I first heard that a storm was coming a few days ago.
"The weather's getting icky this week," someone mentioned in passing. There was a shake of the head, half horror, half glee. The truth is we sort of love our storms around here, especially the early winter ones. Unlike fires, unlike floods, we know the storms will come. We expect the snow and the cold to come, to move through, then to move on, leaving us to compare drift depths and drama. There's something almost comforting about knowing something bad is coming. To have the privilege of preparing, of stocking up on firewood and marshmallows. And this storm is supposed to be worth stocking up for, with bitter cold and snowfall somewhere between 5 and 20 inches.
This morning was almost warm. I took Raphael and Sophia out to run an errand, and I drove my dad's big fancy car, because mine is in the shop. My van had a recall notice, because apparently vans like it have been randomly deploying airbags, which seems like a wildly bad idea indeed. Dad's car has an outside temperature gauge that displays on the rear view window. This morning, as I drove, it read 54 degrees. Balmy. I wore a sweater, and thought about how terrible it would be to have an airbag punch you in the face unexpectedly.
A few hours later I headed back out to the car with Sophia. The wind pushed against us, aggressive now, like a kid looking for a fight. I turned around and grabbed our winter jackets, because sweaters were no protection now. The rear view mirror read 33 degrees. I thought about a friend, whose daughter had spinal surgery today. They are untethering her spinal cord, which was pinned to her vertebrae by the vagaries of how her DNA unfolded her. It sounds almost lovely - untethering. It's so much like what my teenagers are doing within the family. It sounds good, and it's clearly the right thing to do, but the reality is shockingly painful and dangerous. My friend's daughter was out of surgery by then, and doing beautifully. I prayed a mother's prayer, a swirl of gratitude and pleas.
I picked up Max at school, and he swaggered out to the car in his t-shirt. His jacket was stuffed in his backpack. No one can tell this child he is mortal. Actually, no one can tell this child anything. At the same time, he is hoovering in the world around him. I feel like I've had a hand in starting a chemical reaction in the world and I have no idea what will become of it. The rear view mirror read 24 degrees.
We got home and the next few hours passed in a tumble of evening musts. Raphael picked up from band practice, a quick run to the store for storm stock up essentials, dinner made and served. Clay and Tre were at Tre's school for a meeting about financial aid. I was hoping the meeting was being hosted by generous fairy godmothers, having recently acquired the hobby of hyperventilating at the cost of college. It's not a very fun hobby. At the end of the meal I eyed the clock, because Tuesday is yoga night. Sophia saw me, and crawled in my lap, mournful. She hates it when I go to yoga at night. I'm back by bedtime, but that's no comfort, and her eyes went red and tear glossed at the prospect.
"But I MISS you when you go to yoga," she crooned into my neck.
"I know, but do you know what I've been doing today? I've been taking care of people. Of your dad, and Tre, and Max, and Raphael, and you. Do you know who I still need to take care of?" She looked around the table. Clay and Tre's chairs were empty, but she could see them there, their obvious spaces waiting for them. She scanned her people, then looked back at me.
"Who else IS there?" she wondered.
"I still have to take care of me," I said, "and that's why I go to yoga."
She didn't really think that was a good reason, and when I left, she stood at the window, her forehead flattened against the glass, one hand waving slowly.
On the way home from yoga, the snow started falling. It swirled like smoke over the pavement, too powdery light to settle. The rear view mirror read 17 degrees.
And now I am home. A fire is burning in the fireplace, and all the kids (even the teens!) are in their beds (asleep is not my problem). I have a cup of tea, and everything would be perfect if Clay hadn't gotten called out by his job. By the time he gets home, the temperature will probably have fallen to the projected 10 degrees. I will wrap my warmth around him, and the snow will fall.