Cold snow squeaks under tires as we turn into the empty parking lot after dark.
We wonder where everyone could be, think briefly of an entire city choosing other things.
I reach high into roof box, deliver skis and poles to arms smaller than my own.
We stoop to connect boots, fumble to connect mittened hands, breathe the tight cold air of night.
Light poles illuminate white alley through trees. Glistening tracks lure us from brightness to dim
and back again. I follow you, watch you enter and exit each puddle of light, each stretch of darkness.
Our skis swallow reflection, our poles punch rhythm beside us.
Silent, we stride, scale familiar grades, own this space, this secret time. The memories intertwine:
the morning we swished through ankle deep powder, sliced first tracks into palate of freshness,
the time, winter still young, we skirted around dirt, skated across ice, too eager to stay home,
the chocolate chips we pulled from pockets, frozen solid, chewing palmfuls as we rested.
I remember carrying you on my back, your weight pulling me as you bobbed from side to side,
the way you squealed from your perch as we descended, grunted with effort as I climbed,
the way your sister skied ahead as I fiddled with your pack and wasn’t afraid of the darkness,
of the forest, of herself, the way her small song parted colossal hemlocks and pines.
I taught you to mount the hills yourself, legs spread leaning. My hand on your bottom
holding you steady, an awkward pair, we trudged to the top. I held you tight under snowsuit arms,
steered us down, our bellies dropping, your miniature skis floating over snow between mine.
Tonight, we pause at the top of a hill. You step from the edge and let yourself go.
I watch your perfect silhouette glide and shrink into the night, beneath stars and moon,
beneath my giant love for you.
Gala Malherbe lives in Marquette, MI. She enjoys writing about her children, her connection to nature, and the struggles and resilience of the human condition.
Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. All rights reserved.