The heavens were white and full with snow. All it had to do was start falling, fat and fantastical, to fill up my world. It was a waiting game. I lay in bed looking out the window and searching the skies for an answer. When would it come to bring beauty and devastation to my little cul de sac? The birds had already stopped visiting the feeder. Perhaps they knew something I didn’t. Or perhaps it had just grown too cold for them to venture out. The forecast had been spelled out the night before. Snow. It was coming. And in a place that doesn’t get a lot, any amount over an inch or two would be apocalyptic.
Stores would close. Traffic would be ground to a halt. All of my planned errands and chores would become suddenly undoable and unimportant. I vowed to make hay while the sun shone, so to speak, in order not to be too inconvenienced by the seasonal onslaught. Most of all, I looked forward to it with a child’s wonder that a random universe could so disrupt my day to such an extent. Waiting for snow was a tell-tale sign that I lived in a world so large as not to be the center of it all.
At twenty years of age, the waiting was more personal although just as ethereal. Would the new boy in my life call to make conversation, perhaps culminating in an invitation to go out on a date? Would he say he liked me or loved me? Would he assure me that I was the only one? Because that’s what it was all about in those days. Being the only one. Waiting for the boyfriend to call was a fact of life at twenty, a fact more important than snow.
Many days, it never happened and I had to be content to go on with my life. I had to find things to do to fill in the time between the calls. Shopping or lunching with girlfriends. Busying myself with hobbies or writing in my journals. Spending time with the family. But then I would talk to him, whatever him was in my life at the time, and the result would be another interminable wait for him to call or ring the doorbell. Those calls meant so much. Even though I might have little to say, they meant that I was wanted, that I was desirable, that I would have a future of my own with one of those boys someday.
And when that day came, when the right boy called, and said all the right things, my life would change. That’s what it was always building up to. I knew it the first time I waited for a boy to call. This was all just practice for the day the right boy called and changed my life.
Twenty years later, perspective had changed the game. I waited for my daughter to call or come home from wherever she had gone on a weeknight with whatever friends had managed to borrow a car from their parents. It was a different kind of longing. A prayer that she would return in one piece. A hope for another day with her. It was a wait with pacing and wringing hands, and a grim imagining that she had gotten into a wreck or run off to God knows where.
Unlike the wait for snow, there was no pleasant anticipation, only dread that the worst possible scenario had come to pass. There was hope but no real conviction. Sure, she was a good girl. She would do the right thing. She would come home to me. If she could. Always that disclaimer. Always that fear. Because she was independent like I had been, I always had to fear for her return. She was so young and so resourceless. Would she even want to come home?
Outside, the streets were still bare, the housetops uncoated, and the reckoning unfulfilled for now that the snow would ever come. So far, faith was my only consolation. I believed I would look out again and see the fat flakes swirling in the glow of the houselights. I would see them beginning to coalesce along the eaves and in the trees.
Add yet another twenty years, and I would be waiting for the doctor to call. With his cheery voice and proper demeanor, he would deliver my future. My fate would lie in the crisp white folds of his lab coat. Benign or malignant. Such an ugly word, malignant. It speaks to the dread lurking in all of us. It tells of the end of all the waiting. There it was and the last wait was over.
Life is too full of waiting games. I wanted to just be and see what would come. Prom dates. The full blossoming of a daughter. Death. Oh yes, and snow. There would be snow in my life, whether or not I waited for it to fall. I might be caught unaware. I might not have enough toilet tissue or canned goods. I might be stuck at my Aunt Ruthie’s house. I might be annoyed that I would have to clean off my car and shovel the driveway before I could go to the bank.
The only thing that could save me from worrying about the snow was the snow. It would fall and it would cover everything like a layer of blurred obsolescence on the old world. It would wipe out that which was with that which is now. For a moment, I could look outside and see nothing but snow. No hopes and fears. No normality. No sharply defined lines of what was and what wasn’t.
No colors. Only the smow.
Linda Caradine is a Portland Oregon based writer whose work has appeared in The Oregonian Newspaper, TravelMag, The RavensPerch, Lowestoft Review, Free State Review, Drunk Monkeys and other publications. She is currently working on a memoir.