The ice storms have spared us so far. A slight sheen winks at me from the back stairs but the old dog has no trouble navigating them. I watch her go into the backyard and then start the coffee.
I’ve spent many days stuck in the house due to weather. We got this dog as a rescue during the devastation of the city in ’01 or ’02, when the tree split in half and toppled onto on our porch. The boys walked a mile or two towards the sound of a chain saw to bring back rescue. I told them to say their parents were stuck in the house and had cash. I made no mention of the 9mm safeguard against any who thought we could be played for fools.
Luckily the man who came turned out to live nearby and had once trimmed our tree.
Another time, when the boys were younger, Patrick and his two fast-friends Chris and Maher played Hot Wheels on the hardwood floors while I did laundry and fretted about missed work. I stood in the kitchen listening to the sound of small wheels on a plastic track. Maher, always the ringleader, scolded Patrick and Chris whenever they failed to heed his instruction. Eventually they tired of being bossed and grabbed their coats to run outside.
I watched them from the window, one dark head, one crown of curls, and my own son’s short straight hair. I opened the door and called to them, Boys come put on your hats. I looked again and laughed. And your gloves! They trundled back across the snow to stand on the porch and sort out the mess of wool on the deacon’s bench by the front door.
In the kitchen, I took down the box mac and cheese favored by most kids under ten. As I got their lunch ready, the radio blasted a dire prediction of more snow. I made a mental note to call two mothers and assure them of the security of their boys. Maher’s mother Mona would ask me in her lilting Lebanese voice, Are you sure? Do you want me to come get them? I can feed them. She worried that I’d be overborne. Katrina would be slogging into work despite the storm and would bring whatever provisions she thought I might need. I smiled and boiled the water, setting out bowls.
The boys lumbered through the front door and cast off coats and scarves. They ran from one end of the house to the other, hollering about whatever game they had concocted. I scooted closer to the counter as Chris flew by, no boundaries between himself and the rest of the world. Eventually I cajoled them into the dining room, got them seated, served their lunch. No fly-away children, I told Maher, who scowled but took his bent legs down from the chair and sat with feet on the floor.
I left the dining room for mere seconds but when I came back, Chris stared at me with those innocent eyes. On the floor behind his chair lay its Duncan-Phyfe-style fiddle back. I stopped and returned his nervous gaze. Chris, what happened here, I asked in the gentlest voice that I could manage.
Corinne, he started in reply, his own voice incredulous but scared. I don’t know. I was eating my mac-and-cheese and my foot flew up.
I felt a collective breath draw through three little boys — my son, my second son, my third son. Only one born of my body but the other two so often in my home that I could not help but include them in the count.
Fortunately for Chris, the table was a reproduction, bought at a garage sale. Not the real McCoy. And even if it had been genuine, I could not be angry at one of these boys. My three sons. I laughed. The boys relaxed. And lunch went on, with my stir-crazy charges getting sillier and sillier. Outside, the snow resumed its silent fall onto the frozen city, covering the grunge laid down by passing cars, painting a new and breath-taking scene outside our frosted windows.