We are gathered at my brother’s house for a holiday gathering. I am pulled up close to the counter on a bar stool, leaning in to snippets of conversation and snacks, trying to warm up to winter. My little Brownie, Free, proud and pert in her overpriced brown vest straight out of the seventies with its already peeling patches, is delicately tripping her way through a short but practiced sales pitch to grab easy orders from her relatives. It is my mother who knows two will not be enough and rounds up and up and up again to five boxes of golden circles of crispy Caramel Delights.
Now, almost two months later, we are headed north on 93 toward my mother and sister’s home, boxes of Thin Mints and Delights and the new Thanks a Lot cookies neatly stacked in the back, knowing more than a few will end up in our own bellies and packed in plastic baggies to keep us company on the way home. Free is busy playing on her new tablet, singing nonsensical tunes to herself while she snakes her way through obstacles in some game or other.
I am watching the weather change. The leftover snow from the blizzard has given up its fight, retreating to slowly melting piles turned in on themselves like petulant toddlers seemingly insisting on being left alone while they inwardly fume and boil and wonder how long it will take someone to pay attention. The sky is cold but clear, and somehow, the promise of something akin to Spring has snuck its way into the day.
And now Free has begged to sleep on the couch while we are all gathered downstairs, and she is tucked tightly into her late-night shell of quilted worn blankets and sheepskin, wiped out after the waves of words and commotion have subsided. My mother has called up Downton Abbey, and my sister has poured the wine. Tomorrow we will stretch and wake to another day, another morning peeking its nose into the laced windows, to work and workouts and wishes and waltzes of a different sort. Tonight, however, we reach for the cookies that have lingered on the ottoman since Free’s dessert; we taste and sip and chuckle as we slide into another late winter evening, this one warmed with hot water bottles, each-other’s company, and a little caramel delight.