“A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”–Maya Angelou
“Stethie, you should always feed the red birds when it snows. You want them to stay near you.”
Papaw spoke these words with his sincere eyes imploring mine on a snowy winter day. I was living with my grandmother and him during my first two years as an educator, and during this time, I came to realize what bird-lovers they both were, especially during the winter months.
When I prodded him to tell me more, I don’t remember his precise answer, but I do recall that he talked about the cardinal’s beauty and goodness, especially when compared to the Blue Jay– the species for which Papaw was NOT a fan. I am certain he gave me a more detailed explanation about the importance of cardinals, but like so many memories, only the basic understanding of his words remains with me.
I was reminded of this feeling on a recent January morning, the day after precipitation conspired with plunging temperatures to instigate a snow storm as the inches of fluffy white accrued. With the arrival of dusk, winter’s hush settled over the surrounding hills and valley in which I live, as our yard residents, the cardinals, chirped their familiar song of, “cheer, cheer, cheer,” wrapping my family and me with a serene sense of quietude. My mind floated with the flakes, and I began quickly flipping through the pages of snow days past.
Remembrances of my youth-self entering the backdoor of my childhood home after hours of playing in the snow. I would be ensconced inside layers of snowy, wet clothes, and my play-shoes were sucked into clear galoshes that would break me out into a sweat as I struggled to take them off. In rapid fire succession, my mind meandered from my own childhood snow days to more recent reminiscences of my daughter’s days in the snow.
Those seemingly not-so distant days of watching her teach our beloved dog, Rusty, how to pull her through the yard on a red sled, and the way she taught him to play “catch” with snowballs. Rusty would catch the snow, then proceed to eat it, slinging slobbering snow-froth with every shake of his head. Like the 8mm films my grandfather once proudly recorded and presented, my family memories reeled on . . .
Get the yardstick and measure again, that’s another inch more for sure.
Why haven’t they called school off yet?
Spoon under pillow, pajamas inside out and backwards;
It’s what they said to do for a guaranteed snow day tomorrow
Screams of delight with morning light; I’m really out for the whole day?
Dog tracks follow girl tracks, two pals capering about the sparkling white
Snow persons with carrot noses, button eyes, tree limb arms, and purple cap; “Can I have a scarf for it too?”
Sled rides down the neighbor’s hill, “Rusty, pull, boy, pull!”
Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup, comfort food to warm a rumbly tummy.
Wet clothes in dryer; boots and damp dog by the fire until
Back outside she goes with a whoop and a holler, “Come on, Rusty! Come on, boy!”
Tail waggin’, he’s hobbles into action; wherever she roams, he’ll go
More hours spent, giggles and barks galore; “Oh, Rusty! You silly boy!”
Hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies for her, and plenty of kibble for him.
Get out the crockpot, and make some veggie soup; I hope we have saltines.
Steph, how ‘bout a glass of wine?
No, really, I shouldn’t.
Well, maybe just a glass that turns into two
Jigsaw puzzle covers one end of the table, making the edges first.
Scrabble tiles are intersecting lines; Are you sure that is a word?
May I stay up a little bit longer?
What about a movie? There’s a new one I hear.
Can we read two chapters tonight?
But we’re at a good part. How‘bout one more chapter, pleeease?
Covers piled high, snuggled up under chin; the day, like all good things, must end
Sigh! How swiftly the hands of time spin.
The next morning, I stood at the kitchen window, coffee mug in hand, watching large flakes drift down, observing my cardinal friends, and drinking in their sing-song calls. There are three cardinal couples living in different parts of our yard; they took up noticeable residence this past spring. They have yet to leave, and I can’t help but take comfort in their presence.
Gone are the days I look out the window and see my daughter playing in the snow. She has no interest now that she is the same age as I was when I lived with my grandparents. Nor does Rusty, her once faithful companion, romp and scamper in the snow; he has since passed on to heavenly yards of the great beyond. Still, I stand there a bit longer, and I can’t help but wonder what the coming years will bring. Certainly, the answers aren’t in the sentimental past. Nonetheless, the cardinals keep singing, in spite of the seasonal changes, serenading their song of gratitude. Perhaps, therein lies a profound melody of truth.