It was half-through January, and my promise to Johnny that he’d wade through snow or sweep angel shapes with his arms and legs against the cold-burning flakes had still not come true. Our Christmas tree had gone up and come down. Even before Christmas, the festive lights looked like they’d been strung up too long, that they’d already served their purpose. There had been barely any measurable snow.
Finally, on January 13th, Johnny perched at the window, watching the tiny patches fall from the sky in a real-life snow globe. The window opaqued with breath, and then he drew wet lines to see through to the outside. At three, he wasn’t a weather veteran yet–he wasn’t nostalgic for the comfort of sweaters and mittens or the sting of wind strong enough to drive retirees to Florida.
Of course, neither was Sammy. This was his first winter ever. Belly against the couch and my arm, he watched the scene, pointing with his hand’s five fingers. The salt trucks were at it, layering their crystals heavy on the road. This would be the demise of my cognac-colored leather boots, I knew. Sammy gazed at the blinking lights of the tow trucks, how they alerted themselves, shining false emergency into homes like ours. Warning beeps I had never questioned in all my life suddenly made me wonder. Sammy and I had much the same questions.
A large delivery Mack growled down the road so loud that Johnny jumped.
“It’s okay you little munchkin,” Johnny said to Sammy. Sammy hadn’t been shaken, but Johnny ran his hand over Sammy’s hair to soothe himself.
Sammy’s eyes followed tires taking their time over the salt crust, then turned to the plow truck fanning dust down the opposite lane.
Then he saw them: a flock of birds, breaking from the trees in synchronized waves. The birds had blended in before as part of the still-life, small black knots and bends on giant twigs. Sammy drew air in deep through his nose and let out a breathy scream. Of joy. His arms flailed, and I imagined the tapping made the same sound as wings on air.
The birds flew, oblivious to the snow, as though they were just another line of traffic.