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Once upon a winterbreak
2004-01-06 - 10:40 a.m.

We were hit with a nice little snowfall the other night. Then, it snowed for most of the day yesterday. I think we got about 10 inches but it some places, it was piled up higher as snow sometimes does, I suppose. I was as excited as any kid would be, so, I ran into Kelly’s room and she opened up the window. In my nightgown, I stuck my head out the window to catch snowflakes on my tongue. I always wanted to do that. Kelly just watched me and smiled that sweet “my mom is a total freak” smile at me.

Later that day, Emily wanted to get bundled up and go out and I, feeling my inner child, decided to join her. I had her so full of layers that she reminded me of that kid on “A Christmas Story”. You know the little brother who falls down in the snow and just lies there because he can’t get up? Yea, that was Emily. I figured I’d better go out with her in case she takes a tumble and it’s hours before anyone finds her.

I thought a walk in the woods would be nice, just me and Emily and the ever-bountiful snow. Emily reminded me of how we used to walk our dog, Zoe on this path and how if we still had her she would probably love all the snow. I admitted that yes, she probably would. Then Emily decided to wonder ahead of me looking for sticks and what not to play with. I looked down as I walked and watched my feet stepping on the snow and listened to the little crunch sound each step made. It was so quiet and beautiful. Step, crunch, step, crunch. Before I could stop myself, my mind drifted back in time, back to a time when I was walking through a heavy snow just like this. I was watching my feet although I was only wearing a pair of sneakers then. Step, crunch, step, crunch.

It was winter break, 1987. After spending Christmas with my family in California, I felt it only fair that we visit his family in Oklahoma. We were only teenagers then. I was 16. We were short on cash so we took the greyhound. It was a two-day trip on that bus. It was also back in the days where you could smoke in the back of the bus. They even had these little metal ashtrays stuck to the wall. My mom was ok with my going because I was with him and she was pretty sure I’d be safe. I was of course. Well, we sat at the back of the bus and smoked our cigarettes and watched the scenery. It reminded me of the song by Simon and Garfunkel. “So, I looked at the scenery, and she read her magazine, and the moon rose over an open field”. Yea, that song. I started singing it to him as we sat back there. That was back in the days when we were young kids in love. I’d rest my head on his lap and he’d play with my hair while I slept. We had enough money with us that we were able to buy cheeseburgers and fries at the rest stops we frequented.

When we arrived at our destination, we pitched camp, so to speak, at his cousin’s house. His cousin was married and had to little ones. The little girl had black hair and slanted eyes like her father. She was three years old and took to me right away. She called me Wanna since she couldn’t pronounce my name. More than a dozen times a day she would crawl on my lap and make me sing the ABCs with her. They had a little boy too. He was about 8 months old and crawling all over the place. I can remember his face then and how he drooled like a leaky faucet. They had a spare room for us to sleep in. Well, there was a mattress on the floor. The window had been broken out so a little duct tape and some plastic covered that. That door had to stay closed to keep the rest of the house warm for the babies. We didn’t mind at all. Each night, we’d go in the room and strip down. We’d make love and then stay close for each other’s body heat. We’d whisper things to one another and giggle at whatever long ago joke we told. Like the one where I said something and he said, “so I’m a dog now? That’s pretty rough.” And I was sent into a fit of laughter. Get it? A dog? Rough? Ruff? Hey, we were teenagers. At the time it was hilarious. His cousin had left over turkey from Christmas so everyday he made me fried turkey sandwiches with melted cheese on toast. We spent time with his family as well but he has so much family in that town we spent each day visiting from one house to the next.

The night before we were set to journey home was a clear night. We packed our bags and went to sleep early. Imagine our surprise the next morning when we got up to find a blanket of snow covering the ground. I know there must have been a good foot or more of it. Even though this would prolong our stay, I was thrilled. We were there an additional week.

I remember that we ate a lot of fried rabbit that week. We went out drinking with his big brother. He started using the phrase “Siberian Express” which he would say randomly. Don’t as me, I don’t know why. I decided that I’d go out with his little brother and two nephews and make a huge igloo. I always wanted to. His nephews were about 6 and 7 I think, maybe a little younger and his brother was all of 12. Remember, I lived in California. I was not prepared for snow. I wore sneakers and jeans and a jacket. I think I borrowed some gloves. We got as far as a small hill piled up that we dug part way through. Then I was freezing and my toes were hurting. We never did finish the igloo but it was fun trying.

I remember one day we got in an argument over something silly I’m sure, but I left his cousins in a huff planning to walk to his parents house. I was stubborn and hard headed and pulled that kind of stuff all the time. As I was walking down the street, a hotrod pulled up next to me. A mighty sexy looking guy popped his head out and asked me if I needed a ride. There was a small boy with him who looked just like him. I figured that to be his son. He was so cute I couldn’t believe it. I was tempted but I knew this man probably had other things in mind later on. Then I looked back at the house down the street where my heart was and I told him, “No thanks.” He looked at me and with a drawl in his voice said, “You sure?” and I said, “Yes, I’m sure. Thanks anyway.” So off he drove. I walked on till I got to his parents house. He showed up later and we made up. The next day he said he wanted me to meet another cousin of his. We went to the house and the wife opened the door. She was a little blonde woman. She had one of those glamour shot photos of her on the tv. She was really pretty in the picture. She said her husband would be out in a second. When he walked into the living room he stopped for just a second. He looked at me and I looked at him, a touch of fear in our eyes. I was introduced to him and we said hi. It was awkward but nobody knew that except for him and I. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and I think he felt the same. His first cousin was the guy in the hot rod the day before. I thank the Lord I didn’t take that ride. We never mentioned the incident in later years either.

Finally, the snow was melting and it was time to go home. The ride was the worst we ever experienced. In one bus stop we stood in a line and he told me, “whatever you do, DON”T turn around.” So what did I do? I turned around only to come face to face with a man who had a very enlarged head. He was missing one eye but had a patch of eyebrow and skin in the spot where an eye should’ve been. His flesh dripped off of him. It looked more like wax dripping down a candle. I was startled and stifled a small scream. I didn’t mean to do that, I was just taken by surprise. Then there was the lady without a nose. The dancer headed for Vegas with a gun in her bag. The drug addict passed out in front of us who reeked to high heaven. A whole circus of people we came across. We didn’t have any money this time so our food was potty meat, chili in a mini can and bread. That sucked when everyone else was eating burgers. At one bus stop, our bus was late so when we arrived, the bus we were to transfer on was already gone. We had to wait 10 hours until the next bus would take us. All the benches had bars separating each seat to keep vagrants from sleeping on them. We were too frightened of all the weirdoes to sleep anyway. We were down to our last few cigarettes as well. What was supposed to be a 2- day trip, took three and a half days. I was so happy to be back home but, it was an experience that I will never forget.

As I walked through the snow yesterday, I remembered it like it was not so long ago instead of 16 years ago. I looked ahead and Emily jumped in a big pile of snow, so I ran up and jumped with her. I lay there laughing and she threw some snow at my head. We laughed some more. Then I had to help her up because she was stuck. I knew that would happen. Then we headed for home and made snowman soup (hot cocoa with marshmallows) to warm up.

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