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Our Peeping Tom

I started feeding him about six months ago.

He sat outside the sliding doors of my kitchen window peering in as I shuffled half asleep through my early morning routine – turn on Keurig, take vitamins, feed Buzz, my old cat swirling between my legs, make the kids’ lunches.

It was Buzz who alerted me to his presence by howling and hissing at the glass screen loudly. I looked and saw him there, staring back unaffected, his coat scraggly but his stance proud. Immediately I noticed that he resembled a cat I once had many years before who had died.

“Well, hello Jeffy,” I said to the stray, making the mistake of naming him out loud. I may as well have bought him a collar. “Fancy seeing you here.”

“I’ve got to feed him,” I apologized to my own feisty feline, stroking her behind the ears and looking her in the face. “But don’t worry, you’re in here and he’s out there.”

I slid open the door and Jeffy instinctually peddled back a few paces. I placed a paper bowl filled with food down, introduced myself, then headed back inside. When the sliding door closed, Jeffy padded back and ate. The next morning, he greeted us again, and the next, and the next. He became a frequent guest at dinner as well.

Our arrangement continued through Fall with my kids now well aware of the new extended member of our family. “Jeffy’s here!” They’d cry excitedly and race to find me. “He looks hungry,” My middle son worried and I’d roll my eyes. We were feeding him twice a day. And not the cheap crap either.

Winter and colder weather arrived. It was freezing and I hunkered down, barely going out except when necessary. I couldn’t imagine Jeffy surviving snow and temperatures that seemed to never stop falling. Inch after inch, foot after foot piled up.

Many days, my kids and I stared through the glass doors peering out in the frosty night wondering if Jeffy would make it. At times, the snow was so high he was almost just a head. Other days he carefully careened the mountains of crunchy ice to reach us. Every time he did we cheered and I peppered his dish with fresh chicken or juice from the tuna can. It seemed so unlikely he’d survive the single digit temps and crippling wind, but storm after storm, we’d spy those little foot (and body) imprints in the snow. Somehow against all odds he’d make it to our door.

This last storm took us all by surprise. It came hard and fast. The two feet of snow already in my yard quickly turned to three. For three days, we didn’t see him and feared the worst, but then the sun came out strong and my town began to melt. People walked the streets in open coats and no coats. Everyone was smiling, stretching out and thawing after the long winter freeze. Within a day, Winter had retreated and Spring had unofficially arrived.

And there in my vision stood Jeff, his fur weathered and matted but his posture still strong and proud.

He had made it through.

And now he would feast.

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Baby, it’s cold outside.

I opened my eyes slowly. For some reason, the room seemed darker and cozier than normal, and getting out of bed was even more of an effort. Slowly, I shuffled toward the bathroom and on my way caught a glimpse of the outside world through my window. Oh my God, it’s snowing. No wonder it was hard getting out of bed. Somehow the body knows when it rains or snows and instinctually wants to burrow in.

It’s beautiful. The sky is bright and grey, a silver lining, speckled with small fluffs of white; soft winter butterflies fluttering gently to the ground.  I peer at it, watching it fall; the houses almost surreal in their untouched new snow beauty. A snow globe all shook up.

If I close my eyes, I imagine a horse drawn carriage, a rosy cheeked family, puffs of cold laughter coming from their mouths that dissipate as they bring a cup of steaming cocoa to their lips. The cold is warm under the blankets and magical as it falls all around. Lovely. So lovely.

My block under cover of downy white looks like a postcard and later my kids will make it even more picturesque, sliding around outside, making forts, hurling snowballs. Their faces will turn red from the cold and exertion, their noses all a bit runny, their eyes glittering with excitement, and snow sparkling in their lashes and the locks of hair that have escaped from their hats.


They will slosh through my house afterwards, peeling off heavy boots and coats, leaving glistening chunks of snow all over my floor. They will strip off layer after laying of clothing for me to find like a scavenger hunt later on; a wet sock under the couch, underwear in a boot. They will cry that their fingers hurt and I will hold them tightly in mine until I can warm them up with my breath and a cup of hot chocolate.

We will all huddle together inside, warm and cozy, maybe light the fireplace that we almost never use. It’ll turn dark and colder, but the allure of shimmering snow in moonlight will be too much for the three little faces at the window, eyes widening at the sight.  They will wait expectantly for their daddy to come home, wanting to go out  in the winter wonderland again.

I will watch them by the screen door, tossing each other around like snowballs. I have no interest in being out there with them. I am mama bear. I hate the cold. I only love their delight. So I’m content to watch from my cave, knowing that soon, one by one they will come to me, either freezing or crying or both, and I will comfort them with my warm hug.

After hot showers, their faces and bodies now pink with warmth, we will tuck all their exhausted, excitement into bed; their happy voices drifting off into the quiet of falling snow.

Then I will sigh contentedly, go downstairs, do a hundred pounds of laundry and pray that it all melts by morning.

Oh yeah, loads of fun.

Oh yeah, loads of fun.

Just a bad day

I’m cold.

I know it’s officially Spring, but the air is still crisp, and with the up and down temperatures this winter, my body has never adapted. I feel almost naked, and I hunker down in my coat as the wind whips my face. I have a ‘thing’ at the school that I’m in no mood for.  Just getting to the car leaves me chilled to the bone. Lately, I’ve been wondering if I’m going to have to do the Florida migration in a couple of years. My body really hates the cold.

I left the house annoyed and unhappy. I had a bad day and it leaked into my night. It was a repeat of the night before and possibly the one before that. It comes like that, in waves, and sometimes I just can’t shake it; my dark mood wrapped as tightly around my neck as my grey wool scarf. I don’t know why the things that I usually casually brush off won’t budge, like my shovel in wet, heavy snow. I don’t know why I let it all settle, deep in my gut. How can I feel so heavy, yet so empty?

It could have been the boys, just being boys, fighting, teasing, playing too rough. And me, being overwhelmed.

Or, it could have been the never-ending laundry, pile of dishes and errands. And me, being overwhelmed.

Or it could have been my depressed, dysfunctional, disabled father throwing his burden on my back, needing more and more of my energy and assistance. And me, being overwhelmed.

It could just be my nature. I’m prone to deep thinking, and it is not always my friend. There’s so much to appreciate and yet, life is death. It’s a cold slap of reality that I never fully realized till my mid to late thirties. And now, I’ve never felt so keenly aware of how vapor thin life is. How delicate. How a strong gust of wind can push someone over the edge, just like that.

I arrive at the school and watch the people walking past. Some walk purposefully, others stroll arm in arm with a spouses or friends. I close my eyes and rest my head back against the seat. The radio is talking news, talking weather, talking sports. It’s as soothing as a sound machine set to waterfall. I don’t want to get out of the safety of the car. I don’t want to put on a happy face.

But I know I will. I always do.

I shiver and pull my coat tightly around me. It’s really not even that bad out. They’re predicting milder temperatures tomorrow. I hope so. I really can’t wait to feel the sun.