle of his jaw is beginning to take over his baby face, and I can see the man he will become shadowed behind the little boy he still is. He shakes the arms of the coat past his hands and, using them like gloves, goes back to shoveling snow.
He’s not clearing it as much as he’s moving it from one spot to another. Slowly. Gently. He picks some up and drops it precariously close to the spot he just cleared. He watches it fall, shifting and swirling, tumbling down and changing the shape of the hill he’s made. He takes a step forward and repeats the process; the shovel’s scrape, the plume of snowdust, the tiny avalanche. Scrape. Snowdust. Avalanche.
I wonder how long it’s been since I’ve paused in a moment to feel it? When was the last time I wore something simply because it was warm? Or stood in my own thoughts without being afraid that someone would hear them? When was the last time I let words fall and swirl and change the shape of something I’ve written?
Another shovelful, and he’s back to looking out over the yards. They’re even and empty and beckoning; waiting for snowmen to be built or tracks to be left, for snow forts and castles and angels. For pretend blizzards and real snowcones and breathless laughter that echoes against the stillness. But there’s none of that, only the shovel’s scrape against concrete and snow that dances, unnoticed by the child he’s trying hard not to be.
His dog scratches at the door until I let her out; she bounds down the steps and disappears into a drift. She bounces out and leaps into another, her red collar and black ears the only things visible in the snow. He laughs, drops the shovel, and jumps in to join her. Plumes of snowdust swirl around them.