It was still dark the other day when I drove my husband to the airport, dark and bitterly cold. The snowbanks along the roads, glowing white, rose so high that it felt like we were in a maze. As we came around the long curve near the high school, a spot where the wind usually blows drifting snow across the road, I could see great clouds of steam rising, billowing up from the darkness. A cop had just arrived, pulling his car in front of a spreading pool of water: a water main break. Aside from the cop, with his flashing lights, the road was deserted as we drove through the steam, the familiar landscape turned into this strange and eerie place.
I've seen a lot of darkness this February because I've got this knee injury that wakes me during the night. Last night, during the darkest part of the night, I kept thinking about how much I missed my smart, wonderful, beautiful daughter, who is so intuitive, who knows how to make me smile, who will hug me for no reason. When she was younger, she would often come and sleep in my bed when my husband was out of town, just to keep me company. She has been abroad for a whole month now, and that is by far the longest we've been separated for the twenty years of her life. We've talked on the phone and sent emails and instant messages, but I miss her physical presence in my life.
So last night, I was feeling lonely with both my husband and daughter away, and in the middle of the night, when everyone else was sleeping, I wandered downstairs, thinking perhaps I'd make myself a snack. The boys were asleep, Boy in Black on the couch, and the other teenagers rolled into blankets on the floor. When I peered outside the window, I could see snowflakes falling against blackness. On cloudy nights, you cannot see any stars.
My husband had given me flowers before he left town, and they were on the table in a vase. As I stopped to look at the flowers, I saw a small package, addressed to me in what was, unmistakably, my daughter's handwriting.
It seemed at first, to my tired brain, something that could only happen inside a Harry Potter book. My daughter, on the other side of the ocean, had magically sent me a gift in the middle of the night? As I looked at the postmark, I realized that of course it had come in the mail. The mailbox, out at the end of our long driveway, had been buried in a snowbank. My boys must have shoveled out the mailbox late at night, after I'd gone to bed, and then dumped the mail onto the kitchen table.
Inside the package was a present for me: a hip scarf to tie over my pantaloons when I was belly dancing, blue-green gauzy material with dangling coins that would make music when my body moved. I held it in my hands, shaking it to make that tingling noise. How wonderful to have something my daughter had picked out, a gift she had touched with her own hands just a week or so ago, a physical connection.
With the scarf was a note in my daughter's familiar handwriting: "I hope your February doesn't suck too much. I love you."