a winter day in the life of a healthy child

When I wake up I peek outside to see that everything is white instead of green. The house is cold, so I bundle my clothes and get dressed over the living room vent where warm air rushes at me from below. I can feel the chill coming off of a bank of windows from my feet to the ceiling, a row of which make up this end of the house.

In the kitchen, Mom has broiled a pan of sausage links and is busy making Swedish pancakes, coating the griddle with ladles of thin batter then cutting it, as it cooks, into squares. A table of toppings awaits us: butter, maple syrup, powdered sugar, a warmed jar of Dad’s strawberries, and chocolate sauce with whipping cream especially for my brother and me.

After breakfast, we gather our winter gear. My brothers and sister bring their hockey sticks and pucks, and after we untangle the laces of our skates, sorting out which belong to who, we dangle them from mittoned fists then pile into the truck. Dad drives slowly on snowy roads past Robinswood school to Lang’s Pond, which has frozen over this year. Besides a couple of friends from the old neighborhood, we’ve got the pond to ourselves. Dad sits on a rock overlooking the glen while Mom dons her skates at the base of the big willow tree, its roots encased in ice, its bare limbs sheathed in white, delicate and weeping. Mom’s weak knees and ankles bend like bows. She trips and skids out toward the center where she draws a crowd of boys who dart and zip around her as she squeals, and though the ice moans beneath her weight, jagged cracks fanning from her feet, it doesn’t give way.

The snow and the sunken sky quiet our frozen pocket in the hills, dulling the crack of smacking sticks, the whack of pucks that blacken the heels of once-white skates. Well away from the mob, I glide in unsure circles, my blades chipping pits and knifing white arcs into the ice. I sit and scrape a patch of frost from the face of the frozen pond, and peering into it all I can see is blackness. I wonder about the frogs and fish in the muddy depths under my feet. Dad says they’re asleep. Some months before, I’d crouched in the sun at the pond’s edge, skimming off slime with a stick, scanning its banks for polliwogs and catching frogs in my fists, their sticky skin so thin, their tiny hearts a-beat.

Except from a work in progress.

Photo by Michael Kolster

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