My middle son, younger than his twin brother by all of one minute, was helping me move hay from the shed to the pasture. In typical Arkansas fashion, the weather had recently moved from freezing to warm and back to freezing again, all in the course of three days. I loved listening to his stories of video games and graphic novels as we watched the sun sink lower behind our house. As we walked back and forth from one part of the property to the other, we could sense an internal argument in the breeze. Every so often a sharp, cold wind would cut through the otherwise temperate air.
Our work was physically hard and my chest felt tight. I was just getting over Covid and my husband was still sick in bed. I felt endlessly grateful for my son’s vibrant work ethic and his laughter. We were on our second trip back to the shed when a smile spread across my son’s face. “Come look, Mom,” he said, pointing to the corner of the building. Snuggled underneath the roofline is our trusty deep freeze, a gift from a dear friend who understands my prepper heart. He opened the lid and we leaned over the edge. A few clumps of ice fell from the edges of the walls. “We saved you some snowballs.”
It had snowed just a few days before, coming down before sunrise and continuing throughout the day. I had watched that positive test line pop up on my second at-home Covid test. Thankfully it was a mild case: just a headache, sore throat and mild chest discomfort. But even with a mild case, I knew better than to be running around outside in the 21 degree weather. As the snow came down, I watched the kids from the window, grateful for heaters, vaccines, and their wild laughter. Every so often they would throw a snowball at my window and I’d open it up to say hello. “I’ll save you one,” my oldest yelled out to me.
My oldest son, older than his twin brother by all of one minute, has a real knack for thoughtful nature gifts. Years ago we lived in Little Rock and my sons attended MLK Pre-K in Little Rock. The school was just a short walking distance from our house, and the playground had a large moss patch near the fence edge. I love all things dirt-related, which has become a running joke in our family. During those years, my youngest was still small enough to be worn in a carrier, and I’d walk down to the school every afternoon to pick up my twins with her attached to my back. One day as we were walking down the sidewalk toward home, one twin’s tiny hand in each of my own, my oldest let go and pulled a small clump of moss out of his pocket. “I saved this for you, Mom.”
I swooned so much over this act of kindness that bringing home little nature treats become a staple amongst all three of my kids. My middle son finds rocks for me from the Primary School in Dardanelle. My daughter began bringing clovers from the Head Start playground. I’ve always struggled with living in the moment, and I count their tiny gifts as core moments where I’ve learned to be fully present. “Thank you,” I’d gush, knowing nothing would ever be more sincere.
All of these memories raced through my head as I looked down into the deep freeze. Wedged between the blueberries and the frozen pizzas, there must have been at least 8 baseball sized snowballs. I touched my hand to the sharp, crunchy, cold. I thought about my New Year’s intention to slow down, to lean into each tiny moment of my children’s growing up. These snowballs will melt once they hit the warm air. The little clovers they’ve given me wilt and dry up. The moss, however, sometimes can stick around if I tend to it well and give it a new home, and the rocks that line my prayer space will outlast me and even my children. Not everything is fleeting.
“Want to go throw some snowballs at Dad?” my son asked, a sly smile on his face. “Let’s wait until he’s a little better,” I laughed. “Until then, let’s just keep them safe in the cold freezer.” So we went back to our chores, my heart so grateful for the sharp air, my son’s generous heart and lighthearted sense of humor, the rooster I could hear crowing on his off hours, and the big, fluffy dog attached to our footsteps. These are the moments nothing can wrestle from me.