Against the Backdrop

The text says 6pm, maybe 6:30, and we leave at 6, drive up that winding lakeside road, white snow soft, freshly fallen, on either side of the road. Stevy drives, I ride shotgun, and I click through the radio stations, pass my hands across the heater as I do. A good song, the music loud, we roll to a stop sign and Stevy taps the brakes in sync with the beat, the car rolling, rocking ever so slightly with each thump of the bass.

I love this road, this snow globe winter weather, and driving with the brother away from the lake, west now, I remember the last time we drove this way together. It was Memorial Day, heading to this same house, and we stopped right before the freeway, bought a bag of ice at Walgreens, like good guests. Then, we pulled up, parked in front of that corner house, snaked around, to backyard and bonfire and friends we’d not seen in some while.

Now, there’s no bonfire and no bag of ice, but Stevy checks the clock as we pull up front; 6:22 and he says he’s sorry that we’re late, and I tell him 6:30 is okay, right? And the door swings open to laundry room and friends are there again, of course, and we’re kicking boots off, shrugging out of coat sleeves, hugging greetings, all at the same time.

Dinner’s not ready quite yet, but in this house, just as in our house, the kitchen is a wonderful place to be, and we stand against the counter, sip ice water from goblets, shift one way, the other, when drawers open for forks, knives, napkins.

Spaghetti dinner, we are five there, around the table- two more arrive later- and someone has a bag of little candies, miniature chocolate marbles. And maybe Kat starts it, maybe someone else does, but then we’re shooting the foil-wrapped treats across the table, between salt and pepper, there in the center of the red table-cloth. And the candies bounce off the shakers, spin around now-empty plates, roll, bouncing off the table, and we cheer when one makes, it, only pausing then to pull the red, blue foil off of the treats, take a bite.

The Blackhawks are playing, later, and we step down the carpeted stairs, settle into the couch under blankets, legs curled, feet tucked between cushions, warm in the late December basement chill. Apples to Apples is out and we’re simultaneously watching, playing, tossing red cards in the pile, laughing as the answers are read.

I moan, as the cards are dealt, that I never win, and then they mock my melodrama, grinning, when my collection of green cards grows. But we play with a ghost player, a random card thrown in with every round, and we all laugh, amazed, amused, when the ghost card is better than ours, and the nonexistent player almost wins.

Hockey, cards, both games over, we’re not ready to leave, and we sit there in the basement under blankets, comfortable, at home, on the couches. We watch the news, then SNL, and on the next couch, Stevy falls asleep, arm tucked under him; settled in the ease of a Saturday night with friends it’s a treat to be with.

Later, of course, the boy wakes up, we say thank yous, good byes- like good guests- and we drive home to the beat of music, although softer. But I drove that way again, yesterday; up lakeside beauty, west towards the highway, along past that snowy house, and I remembered that December night just barely a week ago, and again that Memorial Day evening.

And there are some memories, times, that stand out happy, remarkable, momentary snapshots of easy joy against the backdrop of life, and those two nights? That is exactly what they are.



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