So now I'm knee-deep in preparations for their big party, preparations that consist mainly of cleaning my house. How do I let it get so out of control? Why can't I keep up with the scrubbing and the dusting and the washing and the folding? My college class, that's why. I had to go and take a writing course, which doesn't just involve writing, but plenty of reading. I wish the reading involved your blogs and emails, my friends, but I have been distracted and assigned to study essays and textbooks and such. I will get around soon to your sites, I promise.
Meanwhile, I'll be sitting here writing journal entries for my creative nonfiction class . . .
A Winter MemoryMy sister is leading the way. Although a year younger, she has always run faster than me. She bounds effortlessly ahead, while I gallop after her. We are desperately late, and probably have already missed the first bell, so we sprint toward a shortcut through the woods. We each carry new pairs of shoes: chukka boots that my mother ordered for us through the Sears catalog. They are soft suede, a warm caramel color, and brand new. My sister wears a shoe on each hand, like mittens. I swing mine by their laces. When we reach the warm interior of our classroom, we will replace the bulky winter boots currently encasing our feet with the sleek new chukkas we carry with us to school.
We barrel up to a small river that edges the forest. In warmer months, we slow down, find where the current narrows, and leap from one side to the other. These are not warm months, however. The trees have lost their leaves and stand like naked sentinels, barely guarding the crossing of the creek. The air is cold, and fortunately for us, the water has frozen. My sister dashes full-speed across the widest part of the creek. Without thinking, I follow her. As she reaches the edge, my sister leaps toward land and pitches her upper body forward. She uses her hands, still shoved inside her chukka boots, to drag herself up the bank. I’m close behind, racing over the ice.
I don’t hear a warning crack. I don’t see lines spider-veining their way across the ice. The surface just opens. One moment I’m running across a frozen pond, and in the next, a gaping black maw swallows me. In that split second of plunging through the ice, I notice that everything else is white. Hard white ground. Skinny white trees stand silently, like hoarfrost-covered skeletons reaching gnarled fingers toward a white sky. But I fall into blackness.
My body hangs in the water, and I expect to feel bottom at any moment as I begin to sink down, but my feet touch nothing. I scissor-kick frantically, and my shoulders bob up and out of the creek. Instinctively, I’ve been holding my arms straight up overhead, perhaps to keep my hands from getting wet, but mostly to protect the new shoes I’m still clutching. My sister bounces anxiously on the bank, unable to help, screaming at me, “Don’t get your chukka boots wet!” I know how to swim, but I’m afraid to use my hands. Even if I could hold onto my shoes and paddle at the same time, a soaking would ruin the suede leather.
With arms aloft, I shift the right side of my body forward, than swivel the left side, treading with my legs the entire while. It works. My furious kicking keeps my head above water, and my jerky half-pivots advance me enough that the toe on my right foot brushes bottom. I continue my strange aquatic dance, hands raised above my head, inching forward until all my toes touch, until finally both feet stand flat on the creek floor. The frigid water is a vice tightening around my chest. I can’t breathe. I am numb. My knuckles have seized in a paralyzed grip around my shoes, but I bend my elbows and with every ounce of strength throw the brand-new chukka boots toward my sister, who is jumping up and down on the bank, dripping, whimpering nervously. She catches one shoe, and the other bounces on the hardened ground. She picks it up and moves to the top of the embankment, placing my pair safely next to her own.
She turns to help me, reaches for me. “Stay there!” I try to yell, but can only hiss through my chattering jaw. I splash my hands down through the water, awkwardly paddling the last few feet to the creek’s edge. I scream in pain as my sister’s scraping fingers pull at my chilled arms, bound in the heavy wet tourniquet of my coat sleeves. I crawl out, panting in exhaustion, but there is no time to rest. The ends of my long hair are already frozen into stiff icicles.
We must turn back and go home.
Dinner last night: white chili, sweet cornbread muffins
Exactly one years ago:
Exactly two years ago:
Falling through ice is one of my fears. My dad had me go with him when I was a little girl to watch a rescue simulation, where divers rescued people from under ice. Even through I saw that people could be rescued, I have been terrified of it ever since.
It's my fear with my little guy. Good luck with a Harvest Party. That sounds fun.
That is so terrifying. And you tell the story so well. I was breathless while reading it.
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