Bright Silent Night
A few of you have seen this; I posted it last December on another blog. But I think most of you haven’t, so thought I’d post it as seasonally appropriate. Won’t be able to check back for a while what with work to do around getting the new blog up and running hopefully in the first quarter of 2007.
It was Sunday, but there would be no school tomorrow. Winter break. It was pretty late. It had snowed all afternoon.
“Hey Mom – can we take the sled to the Pines?”
“I don’t see why not,” Mom said. I was thirteen, Lynne five. Even though I called her “Punko Kid” and “Scrubby Head” around the house, I was pretty responsible for her everyplace else.
We dressed in what you needed: long underwear, big mittens over gloves, layers of shirts, knit sweaters, hats, and heavy coats with hoods. We made our way to the door, closing it hard behind us.
I stepped inside the big old barn that was our garage and flicked on the single light bulb that threw its dim yellow light into the large interior. It felt even colder in there than outdoors, like the air had tried to go inside to warm up but didn’t realize there wasn’t any heat in the garage. Lynne waited near the light switch and I went back for the sled – the good new long one.
We pulled it down the driveway and up to the top of the hill. Under the streetlight, I noticed that the whole road was covered with snow.
“Wanna ride over?” I asked, looking from Lynne back down to the sled.
“Okay!” Lynne tottered stiffly in her snowsuit toward the edge and sort of fell backward. I guess it was really the only position she could have assumed.
I tugged hard once on the rope, and the nose lurched to point forward, then edged gently into the street-snow, packed but frosted over with the fine granular grit of the latest layering, as we left the familiar green glow of the street lamp behind us on top of Mt. Vernon to enter the dark tunnel of Grand Street. All the huddled houses had stopped chatting with each other from across the street like normal, while our metal runners whisked through the snow in fresh impressions that I could just make out when I spun around, still pulling, to find Lynne silently staring upward.
And the running runners started to whisper, This is the only time forever that you will be here together to hear this sound, so low that neither of us could make it out, only the whispery sound of it. But I could see that Lynne was going eye to eye with the stars back there, and that they were taking each other in, because she wasn’t moving at all or even talking. And because every once in a while I’d glance up and the stars would try and catch my eyes too, peeping between the tree branches whenever I looked ahead.
The wind blew. Little storms of ice-flakes rattled against my hood and collar. The deep shadows were standing steep and tall at the next dimly lit intersection ahead, looking cold enough to fall over and break. But they held up all right, their black shafts blending back into the dark tree trunks and limbs that reached up for the forever-dark that was glittering.
Always. Always and forever. Only the trees were speaking now, but not to each other, in a chorus of the same long note that no one could hear except us as I paused at the intersection with Noble to listen for cars before crossing, and there wasn’t a single one. And I pulled Lynne, who was still busy forgetting everything and remembering all, into the heavier playground snow that was never ploughed, and on down the first slope, which was gentle. I could still see ahead from the last outreach of the green streetlight at the final intersection behind us as I pulled ahead toward the all-black where I knew the hill was.
“Ya ready?” Lynne woke up from not sleeping and sat up behind me. “Yup!”
Whoosh… I shoved us off down the steep hillside leading toward the ball field that we couldn’t see but knew it was there, the snow steadily flowering in soft explosions that slowed us down to a short stop at the bottom. We sat there under a broad encirclement of trees that intimated forever, between the short breaths that were ours to hear for only a few more seconds.
“Wanna do it again?”
“Yes!” And we trudged back up for one more short ride down. And seeing that the snow was too soft and thick for much of a sled ride, I said, “We should have taken the toboggan.”
“Yeah,” Lynne said.
So we went home again, passing back the same way through the intersection of Grand with Infinity.
“How was it?” Mom asked, as we shook the last snow off our boots and set them in the tray.
“We should have brought the toboggan,” I replied.
“Pretty good!” Lynne added brightly.
Copyright © 2005 Paul Martin