Spring Comes Early in the South

It warmed up nearly 30 degrees overnight. This meant that the morning was foggy. When I went out to get the paper, the street light, a replica of the old-fashioned gas lights, glowed softly behind the neighbor’s tropical plant. Three palm-like trunks silhouetted against a yellow mist, their leaves dangling like swords.

This morning was a “special breakfast.” Croissants, son the elder’s favorite, and sweet, milky coffee, special to son the younger.

On the drive to school, the trees and bushes in the distant park glistened silver in the light of the rising sun.

Home again, I stopped at the front gate, listening to the sound of the earth awakening.

Think Pink

Today I bought some freshly baked palmiers, a heart shaped cookie of many buttery layers, a crisp confection that never fails to remind me of Paris. I whip heavy cream into soft peaks, adding powdered sugar and strawberries. This rosy mousse I ladle into white ceramic dishes, the ones I use for creme brule and souflees. I place a cookie, tip down, into each dish, each dessert the color of a child’s blush. I give my heart to each one. Valentine’s Day comes early to my house.

Yesterday when I showed up to teach dance class, a sea of pink leotards and dance skirts washed around me. I kissed little heads and rubbed little bellies. I have two sons, I tell people, and 250 little girls.

Animal Crackers

The cold wave continues and I find it hard to change out of my fleece jammies. They are in fact my dance pants but since they have little white lambs on them, it is clear someone thinks they are jammies.

I make a coloring page with a bear in a tutu and type on it “We’re crackers for Ms Claire’s dance class!” I take the coloring pages and some animal crackers to all my classes. The children spy them the moment they walk into class and their eyes grow bright. We wag our tails like dogs, arch our backs like cats, and float our arms like swans. At class end, they fall over themselves like puppies, eager for their gifts.

Two days later it is the weekly “donut day” at our house. I get out my Christmas gift from the boys: a china cup and small china plate. They are pink with an sophisticated black cat on the side and, near the handle, two small black paw prints. Reading the morning paper, I drink my hot tea and eat my chocolate glazed donut with rainbow sprinkles.

Upstairs, the children tumble and jump. Outside, the wind blows and trees bend.

Cold, this wet morning

This morning I woke to the sound of rain. An irregular but continuous stream of water hits my back deck. At my feet, the black cat stretches, jumps lightly down to the floor, and makes his way into the kitchen.

I make my way too, to the other side of the bed, where I throw one leg over husband’s belly. My other leg travels down along side his until it slides into place like a puzzle piece. My feet cradle his. My arm rests on his chest, where it rises and falls with his steady breathing.

Now, the rain sounds different. Now, I hear small drops falling on the broad elephant ear leaf just outside the window. The sound is taut, like a drum. In the distance, a train whistle. Husband stirs and turns to slide his arm under my head. “My favorite sound,” he murmurs. And in the dark whispers to me the remnants of his dream.

Outside the rain slows, then stops. I rise to make tea.

New Year

My Christmas tree this year was especially beautiful. The blinking lights I bought the year I did Christmas for my mother, the year she was diagnosed with cancer. There are ten or twelve settings, including “running,” blinking and a slow fade. There are three spools of a dark burgundy and gold ribbon. Two spools wind around the tree. The other spool is shared between the garland over the front door and the garland over the arch between living and dining rooms.

I also used some of this ribbon to make a new bow for my front door wreath. I buy a fresh cedar and pine wreath every year, adding my bow and the bell that used to hang on my grandmother’s back door every Christmas season. Her door “stuck” a little so that the rough push needed to open it always sent the bell crazy, chiming the announcement of every arrival. Now it is my front door, and the push needed to close it, that sets the bell to dancing.

Over the years, of course, I have collected ornaments. There are the cinnamon dough stars that the boys and I made many years ago, still smelling faintly of spice. There are the gold and clear plastic suns, announcing the return of the Sun. There are the orange slices I dried for one of the first Christmas trees after my return to the States. There are the golden glitter beads I bought in Europe.

A few years back I went lavish and bought boxes of ornaments in coffee, mocha, and burnt orange. And last year began a new tradition: an ornament gifting which has netted us four new ornaments in the past two years: cowboy boots, a cactus, an elephant, and a suitcase. The golden browns and deep greens complement the tree and the images pique our imaginations.

In the New Year, we pulled up the arbor that has held up our climbing rose bush these past twelve years. For the first time, March will not bring small white roses to our side yard. Soon, we will have a “moon gate” and new plants. But for now, there is a patch of dark soil and a clear view of the iris.

Soon, too, there will be a new bike rack and four bikes ready for use. But for now the bikes live on the back deck or in our living room. We bike the neighborhood, checking out old warehouses and new construction. Our cheeks grow rosy as even in Houston, the air holds a chill. We bike to Starbucks, and then home, where waits for us the Sunday New York Times, and in the evening, another episode of Black Adder.

“Sir,” son the younger tells me the next morning, “I have a cunning plan….”