The Rear End

Snowflakes and Cereal

cold mornings are still bright mornings

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Serena Wagner |

Sunlight filled the backyard. We were going to have a good day. Probably.

The sky swelled with electricity, a wall of screaming blue yanked up behind a mess of tree branches towering over the back fence. That morning, I finally noticed how the grass was turning green out there.

I was the only one awake yet, getting breakfast ready for my kids, debating over telling them “long sleeves” or “short sleeves” and hoping hoping hoping they’d stumble out of bed cupping a good mood in their sleepy little fingers. 

I pulled out my phone, woke it up, and fumbled open the app with the weather forecast: 7am, a cloud with a sun popping up over the top. 8am, a swirly icon meaning “wind.” 9am, wind. 10am, wind. 11am, wind. Wind. All day.

The sun would shine on our faces outside, but at a price. Cold thwacks of chilly April air. Long sleeves today. Messy hair and sore red ears.

I took out chipped bowls and the mismatched spoons we love so much. As I swung open the pantry door for the cereal, the hinges squawked at me, moaning to the whole house, every single room. I have some oil down in the basement. I should really fix those damn hinges.

A flicker of light burrowed through the clouds, spilling into the yard, and for a few seconds, every single snowflake fractured into silver and green and blue and red. All the colors.

I looked out the window again. Now it was dark. Shapeless grey fluff was covering the sky, dingy teddy bear guts choking out the blue. From around the house a swarm of albino fireflies buzzed into the yard. Furious snowflakes. A flicker of light burrowed through the clouds, spilling into the yard, and for a few seconds, every single snowflake fractured into silver and green and blue and red. All the colors.

The clouds broke up and the backyard was again filled to the top with lemon-colored sunlight. And the snow was just snow, pushed around by the spastic wind outside. By the time the kids woke up, it had vanished altogether.

They cradled good moods as they came into the kitchen, but they were struggling. Sometimes it’s like they’re squeezing a big cat with both arms, but the cat wants to run away and hide, lick its paws and twitch its tail. Kids don’t understand how soft, adorable things can suddenly claw at you. I’m not sure I do, either.

“Weird weather today,” I told them. “Sunny and snowy.”

“I don’t see any snow,” my daughter told me.

“It’s gone now,” I told her and grabbed a little Thermos for the soup she’d eat for lunch at school. “There might be more.”

My son’s been combing his own hair in the morning. Standing behind him as he slurped milk and cereal at the kitchen table, I resisted the urge to fix it. I wanted to spray it with water and rake down the sticky-up bits he always misses. But I suspected a little bed head would not destroy his childhood. He needs to be in charge of his own hair.

We got through breakfast and brushing teeth and getting dressed. We bickered when it was time to put on shoes and go out to the car. But we got there.

The seats were cold. I slammed shut my door and I saw how the windshield was speckled with frost. Proud and sparkling. Bits of brittle crystal shattering that morning’s light into all the colors. Icy circuits firing needle-thin staccato rainbows, showing the world to be so tiny. So deep. So dazzling. And so very hit-or-miss.

I thought about showing the kids, but they were busy reading. And they were still mad at me for making them leave the house. For making them shed their pajamas and start their day. The way grownups do.

So I kept it for myself.

Journey Ahead

We all get old. In fact, some of us, right at this very moment, ARE old. V1's guide to challenges and opportunities of growing older in the Chippewa Valley. Presented by the ADRC of Eau Claire County