"Life can only be understood backwards; but it can only be lived forwards." —Sören Kierkegaard
We were all up early for the first snow of 2017. The milk steamer whistled as the kids, too eager to wait, darted out the front door and into an icy powder blanket under still dark skies. Coffee. Then breakfast and chapters from books before we geared up in layers and ventured outside to streets still untouched and snowflakes whirring in all directions.
We trudged for a bit taking in the air and listening to the sounds of our steps crunching beneath us, and we blew our hot breath out and up toward the naked trees above.
Winslet's lashes collected snowflakes and I adjusted her hat, pulling her in closer to share heat. Roscoe and Merritt tried to sled but the snow was too fine and too deep and the long down hill not steep enough to carry them along. It didn't matter though and we kept going. In good time we found our way back home, the mood was still one for adventure but our legs were tired and our bellies rumbled for something good to eat.
Nearly this time last year I was 19 weeks pregnant with Winslet and a different snowstorm was promising to blow through Richmond. Andy had been out of town that week and the boys and I had made a last minute grocery run for all the good things we could think of, then gathered and stacked a neat pile of wood at the hearth for stoking.
We were all but ready to hunker down for a long weekend. The only thing that stood between us was that routine appointment that I had naively looked forward to, the one at which I learned that without intervention Winslet would be born soon and that our best hope was a cerclage, though no one could say for how long it would hold.
I spent five dark days alone watching the snow fall from my hospital bed, the world as I once knew it muffled by an ever growing cover of snow.
My only comfort came in the messages I received from home about the boys sledding down the front stoop, and of their morning breakfasts with my mom who came to stay while I was hospitalized. Through my phone arrived pictures snapped of Roscoe and Merritt in imaginary play under bushes hung low with heavy snow, new forts and new stories set in uncharted landscapes of white.
I had planned that weekend to make a potato gratin with cream biscuits, and pancakes, and sweet warm drinks. By the time I was discharged home the ingredients I'd gathered the week before had turned, and the rest of my pregnancy was spent on bedrest with friends near and far feeding us well into Winslet's first months of life. It was a long while before I started baking with my own two hands again.
This first snow of the season presented us a do over for a time when I longed to be cozy and safe in winter's magic, but was instead gathering grit, and bracing myself for a long and turbulent path yet to be traversed, my heart wrenched by the thought of losing my daughter. The parallel timing didn't even occur to me until I was standing by the stove with the steamer screaming for milk and coffee, and the boys were tearing out into bitter cold with just their jammie's on. A tingling surge of joy for a day at home to do nothing and everything at once suddenly compelled me to wonder aloud when "that one storm from last year" came plowing through our lives.
So this weekend in honor of the promise of last year's potato gratin I made a potato soup and I took my time with the chopping of onions, celery, carrots and potatoes. I stayed by the stove as the broth came to a boil. Present and unhurried. The kids helped to purée the vegetables and stir in the milk. Then we sat together as a family and ate—even Winslet who is in the unpicky gobbling stage—with cheese sprinkled on top and warm cream biscuits on the side.
I'm moved daily by moments like this. The healing moments that inspire deep gratitude for the life of my daughter and for my little family of five. I've savored the details of a simple life spent together these last few days under snow and ice, feeling connected, and joy filled, and carefree—celebrating Winslet's first snow and relishing all the winter hygge you can imagine.
As the layers of this story both old and new continue to build, the once confusing and disjointed experience as I lived it in real time begins to take on a cohesive narrative that leaves me less broken and more whole. I love all the souls in this house with everything I've got and I thank time for giving me words to express that.