An excerpt from A WINTER DISCOVERY:
Reese had a feeling he wasn’t going to fall asleep so easily tonight, either. Dad sang him a couple of songs at bedtime, like he always did. Millie even stuck around after because she thought Reese looked “bouncy.” If she had seen him in bed last night, she would have realized this wasn’t a new thing. She sat with him and rubbed his back for a while, which felt really good, but when she got up and left, Reese didn’t feel any calmer.
He couldn’t imagine how anyone stayed calm this time of year. Of course, not everyone had a birthday around now (too bad for them), but Reese knew that even if he hadn’t just turned six, he would still be super excited all the time. How else were you supposed to feel when there were cool lights and decorations all over the place? Mr. Fleegle had put a set of reindeer on his roof yesterday. Yeah, they were fake – at least that’s what Millie said when Reese told her about them – but they were still reindeer. Reindeer meant Santa Claus, and Santa Claus meant presents, and presents meant all kinds of new things to play with. Except if someone got him a sweater. You couldn’t really play with a sweater (at least not without getting Dad angry), but Reese figured he’d be okay with a sweater, too.
Then, on top of everything else, they watched “Frosty the Snowman” on TV tonight. Frosty was no-doubt-about-it the coolest snow-dude ever and he got Reese even more revved up about Christmas. This was the time of year when snowmen came alive! That was almost better than getting presents. Well, at least it was better than some presents, like that sweater he was thinking about earlier.
Reese tried to make himself go to sleep. He thought about really boring things. Like when the news is on the radio or when Grandpa is talking about golf. Tanya had once told him that when she had trouble sleeping she counted backward from a hundred. Reese thought about doing that, but since he was still having a little trouble counting frontward to a hundred, it didn’t really work out.
Finally, he just sat up. He knew if he went into the living room that Dad or Millie or even both of them might sit with him for a while, maybe even until he fell asleep. But he didn’t want to do that. Since he was six, he was older now, and that meant he shouldn’t need his parents babying him. Maybe if he just played with something else, he could get his mind off Christmas, at least a little. Then he’d be able to fall asleep.
As he threw his legs over the side of the bed, he saw the picture of his mom on his dresser. He felt that goopy feeling he always got when he looked at Mom. Dad and Millie and Tanya were always telling him stories about her, but it all just felt slippery inside of him. It was like she was real and she was pretend at the same time. Reese sorta had the same feeling when he looked at her as he got when Tanya was away at college. But how could he miss someone he didn’t really know? It was his mom, that’s how. How could he not miss her. He knew she was around for the very, very beginning of his life, but he didn’t remember any of that. He just wished he had something he could hang on to. Anything.
He slid over to the picture and picked it up. In it, she was holding Reese close to her. All you could see of him was his tiny face because he was only a day old. Reese didn’t think the baby looked like him at all. Mom could’ve been holding any kid, really. Mom looked beautiful, though, and he liked knowing that she was holding him. There were only a couple other pictures of the two of them together because Mom died before Reese had gotten much older. Some kind of instant death thing where you’re okay one minute and gone the next. Dad tried to explain it to him a few times, but it just seemed weirder and scarier every time he did.
What would it have been like to spend Christmas with your mother? Millie was great and all – really, really great – but it had to be super special to have a mom at Christmas. Too bad he was never gonna get the chance. In the movies, people got big-time Christmas wishes all the time. Maybe he’d wish for that. Just a tiny little something with his mother. If he wished hard enough it could come true.
Touching Mom’s face once, Reese put the picture back on his dresser and then turned toward the window in his room.
It was snowing!
Excitedly, he got up to look outside. It was snowing very hard. Ginormous flakes. Could be great packing snow, which meant that Dad and Millie were going to be in for a serious snowball fight tomorrow.
Now he was never gonna get to sleep. Christmas coming and snow? There was just way too much to get freaked about.
Reese looked over at the streetlight to watch the snow as it was coming down like crazy. As he did, a single flake floated in this direction and landed on his window. It was weird, because all the rest of the snow seemed to be blowing the other way. He looked at the flake closely, trying to see the different lines coming from it. Millie told him that the lines were called “crystals” and that every single one was different from every other one. He figured she was exaggerating about that.
After he’d looked over the snowflake for a while, Reese put his finger up to the window, knowing that the heat in his finger would warm up the window and melt the snowflake like it had when he’d done that kind of thing before. He kept his finger there for a while, but when he pulled it back, the flake was still there, not looking melty at all.
What was that about? Maybe this was mutant snow, a kind that never melted. How cool would that be? They could have snow all year ’round. When they went to the beach in the summer, they could come out of the water and then jump around in the snowdrifts. That would be the best thing ever.
He touched his finger to the window again. When he pulled it away, the snowflake was still there. This was very interesting.
He continued to check out the flake for a while. As he did, another picture of his mother popped into his head. She looked a lot like she did in the picture that was next to the hall closet. That one of her on the ski slope where she had a gigantic smile on her face. Thinking about that picture while still staring at the snowflake, Reese got that goopy feeling all over again.
He put his finger to the flake one more time – it still didn’t melt – and then crawled back into bed. Once he lay down, he looked at the picture of his mom and then over to the snowflake again. Suddenly, he was getting very sleepy.
He scrunched down into his covers, still thinking about Christmas and snow, but really thinking about his mother more than anything else.
He yawned and snuggled his pillow, feeling very tucked in.