The bigger Little Ones have created an island bed of sorts, sleeping bags hanging precariously from the arm of the couch, every pillow that we have pushed into this space on the family room floor. Their own retreat has just the right blend of kid ingenuity and practical thought to make it mostly functional and the kids tuck themselves into it’s welcoming warmth. It is a movie afternoon here, and this tuckaway is just the right spot to catch the show. We’ve been to the library; we’ve made the popcorn. Now we’re ready to be enchanted by a visual story. The Eldest remarked on our way to the library: “Mom, this is really special because we usually have movie days when it’s raining, but today it is sunny.” What he didn’t notice was the deceit of the sun. Though it is bright, the sharpness of winter’s light unfettered by leaves on the trees, winter’s cold has built a wall around us. Movie day, it is.
Grant has been asking lately, “Is this real?” and I’m not talking about dragons or imaginary friends named Lacey. He’s asking it when we’re driving to school, as he gazes out the window. He’s asking it when we’re gathered around the table for dinner as he waits for me to finish cutting his carrots. And I know just what he means. Is this real? I have a distinct memory, when I was about his age, feeling the same way. I remember sitting in the car, watching the trees and the other cars, the shops and the traffic lights all pass us by. But really we were moving past the scenery. And I remember getting all twisted up in my head about what was real: was it myself in the car, seat belt on and singing along to Raffi? Or was it the trees and the birds, the pavement and all that stuff outside? What is real? So I get what he means, and I’m sympathetic to my over-thinker, this dawning meta-awareness, and I know that he’ll never grow out of that.
The cold of this season has been bracing: the wind has pushed the wintry air into every crevice and crack of this house. Each effort to leave the shored up warmth requires such work and yet, all it takes is a blown kiss from the north to reveal the open weave of the sweater I am wearing, the loose gap between my pant leg and sock. By the end of the day the muscles in my back and neck are tense, my body hunched in on itself seeking inner warmth. Maybe that’s why a fort of blankets and pillows looks so inviting. I set the lid on the pot of chilli simmering on the stove and nestle my way into this movie retreat, too. I feel my shoulders loosen, I let the little kid bodies mold around mine. My cheeks flush with the moist warmth of breath, the child-like exhalations of rhythm. This is real.
Later, when Griffin is awake, and I’ve pressed his cheeks into my heart so that he knows the beat of my love and I’ve smoothed back his hair, damp with nap-sweat, he’s loud and pointing to the family room, to his brother and sister, so we go. We go, and we find the movie fort tweaked a bit, and now it has become a captain hook adventure and they are running on the coffee table (yes, this) and there is water and rescues and duels and Griffin gets right in on the action. Just try to tell me that this isn’t real, folks.
The groundhog poked it’s head out this past weekend, yawned, blinked and stretched out, unimpressed with what he saw: No shadow this year. They say that means spring will come soon.