I showered, felt Zach’s tooth when he gave me his mostly gummy smile, and put him in his car seat. He was going to meet my family. Three cousins, three uncles, three aunts (one sane), and my childhood home waited for him. I loaded him up, packed my favorite Louisville Slugger, and took off for the west coast.
We drove for six hours that first day. Zach slept and ate and fussed. In his waking hours, I told him about the backyard, the skateboard ramp that dad built; the time I hit a ball off the tee that would have gone over the fence if it weren’t for the orange tree that stopped the ball on the way up; and the baseball pool game we played all summer, with squeeze-it bottles for the bat and Koosh balls for the ball. We stopped in Texas as the weather drew cold.
We checked into the hotel as the first snow flurries began to drop. I didn’t wake Zach to see the snow. He was tired. I figured he’d see Kansas snow in the winter.
We ate Texas shaped waffles in the morning and took off for New Mexico. It was still cold and misty. The temperature dropped and the rain increased as we moved west. I saw a flurry. Then another. They raced toward our truck, soft, big pieces of snow. We climbed a hill on the I-40. The scenery became whiter with patches of snow accumulating along the roadside. In an instant, the land went from splotches of white, to covered in snow.
We found the best winter clothes we could muster. Jake had my snow gloves from two years ago. I had two pairs of knee-high socks on my hands. I wore mom’s old snow boots and Jake wore mine. We had oversized winter hats and two pairs of blue jeans and sweatshirts apiece. Dad pulled the van over. ‘Wait here,’ he said, and got out of the van. I took my sock gloves off. ‘Wait here,’ I told Jake, ‘Dad needs help putting the chains on.’ I walked to the back of the van and helped dad lay out the chains behind the wheels. He got back in and reversed the van a foot and hooked the chains up. The whole process, with my help, took him less than two minutes.
We climbed back in the van. I pulled the socks back on. The snow dropped heavy. We drove a mile or two. The chains crunched along. Dad saw a pure white hill and pulled over.
Jake and I ran to the back of the van. We each grabbed a large piece of cardboard and ran up the hill. We set the cardboard down and jumped on top. We made our own trail down, crashed into a soft, cold bluff, and raced back up.
As we came down the second time, dad hit us each with a snowball, Jake in the shoulder and me in the face. We crashed again and began to make snowballs. I threw them at Jake and dad.
My sock-gloves froze and my hands began to numb. I ran up the hill again. I raced down and ran into Jake on his way up. My hands ached. I went back into the van. Jake followed.
Dad climbed into the driver’s seat and started the heat. I held my red hands in front of the vents. Dad began to drive down the hill.
He stopped to take the chains off. Alone. ‘You guys played for fifteen minutes this time,’ he said. I fell asleep five minutes into the two-hour drive home.
The snow fell thicker. I pulled our truck over. Zach smiled at me as I loosened his belts. He blinked the snowflakes away. The snow melted as it hit our bald heads. I gave him to his mom.
And we then drove on, for we had a lot of miles to go.