As Winter Begins
By Christopher J. Bradley
11/16/00 9:52:48 PM

I stand outside
The wind blustering against my face
And tugging at the wings of my jacket.
The crinkling leaves are floating on the air
Around my legs.

I have worked in the gym tonight
My arms and legs feel strong and warm
Against the cold.
A cup of coffee on the drive home
Went well with some cigarettes.

The maple's falling petals shield me from tiny raindrops
Almost snow
they flick against my face when they sneak past.
The drops induce dreams of other places
Warmer places like Florida or Alabama
Maybe South Carolina
Where I was born.

Seeing photographs of myself as a child last night
Moved me to remember that winter can be fun
Growing up at Grammy's house
In the winter of 1977 during the Blizzard
Was terrifying and ecstatic all at once.

I played with Pebbles then
A beagle with a disposition like no other
And a hunger for anything edible and visible.
I also played with new toys
A plastic tennis set
And a ring stack.

At Grammy's house
I could see everything wooden and green
The Christmas tree covered with glass ornaments
Sparkled in the darkness that winter.
And we ate and drank and shared the spirit of family.

A couple years pass in my mind
And I find myself walking to school in the snow
Trudging along heavy packed curbs of grey
From the plows the night before.
Finding my way to Maple Avenue.

Around that time I played my first video game
And got my Christmas wish
To have Space Invaders to play at home
Dad tried unsuccessfully to sneak the Atari 2600
Past the doorway from his rusted blue Maverick.
We enjoyed the holidays a few days earlier that year.

My brother and I went sledding with my father
For a couple of years in a row
As we got bigger and stronger
The Toboggan was heavy
And Clover Hill was tall.

But what a rush it was
To slide through white powder
On the circular sleds
And that huge wooden thing
And to stop just short of the upturn
That protected us from the cars slushing by.

The walk to school got further
When we started attending St. Teresa's
And the wind was colder with each successive winter
As my ears grew.
But the music got louder
And clearer and that's when I started dancing.

There were winter dances at St John's school
In LaSalle
The winter of seventh grade
I found myself with Jennifer Gallheger in my arms
To the song that was prized as the most popular
For it's length
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin.

That winter I asked her to the movies
And we saw Top Gun
With Tom Cruise
And I held her hand
When Maverick made Kelly McGuiness quiver
But we never kissed.

My cigarette burns out
And I walk back inside the house
Past the evergreen bushes
In front of the space
Where I built so many snowmen.
But I continue to dream
Until my fingers reach the keys
That put those dreams into words.

My freshmen year at high school
I discovered Paula
Who kissed me at a homecoming dance
And we bowled together
In a league that winter.
The shoes always clung to my wet socks
when I took my boots off.

I also found more video games
And left the house less
Except for shoveling snow
The next few winters
As I concentrated on improving my grades.

In 1991 I experienced a winter without Michelle
Alone in Chicago
Among grown boys
We celebrated a drunken Christmas party
And I didn't see them
Until I had given up on school there.

When I did come home
Michelle and I made up for lost time
Holding each other
In front of the fireplace
On blankets laid out on the blue carpeted floor.

Then there were several more winters
And I found myself standing on the street
Confronted as a loiterer.
I spent Thanksgiving in a hospital
Recovering my wits.

And then there was the Christmas a year later
With more of the same
Due to some Christmas Shopping anxiety nightmare
And fear of more of the same.
I spent Christmas out of commission as well.
The snow fell but it didn't touch my face much.

So now that the winter is starting
I hope to be prepared
I'll not be planning any wild escapades or escapes
I just want to watch the flakes fall from the heavens
And glisten on the swooping winds
that make my windows rock in the night time.

On the weekends my computer will humm with electricity
While I type away and try to figure out
all of the wonderful things it can do
And I will spend less time in the stores
And more time talking to Mom and Dad.

Because when we are all together
Brothers and Sister included
There is still something special
Not to be missed :

The spirit of family and Joy of Winter today
And Winters past
We know how to protect against the cold
And we know how to play in the snow
And we know why Christmas is.

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