December 3, 2009
By , Goldendale, WA
The whole world seemed dead and silent. Only the golden-yellow sunlight pouring across the frigid earth, making the snow dazzle, seemed really alive. As I squinted into the bright light I sensed a feeling of resentment rising in my chest—resentment toward the sun. It had warmth, heat like we could never imagine or survive. Yet it seemed to refuse to give just a little bit, just a tiny bit of that heat to our frozen world.

I smirked to myself. I wondered if the next thing the sun would decide to do would be to quit shining altogether.

I dug the flat-nose shovel under another pile of snow and tossed it aside. The walls of snow along the sidewalk had grown taller and taller. How much longer?

My back ached. My fingers were numb with cold. I longed to be back in the warmth of the house.

I remembered back when I’d loved snow. Back when it had been the highlight of winter to get a good snowfall. Back when it was a tragic thing if it didn’t snow for Christmas.

Back when I was too young to shovel it.

I don’t care if it snows for Christmas. I threw another shovel of snow to the side. I don’t care if Christmas even happens. I just want my dad back.

I tossed my braid back over my shoulder, annoyed. It kept getting in the way. Just like everything was getting in the way. Work, school, Dad’s death. It had all piled up just like the snow, blocking my path, not letting me through, not letting me go forward.

A hot tear warmed my frosty cheek for a moment and then froze there. My cheeks, and anything that was exposed to the air, didn’t have any feeling left in them.

Move faster, work faster. You’ll warm up. I remembered my dad’s words, the ones he’d spoken so many times when I complained of cold. Suddenly my heart seared with guilt and regret for all the times I’d resented his advice ... for all the times I’d talked back ... for all the times I’d skipped helping him for my own convenience.

My eyes welled again, but I swallowed the tears back. I had work to do. This sidewalk wasn’t the last thing on my list.

I still had to put salt down on the walk and steps so Mom could get in and out okay for work in the morning. I still had to haul at least four loads of hot water to the barn for the horse, cows and sheep to thaw their tanks. And I was so cold ...

As I finished up at the barn, that evil sun was finally sinking, casting long shadows and even fiercer cold down on the land. I rubbed my face with my gloved hands, trying to get some feeling back. Only my feet, snuggled inside the thick, fleecy snow boots my dad had gotten me for Christmas last year, remained at a comfortable temperature.

As I trudged up the rise toward the house and twilight turned the snow a chalky blue, Mom flicked the Christmas lights on. They sent a colorful glow over the snow and looked ... almost cheerful.

On the porch, I pulled off my snow boots, ski pants and coat. Shivering in my T-shirt and shorts, I hurried inside, trying not to drop snow on the hardwood floor. I knew I’d be the one to clean it up if I did.

The warmth of a crackling fire met me the moment I opened the door, and I felt my skin tingle. What a blessing to have a warm house!

On my way to place my snow gear by the fire and warm up, I stopped. Something else caught my attention.

A smell.

The sweet, spicy aroma of gingerbread.

Tears sprang to my eyes again. Dad’s favorite. He had loved gingerbread. He’d loved the smell, sight, and taste. Everything about it. “Shouldn’t think too highly of food,” he’d always said, “but how can you avoid appreciating the cookies that make the Savior’s birthday seem real?”

My mind slipped back to the time when Dad was in the hospital a few months before, and I’d brought him a whole batch of gingerbread cookies. I’d never forget the gleam in his eyes when he thanked me for them.

I set my snow gear down and walked to the kitchen to set some water boiling for hot cocoa. Mom was there, scooping oven-fresh cookies off the pans and onto her age-old wire racks. I saw a tear glistening on her cheek, too.

Suddenly a smile broke through my tears. Maybe I hadn’t done everything as I should have for Dad. Maybe I hadn’t always been perfect. Maybe I’d made big mistakes.

But I’d also done things right. I’d also made good memories ... countless good memories. Maybe gingerbread had one more task—to help me celebrate my dad’s life and know that now, he didn’t need gingerbread to make his Savior seem real.

I picked up one of the plain, unfrosted gingerbread men and bit the head off. Mom looked up with a sunny smile.

I smiled back.

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Reagan said...
Jan. 18, 2010 at 6:48 pm
Like the intrigue of making the sun and "normalcy" kinda antagonistic. :)
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