December, 2015: We all file into the car and point north. Off to Western New York at the solstice. Lia has a new parka, Joe has snow boots. We have ice axes. Sleds. Fire starting supplies and enough survival gear to make Farley Mowat proud. We also have every distraction imaginable for Joe. Puppets, sunglasses, books, snacks, favorite music and an iPad loaded with Daniel Tiger. And two Pete the Cats. We’re ready.
We’re a little nervous, as Joe’s become very curious and less tolerant of boredom. We have 10 hours on the road, and it could get hairy. But lo! Joe is a road-warrior, eating the miles like a long-haul trucker. Rockin’ through the night, back there manning the old CB. “Dada, this here’s the Rubber Duck … I’m about to put the hammer down.”
Then we get to Wheeler, where my parents live and I grew up. Oh the winters in this wind-swept land, almost as untamed as our sister city of Verkhoyansk! Decembers as a child, we’d huddle near the wood stove, our fronts roasting as our backs sting from the icy snap stabbing through the valley. Our short summers spent furiously cutting firewood and squirreling away lard and hardtack for our very winter survival.
We arrive, and it’s 60 degrees and gorgeous. It couldn’t have been better weather.*
Anyway. My parents were good parents, but Joe’s grandparents are exceptional. We had a wonderful time and everything was perfect. Thanks Grandma and Grandpa!
Onward! Joe would ride up there all day if he could, tugging at grandpa’s ears and slapping out a rumba on his conga-noggin. Moments like this are perfect and fleeting. Joe is still small enough to ride, grandpa is still strong enough to toss him up there, and look at that sky. My new favorite picture of my father. This here is the meaning of life.
* Wheeler, if you’ve never been, you really should go. The town was created in 1820 from parts of Prattsburgh and Bath, and lost some of its territory to Avoca and Urbana in the Great Land Wars of the 1840s. Amish. Rotary dial phones. More back roads than people. It’s heaven.