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Surprises

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The surprise snow at the Speers household in Ballard. Michael Speers

Waiting for the automatic garage door to open, I saw tokens of the past, standing like soldiers at attention, expecting orders. Dust covered, a spider web veil laced threads together, camouflaging chapters of time. The hoe used to dig beds for springtime bulb planting; tulip cups blossomed fluttering rainbows of color, bordered with yellow daffodils trumpeting revival. The rake, with missing and chipped teeth, needed a patched smile to gather fallen leaves. Long handles hung, blades starting to turn the color of Mars, arranged in a variety of sizes—the spade to trim edges, placed next to a wide scooping snow shovel. The gas mower waited for a tune-up and liquid lunch to style grass into a perfect crew cut. The garage window curtain covered, keeping new landscapers out of view. I no longer have energy for yard work. Seasonal tools in a changing calendar timetable, stir the moment, developing memories.

Backing out of the driveway, a radio weather report emphasized the coming snowstorm, followed by a humorous DJ playing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”—extra tension to snowbound fears. Chills ran up my spine while recalling winters shoveling the driveway to go to work. The passing years seemed to make every scoopful heavier and heavier. Now a retired Metro bus driver, a sigh of relief escaped as I felt a rush of giddiness steering to the grocery for supplies. I filled a cart with necessary items—cans of soup, chili, tortilla chips, bread, deli meats, and a slow walk around the salad bar for a mixture of flavors. Of course, I couldn’t pass a square pan with sour cream raspberry crisp, which needed a carton of ice cream or side of whipped cream. Not a pioneer chuck-wagon full of staples to cross a snowy mountain top, but I had a mixture of favorites to last for days. Even if the power failed, a tasty sandwich in candle light is comfort food.

Snow fell throughout the night. The morning view was a fresh white sheet, becoming thicker while accumulating new layers. Inside the house, I imagined life in a glass globe, calm, then periodically shaken. Stepping outside, a stilled silence numbed the air. The loud echo in my head from chewing freshly popped corn. I hoped cold critters had found emergency shelters—my snowbound fantasy pictured mixed-species hiding, huddled together for warmth and comfort in peaceful quiet.

Looking out at the backyard, I recalled the snowstorm a decade earlier, so deep we shoveled paths for our small dog to do her “business,” following an octopus like maze, eight lanes toward the sliding glass door. After urgent missions, her long fur coat was covered in marble-sized snowballs, evidence of lost battles with nature. More than once, I shoveled the driveway to slip and slide to work, prepared to steer a bus full of weather weary passengers. Returning home, we shared our ice-covered adventures, laughing while wrapping the white-balled dog in dryer-warmed towels.

They both have passed on to the next journey. I have become a lone survivor watching pleasant flakes drop notes of yesterday memories.