Mom pulled out the basket of winter hats, mittens and scarves from the hall closet so that Caroline and Middle Sister could sort through to see what still fit and get dressed for sledding.
Snow had fallen overnight, adding to the abundant base that had been building ever since early December. The new fluffy white blanket filled in the frozen footsteps from the day before as well as hid the mucky edges along the curb and the occasional yellow snow with accompanying puppy prints.
Caroline looked over to ask Mom about a hat and saw her struggling to get Baby Sister into a handed-down, hooded snowsuit, which was so insulated and fuzzy, she looked like a pink teddy bear. Baby Sister was fussing and crying, much happier each time she escaped, shedding the suit to run around the room in just a diaper and undershirt.
Anxious to get outside, Caroline asked Middle Sister to give her the coat she was struggling to right. Caroline threaded one mitten along with the attached yarn through both sleeves. Middle Sister slid on the coat over the suspenders attached to her snow pants, standing there flipping her newly dangling mittens around as her face began to flush from overheating.
Caroline asked Mom if she and Middle Sister could head out and make snow angels in the yard while they waited for Baby Sister, calling out a thanks and running out the door before Mom could answer. Moments later, the pristine yard had two sets of footprints across the middle as the girls found the perfect spot to fall trustingly backwards, coming to rest comfortably in the snow and moving their arms up and down to make wings, legs out and in to create a skirt. Carefully sitting up and taking the biggest step possible away so as not to ruin her work of art, Caroline looked back and admired her angel. Her sister was having trouble getting up, so she helped her and as she did, Mom called from the door to let them know that Baby Sister was on her way out.
Angels quickly forgotten, Caroline trudged over to the garage where a wooden sled with red runners and a yellow saucer were leaning up against the white siding of the small ranch-style house. She handed the saucer to Middle Sister as she pulled the rope on the sled to lower it onto the snow-covered driveway. Before Caroline turned around, Baby Sister had taken a seat with a broad smile, sticking her tongue out every so often to catch snowflakes.
The snow drifting down and swirling around them, the girls marched their way slowly up the street and across the hill to the park. They had lots of company on the hill - a rainbow of saucers, wooden toboggans, Flexible Flyers like theirs, and several homemade sleds dotted the snow.
Five sledding paths had been well packed from use. Caroline picked one, lined up the sled, Baby Sister still on board, and took a seat behind her, Caroline’s puffy, snow-panted legs on either side of Baby Sister and her boots positioned on the rails, rope rein held in both mittens.
Too excited to wait any longer, Middle Sister launched on her saucer just to their right on a path that was a bit tamer and not as steep, which made it her favorite for the unpredictable ride of a saucer. Two older boys came up from behind the sled and gave the Flyer a push off, sending it down the path, not so much to be helpful as to clear the way for their turn.
A few bumps, three screams and lots of giggles later, the girls all met up at the bottom, their eyelashes now studded with snow. They jumped up and started the trek back up the hill, clouds of breath in their faces and feet crunching with each step. After two more runs, the thought of hot cocoa with marshmallows was more enticing than another climb, so the girls started the journey home. Cold toes, frozen fingers and the snow now stinging as it struck their red and chapped cheeks, the only skin exposed, the walk seemed much further than earlier. The snow kept falling and the world seemed sleepy, the only sounds in the air now were those of softly-shuffling feet, heavy breathing and a random yell from the handful of kids still on the hill.
The frosty girls stripped down to their underwear just inside the front door, leaving a pile of snow and hats and boots and coats. Middle Sister and Caroline started marching through the house trying to wake up their toes while Baby Sister sat crying because her face burned with the warming, until the sweet scent of warm chocolate got her attention.
The next morning, Caroline ran to the living room window to see if there was enough new snow for another host of angels. When she parted the blinds, all she could see was white. She went to another window, the same thing. She went to the front door and opened it. Once again, Caroline was met with a wall of snow, pressed firmly against the glass of the storm door, no break in the solid sheet to see out. The house seemed too dark, like dusk, even though it was well past sunrise. “Mom, come quick!” she cried out. “We’re buried in snow.”
When Mom saw what Caroline saw, she stood for a moment, uttered “goodness” and then closed the door. Mom made her way to the kitchen and asked what Caroline and her sisters would like for breakfast. Mom was really good at keeping calm in the face of what Caroline felt was grave danger. When Mom and the girls would slide in their car down an ice-covered street, Mom would call out “wee” so consistently that Baby Sister understood the words as a sign of trouble, crying and pleading with Mom, “Don’t say wee, don’t say wee!”
After breakfast and Caroline’s third failed attempt to get Mom to tell her how they were going to get out, Mom walked over to the TV in the living room and turned it on. At least the TV was working, unlike the phone. Even so, Mom seemed annoyed. Her favorite soap opera had been interrupted for what Caroline already thought of as a state of emergency update. The news reporter was asking citizens to stay in their homes so that road crews could plow. “Stay in our homes? Of course, we’ll stay in our home. We can’t get out,” Caroline replied back to the TV.
Caroline wondered if her friends were buried in snow. She remembered a book she’d read where a climber was covered by an avalanche and couldn’t breathe. Mom assured her that they would not run out of air, citing what Mom considered the poor construction of their home and the very, unlikely event that snow totally covered the whole house.
The day seemed to go on and on and on. Caroline’s sisters, their faces rosy and still chapped, spent the day playing, running after each other and napping, oblivious to their predicament and not anxious to get out and freeze their toes again anytime soon.
On day two, after a restless night of making a mental list of all the scary “what if’s” related to their plight, “What if there’s no more food? What if no one knows we’re here? What if we run out of diapers?” Caroline decided the sun must be up and opened the door. No change. Mom asked her to close the door and stop opening it. She complied.
Nothing was changing. No one else was worrying. As she tried to focus on reading her library book about a young girl who wanted to be a detective, Caroline heard a strange sound coming from outside. Tap, tap, swoosh, thunk. Then it stopped. Maybe she imagined it. Then, there it was again, tap, tap, swoosh, thunk, thunk.
Despite Mom’s request to leave that front door alone before she wore out the hinges, Caroline cracked it open just enough to peak outside. There at the very top of the door was an opening of light, a scarf-covered, red face with only the eyes showing peering down at her. She knew those blue, sparkling eyes. Grandpa. Grandpa had come to their rescue. Of course he did.
Grandpa started digging with a renewed energy. Once they were able to open the storm door, Mom met him with a big hug and a cup of hot black coffee. He told them how he was so worried about his daughter and grand girls that as soon as he could get out of his garage, he had laid out the tire chains, backed onto them and fastened them around each tire of his Cadillac sedan. Then with Grandma questioning his decision in the background, he packed a blanket, extra food and water, a shovel and some road salt before making the drive down his slippery hill and the ten-mile, one-hour drive. He only got stuck once, and not for very long.
As it turned out, the snow wasn’t house-high everywhere. The wind that night after sledding had blown and drifted great walls up against each side of the house. Now free from the house, Mom and the girls piled into Grandpa’s warm car and headed for an extended “sleepover party” with him and Grandma. Caroline knew everything was going to be just fine. She began to relax and doze as she wondered if it would be too late to make snow angels once she arrived at her Grandparent’s house on the hill.