“Thirty-five below,” I’m told in the morning when the phone rings. I go out and take this picture of the thermometer next to the back door, thinking of how it will make Aunt Reta shiver and be glad she’s in Phoenix.
Later there’s a call while I’m in the can and I return it, mistakenly, to a neighbour whose first baby is overdue. Maybe she needs a ride to the hospital or something. Never know.
“Did Shirley tell you to check the furnace exhaust pipe outside? Sometimes it gets plugged up with ice and snow.” She didn’t, but I’ll go out right away and make sure it’s clear.
I figure out Shirley’s phone and find Karen’s number on the call display; she’s made a stew and was calling to invite me for lunch. Emil’s still in bed and hasn’t eaten yet today, so I decline. Besides, Little Green’s not plugged in; she likely won’t start at this temperature.
It’s a bright beautiful day and once I’ve checked the exhaust pipe and plugged in the car (realizing that when I plugged it in on Monday, the other end of the cord wasn’t plugged into the wall socket. “Dummy,” say I to myself). I can’t force myself back indoors. I head past Grandpa’s shop and down the back alley to another alley and then cross the main street.
It feels good to stroll here again after so many years. I’ve driven down these streets but not walked them for a long, long time. Many buildings that I remember are gone, leaving empty lots. Some that were boarded up even when I was small enough to need to be babysat are still standing, their lines strong and straight.
Someone has bought Grandpa J’s house and made a snowy driveway on the lawn beside the front walk. Next door is the home of a lady I mean to visit (but not when it’s almost noon); she’s lived there since before I was born, though the house that was there has been replaced. Her son was my tricycling buddy at “Stubblejumpers Cafe.” I’d gazed somewhat sadly, while crossing Main Street, at the place where their little diner once stood.
There are houses that haven’t been lived in for decades, and several that haven’t been lived in for two or three years. There are a lot of tracks in the deep snow around the yard of one unoccupied residence and I peer closer, wondering what might’ve made them. A moose and her this-year’s calf are laying behind the trees on the other side of the yard. The calf gets up and stares at me while I stand there, thrilled, cameraless.
I don’t wish to disturb the sunning pair further and carry on, footsteps crunching on the white road. Familiarity and memories pull me forward. I stepped out without my scarf and am sorry; my neck’s cold. I want to keep walking over the entire village, all five blocks by three blocks of it (if that). It’s home and it always will be. I learned to ride a bicycle here, play ball, climb trees, go rafting.
Emil needs to be roused anyway. There is a file to work on, and a deadline. I make my way “home,” promising myself another walk tomorrow if not later today, even tonight.
Emil, leaving the table: Mom. What if ceiling fans could talk?
Me: I wonder what they’d say.
Emil: But they don’t talk do they.