The Things We Have Now
It was a cold, beautiful night with fresh snow on the ground and because it was cold and had snowed we stayed in our day clothes after dinner and put on our boots and heavy winter jackets and slipped on our gloves and knit caps and looked like a party of arctic adventurers headed out on nighttime maneuvers as we followed the dog out the door, turned up the drive, and started down the snow-covered street. It was very cold and the girls and I held hands. The lights were on in the neighbor’s houses and we alone were outside and the street was quiet and still and the blanket of snow on the ground cast a glow on the still silent night and made our way easy to follow. There were no cars coming or going and the dog ran freely up ahead. The three of us kept to the roadside where the snowpack was softer and deeper and the feel of the whiteness beneath our boots indeed gave us the sense of something special.
Like most times before, we walked slowly and talked about our day and the days ahead. We stopped often to play in the snow or admire the twinkling holiday decorations or stand daringly under the hunched-over shapes of the white-capped evergreens which drooped and stood sentinel like tired old men and the tenderness of the snow shaken loose of the branch brushed the skin like a mother’s soft kiss in the night.
Here on foot on the empty road the conversation comes easy. We discover ourselves suddenly free and especially absent of all other burden of occupation. There is walking and there is talk, nothing else. Time and the seasons slow so that plans can be made, arguments settled. There is singing and laughter, and always there are stories to tell. Very rarely, in over fifteen years of stepping outside after dinner, have our walks been interrupted by neighbors, which is both good and sad. It is only later in life that I find myself leaning more toward the latter. Mostly though I’m quite happy when it is just us.
At the big house with the lights synchronized to holiday music, the girls and I stopped and listened. We stood there for not a long while — it is small moments like that which are best to remember — before one of the girls threw a snowball and nearly knocked my cap off. We all laughed and turned and I called to the dog to follow and we headed back down the street toward home humming the Christmas carol.