Wings of a bird

They called for snow on Thursday — snow and rain and gray, cold skies.

I walked to work in new snow boots, the ones with the warm fuzzy insides, and a scarf wrapped up over my head and hands stuffed in my pockets because I’ve misplaced my hats and gloves.

The coffee that sloshed out onto my fingers was hot against the cold.

And like other cold November mornings, I wished for the wings of a bird, to fly south at this taste of bitter winter.

Only this time, I was counting down the hours.

I’m here now, in the patch of Texas pines and fields and dried-up creeks my parents call home, for a long week of Blue Bell ice cream and Tex-Mex and southern sunshine; for too many voices speaking all at once — a happy cacophony filling the hard-tiled dining room-and-kitchen; for memories that hang along the path through the bean field (that has never, in my memory, grown any beans) or dance in the creek beds we used to jump across.

Thick vines used to hang from those tree branches but the best spot was in the neighbor’s woods, those days it was my aunt’s home, and how we would argue there by the fence! The five of us just three years apart at the very most, two bold and eager and unconcerned about parents; two guilt-stricken at the thought of breaking unknown rules; me there in the middle,the oldest, the responsible one, the swing vote, wondering just how much trouble I’d get in tonight if I voted against my sister.

That creek, I expect, is dried up now. The droughts have killed trees and left the pond a shadow of its former self after a scorching summer; I don’t know if fall rains can fill it again.

There will only be three of the five of us there – two live in Alaska; we never see them anymore. Letters have petered out; my childhood friends are lost to a world I can’t share.

The siblings we used to escape from will join us now, when we follow that path through the Pine Forest, maybe past Emerald Pond, where four-wheelers stuck in swampy mud years ago. We used to hurry through those trees; boys told us there were mountain lions and I called them liars but looked always over my shoulder, just in case.

So I will sit by the wall of windows and look out over the water to red clay banks rising out of it, steam from the coffee cup in my hand; and I will watch the shadows of the child I was run between the trees, with all those little triumphs and little heartaches as we played at living, and the forms of the children who are now following behind.

We will catch up on the news we missed since last year, as our games have turned to a harder reality, the stakes growing with the years. The coffee pot will always be empty, and abandoned coffee mugs will turn up in the most unlikely places.

I will soak in the southern sunshine but I won’t complain when the clouds cast their shade, when rain pours down on the thirsty earth.

And I will file new memories away, there to join the old ones I carry now.


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