The morning sun wakes me. The sky is bright and blue. Last night’s snow storm has vanished and the sun light twinkles on the snow-covered fields beyond my window. Rabbit tracks leave the only blemish in the garden below. A crow calls and I notice birdsong for the first time in months. Something stirs me to open the window and breathe it all in. The air has lost the dry bite of winter; although still cool, it smells of a warm day to come. The huge icicles along the eaves don’t have their frosty surface. They shine as the sun melts them. I listen as they drip, I hear sounds of water trickling. This is March, 1979 and I am 11 years old. My parents built our house themselves. It was always under some phase of construction. After getting dressed, I check the room next to mine to see if my twin brother is awake. His room has a dutch-door (the top half opens while the bottom can remain shut.) We shared the room when we were small, but when my eldest sister moved out I inherited her room. This morning my brother’s head is hanging over the edge of the bed and his eyes are closed. I can hear his heavy breathing, not yet a snore. I walk down the hall, passing my other sister’s room. She is reading a novel in bed. My eldest brother is still asleep in his room. The bathroom we share is at the end of the hall, at the top of the stairs. I wash my face and brush the tangles from my hair. In the family room I build a fire in the hearth. The floor is polished concrete. It is dark and warms with the heat from the fire. An oval carpet sits in the center of the room. It feels like rough rope under my feet. I don’t like its shades of mustard and brown. I always walk around it in protest. My dog, Sally, gets up from the couch on the far side of the room and comes to greet me. I notice that she trots around the carpet instead of coming directly across it. We are bonded in our protest. She licks my hand and sits beside me as I ball up a newspaper and pile wood over it. My father designed our house so that the kitchen, dining room and front hall separate the kids’ bedrooms and family room from the adults’ living area. On weekends we have guests; few of them have children. They stay in the adult wing of the house. We’re not allowed beyond the kitchen without permission. Last night, I snuck into the dining room to listen to the adult discussion. I like to lie with my blanket on the soft carpet and listen while they talk in the living room below. I listen to their laughter but don’t understand all of it. I fell asleep, but don’t know how I ended up in my own bed this morning. In the kitchen I grab some bowls, cereal and milk. I put the kettle on for tea and take everything to the table in the family room. The room is cold in the winter because the French doors are not yet in and the polyethylene that hangs in the opening doesn’t insulate very well. But this morning the fire warms the family room quickly. My twin brother comes down the stairs still sleepy. He pours his cereal and milk. He hasn’t brushed his hair and it sticks up at the back of his head. He throws the empty cereal box in the fireplace. We watch it burn. He too feels excitement in the air. Change is coming and he wants to explore and visit the creek at the bottom of our driveway. We leave our dishes in the sink and rush to pull on our coats. The sunlight is bright and makes my brother sneeze. We smell the smoke from our fire. It’s warmer outside than we thought and our coats become a burden. We trudge through the wet snow. Its crisp, dry, crunch is gone, replaced with the wet splashing of our boots in the meltwater. Brown patches of earth appear, wet and muddy in the fields. Last night’s snowfall is melting as quickly as it came. I smell the earth in the air, there is a familiar scent I can’t quite place. It’s the smell of dew on a green leaf. The hint of spring; of life hidden in a damp twig. We walk along the stone wall that borders our apple orchard. The large boulders were pulled from the fields by my father and eldest brother but we can’t remember when. We remember summer afternoons spent working behind the tractor, loading stones from the fields onto a trailer and following it to the wall. Each of us worked to build it. As we grew older and stronger thestones became larger rocks. Over the years we all grew proud of that wall. The stone wall follows our property line until it meets a grove of cedar trees where an old log fence continues down into a swampy marsh. A stream cuts through the marsh under our driveway and empties into a pond on our neighbour’s property. My brother and I stand above a large culvert looking down at the stream below. The melting snow fills the stream, rushing water brown and murky. We find twigs and drop them in, then run to the other side of the driveway to see whose stick will be the first out of the culvert. The chickadees in the cedars call and sing, we think they are congratulating one another for making it through the long winter. We walk past the lower orchard, to an old section of forest to rocky to clear. We come across fence rails pulled down when my parents reclaimed the land and planted the apple orchards. We decide to build a fort with the logs. They are wet and heavy. We build the fort strong and solid, working through lunch and finish late in the afternoon. We want it to last forever since it will be the last fort we build on our farm. We talk about our move in a few weeks. Someone else will own this land. Other children will play in our forts. We wonder if they will discover all of them. My brother remembers a figure that he whittled last fall and stored in the hole of an old apple tree. He wants to go to our hiding spot to see if it is still there. I ask him if he will miss our farm, if he will remember all the secret places we have. “Of course,” he says without the slightest sadness. I’m not as brave as my brother and the thought of change frightens me. But all around me the world is changing. I think of the old winter snow melting away, of the sound of the icicles dripping, water trickling and the fresh new scent of uncovered earth; and my fear subsides. Over the years I’ve come to learn that every change brings a whole new set of circumstances and possibilities. And, no matter what happens, I will always have that warm day in March, 1979.


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