blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Snow angel

bubble-snow_rihaij
rihaij via pixabay

There are two kinds of people. Some wake to a pristine world of white and rejoice, while others groan. Some love the look of untouched snow in all its cool perfection. They smile as they view it from the warmth of the house, hot chocolate in hand. Some wrap up and race outside to catch snowflakes on their tongues, press prints into fresh snow with boots and sleds and make their mark on that blank canvas.

Two kinds of people. Those who observe and think, and those who engage and feel. I don’t know if one group understands the other, really.

Lumi is my little angel. After years of painful disappointment, unanswered prayers, procedures and doctors and emptiness, along she came. Making a new life is a mundane miracle that is also somehow transcendent. Lumi brought light to our lives, turned me from a have-not to a have overnight.

She had pneumonia that first winter. She was not yet a year old and so small. David and I sat either side of her bed, trying to breathe for her, hardly daring to breathe for ourselves, so afraid. Snow was something to scrape off the car and trudge through on our way to and from our darling girl. We hardly noticed it. She pulled through, and we gathered her close.

She’s tugging on my sleeve, turning her face up to scrunch her nose at me. Brown eyes sparkle and she points outside, through the glass doors.

“Look, mama, snow! Can I get wellies? An’ stomp the snow? Please mama.”

I look down at her dark curls flying as she bounces with excitement. The snow is perfect, and I picture cold air stealing its frozen tendrils into her lungs, wrapping her veins with ice. I don’t know if it’s safe.

She coughed all through her second winter, though no snow fell. I wrapped her up and kept her inside. I didn’t want her to fall ill again.

She’s still pulling at me, asking, good-humoured and adorably enthusiastic. Outside the sky is arctic blue, and low sun reflects off snow-covered branches. A robin hops by, leaving tiny tracks behind. She laughs and points at the birdie, asks me what sound it makes. I’m not sure I ever knew. Still I hesitate.

A fresh page, a clean slate holds limitless potential. Before you make a mark all the options are there, branching off in infinite directions. Anything could happen. After the decision is made, it’s spoiled. Infinite possibilities discarded in favour of just one.

There are two kinds of people, the confidently proactive and the anxious, paralysed by fear of making the wrong choice.

I think I did everything right. Perhaps I was too careful but a mother only wants the best for her child. I thought fate wanted the same.

“It’s very cold out there, sweetheart. You’ll have to wrap up and you don’t like wearing a scarf.”

“I will wear my scarf an’ my boots though. I get them now.”

And she’s off, giggling, to dig through the cloakroom for her knitted hat with the white pompom, and pink gloves with sequins on the back. I hear her singing a Disney song.

Once we’re wrapped up against the frigid weather, we will build a snowman. I picture my ski gloves and snow boots, relics of a different life, pushed to the back of the shoe rack. All at once we’re outside, laughing, kicking up white flurries.

She lies down to make a snow angel and I wish I had my phone to snap a picture of her joyful face, with her glittery wings spread wide. Twisted through the lens of grief, I can’t rely on memory these days.

I can’t tell which is dream, which is nightmare, which is real life. I should have let her play outside, and played along with her. Now I stand here looking out of my window at the silent snow that blankets everything. Maybe there is life beneath, but I’m too numb to dig myself out.

Lumi skips along and the robin hops behind her, orange breast vibrant against all that white. They’re singing but I can’t hear them, and they leave no tracks on the snow.

There are two kinds of people. The ones who think they have more time, and the ones with regrets.

I should have let her make her mark on the world while she could, before snow made me cry.


(first published in Creative Cafe on Medium, 16 December 2017)