I stand at the shoreline
You sit, discontent in that rickety little boat
It rocks, dangerously, at your shifting weight
Rippling water currents draw you slowly out
Swiftly, you drift further into unknown waters
Receding from my vantage point
There’s no goodbye, no salutations at all
Just a distance increasing
I wade in, willing myself to swim to you
But I cannot
So I stand waste deep in the sludge
Silently willing you to paddle back
Oblivious to my mental pleading, still further the rift grows
I stand at the shoreline
The flakes began Wednesday night, not Friday as they’d said. I should’ve known when they started canceling evening events, but I’d been periodically checking the weather forecast through out the day.
My colleague said she’d never heard of a “blizzard watch,” though I’m certain there’d been others before now. And when the fire alarm sent us outside on drill in the 30 degree temperature, it smelled like snow. The ominous clear grey skies were increasing the student buzz about days off. We weren’t expecting to be off on Thursday, but I’d prayed they wouldn’t force us into school with predicted snowfall on Friday.
The well stocked shelves of the grocery store belied the fervor of scared shoppers stocking up for the unknown. On Wednesday afternoon, their fears weren’t yet real. Friday morning, though, after hundreds of accidents and disabled vehicles, lengthened commutes and closed public transit, the store’s meager remnants were hardly beckoning. The bread, milk, and meat isles were sparse.
Then the real snow began. It started with non-threatening flurries and maintained the slow decent for hours. The white collected, stuck to the chilled pavement, built in increments. By 1:30, it increased and the winds created swirling tornadoes of snow as our neighborhood began to disappear.
At 5, I realized we’d not ventured out. Piling on layers of clothes, the kids and I trekked into the blinding elements. Ri didn’t remember a snow like this. Ya was surprised by the icy collection of flakes mingling with the fluffy, good for nothing build up. This was not snowball worthy.
And my newly crowned teen found restraint, showing her maturity. I don’t know how much longer she’ll be a kid. That carefree exploring of youth is quickly ending. Now, it’s Ri who picks up boulders of ice to hurl at me. It’s she who laughs at the frenzied clouds disrupted from descent by heavy gusts, at the collection of snow on her lashes.
But Chi delights in being Ri’s playmate. She lets go of appearances to give baby sister experience. Ri runs, Chi chases. Ri circles back, running right to her would-be capture. And they laugh as she’s swept up into an embrace and swung around and around.
Meanwhile, Ya perfects snow angels on the impassable street. He samples snow. And he sits in shock when Ri tosses loose snow at him, somehow covering half his face.
I’m racking my mind trying to figure out what could’ve made this morning different.
It was such a simple trip — picking up a few non perishables for our long awaited getaway. Ya tagged along, pointing at items we should get because they were “just what Dad gives me,” or were favorites we never indulge in. I’d heard so many “Mo-ommmm,” in that elongated whine of impatience and insistence that I almost considered giving in to the numerous requests for that which we didn’t need.
We packed our few items into the two 5 cent bags and rolled our cart into the lot. The rain was coming down hard. A truck driving way too fast elected not to yield to the pedestrian cross walk. I thought then what’s the rush?
Belted in, we started around the corner towards a crowded Wawa parking lot. I avoided the call of my soft preztel, and navigated toward the red light. A Cadillac jumped out in front of me insisting he be first in line for the green. I let him have it.
It dawned on me that I forgot the gloves hubs asked me to pick up. I considered returning to the store, but decided against it.
Then, when the light permitted us, we followed the hurried Caddy into the intersection. But a blue car traveling way too fast toward her red light, careened into us. In that ultra slow time between impact and realization of our predicament, I contemplated damage. Ya was ok. The car, though it squealed in protest, could be driven forward and out of traffic. The impatient Caddy stopped, came to check on me, offered himself as a witness.
She came reluctantly over. An older woman with bronzed skin and long hair. “I’m sorry. My mind’s going in so many directions. I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt. It’s my fault.” In that awkward apology, I fought to contain myself. My perishable groceries (good sale on nearly expired meats) sat spoiling in the trunk. My new car now had a mark on its record. My son, in his trauma, sat questioning everything from the back seat. My left side seared, then numbed. I wondered how long it’d take for my husband to arrive, for the police and ambulance to reach us. Would I need to take it?
In the lobby of the ER, dad sat waiting. He watched as patients signed in and were taken back. Time ticked by and no one called for me. An oversight, they said. The EMT didn’t notify the desk I was there. The nurse desk had my paperwork, though. Hours later, and after much complaint to the “patient advocate,” we’re in a room. More waiting. My arm is squeezed. My hand, poked. Yes, it hurts. Xrays (too much metal on your person, Mrs. Smith). Pills I cannot swallow. I gag as dad grimaces about my hangup.
Diagnosis? Muscle trauma. It’ll hurt -worse tomorrow, and continuing for several days more.
Today is your birthday. My sweet spitfire, my mini. “Thank you mom! Kiss. Hug,” you say several times a day. Later, though, I’m reprimanding you for swatting a sibling who refused your whim. Your teachers tell me you are the class protector. You sing all the time. You remind us to pray, frequently saying, “Mom, hallelujah. ” And you love to act as you “read” books. You love stickers. Anna, Elsa, Olaf (hola?), Minions (nanana), Mickey Mouse (hot dog, Mik Mow) are all favorites. You love watching Annie original and 2014. You love “teeyee,” or rather YouTube videos. You dislike “bubs” (bugs). And you are an excellent back seat driver.
Happy birthday, Ri. You are our favorite wedding gift.
Little miss was particularly fussy today. She’s finally sleep, in her usual spot on my bed. She clings to my shirt, drawing little breaths as eyes flutter.
Occasionally, she smiles. She smells faintly of her bubble bath and the distinctive taint of that medicine for the reoccurring ear infection that simply has to go away. Brown curls fight free of her braids.
I should move her to her bed… and yet I am still, watching my baby sleep.
Where do I begin?
I’m sad tonight. I feel a tremendous loss. I’ve no one to talk to, because I’d violate some code of silence cast over us. Someday, I pray, I’ll understand the why. But tonight? Tonight I grieve. Tonight I wipe the spontaneous tears away and pretend nothing – no one – was lost. I’ll push away those nagging thoughts that insist it’s pride that got us here, that keeps us here. Time is a delicate, precious commodity. It doesn’t replenish. It doesn’t stop. Tomorrow, it may be too late. Tomorrow may never be. So I weep for what was… alone.