I tilted back on the metal legs of my chair just enough to reach behind my sister and swiftly untie her dress. Then I fell back into place with all the subtlety of a cowboy and shoved a spoonful of oatmeal into my mouth to mask the grin. A small blob fell to the front of my own dress and I pinched the fabric up to my mouth to clean it.
“It’s snowing again!” a younger sister squealed from the rough-built bench at the back of the table. She pulled the ruffled yellow curtains aside to press her nose against the window. Smudges from previous noses showed she wasn’t the first to believe that she could see better out of the window with her face smashed against it.
What she had said was true. We all looked through the paned windows to where it was beginning to be light. Large flakes drifted down like a giant, reversed snow globe. Our dad’s footprints to the curb began to fill in. He always left for work while it was still dark and we were snuggled beneath piles of quilts and blankets, asleep.
“Time to get going,” our mom prompted.
I scraped a heap of sugar from the bottom of my bowl, pushed back my chair and scrambled to the “back porch” to grab a pair of boots before my brother got the best pair. It was actually a landing, where the facing wall was lined with hooks and one long shelf. To our left were 12 steps down to our bedrooms and to the right were two steps down to the back door.
Our mom went to the bread drawer and began to put the remaining pieces from loaves into one bread sack until she had produced a handful of empty ones. They were long sacks with red and white checked borders. She held them out to us where we sat on the step down to the landing. She saw my sister. “Just a minute, your bow has come untied.”
My sister glared at me, but I was busy shoving my shoe into a bread sack, then into a boot whose sole had worn through to a bare patch around a hole in the bottom. “I don’t know how you kids wear those boots through so quickly,” Mom said with a shake of her head.
After snapping the buckles closed, I dashed out the back door behind a brother.
Five of us skipped through the alley quickly, with its ragged gravel base. We hurried to get to the streets a half block over. They were laced with tire marks because the city didn’t plow residential streets. In the braided tracks, we ran and slid, flying past buried parked cars and bundled forms.
Ridges of snow shaped like the treads of tires scattered before our toes as if our boots were plows breaking through. Friends poured from houses along the way to join us. Before long, we’d worn holes in the bottom of the bread sacks.
We measured distances against each other, took a second run down the iciest tracks and waited for the smaller children to catch up. Then we ran and slid again.
In much less than dry-weather time, we’d traveled down the middle of 3rd Street for seven blocks. We had flown past white clapboard houses and ragged trees with grasping roots that lifted sidewalks like box lids. We arrived at school, a red-faced army out of breath, with red noses but our blood pumping.
Stopping across the street from the two-story brick building, we waited for the bell to ring that would allow us on the school grounds. We were sobered by the cold wind that we felt for the first time, and I wrapped my green stocking hat around my face. The trapped heat from my breath caused my glasses to fog over.
But we were cheered by the anticipation that at lunch we’d get to slide home for a bowl of canned chicken noodle soup or a baloney sandwich with mustard. We embraced abundance on those winter mornings, not bleakness; the advantage of slick boots, not the deprivation of lining them with bread sacks; the adventure, the snowflakes and the companionships we formed along the way.
Abundance is always there when we open our eyes to see it.
Susan Dayley is the author of various books and blogs regularly at http://susandayley.wordpress.com