A week into spring, and Pigeon's world was washed in white. Last year at that time, he and mother had sat outside in summer outfits and sunshades, wiggling bare toes in early green grass. We'll make up for this next year, Mother had thought. It seemed she was right. The flakes had come in earnest Sunday evening, falling heavy through the night. It was still snowing Monday morning. They stayed indoors and out of the dull, gray day.
On Tuesday the sun was shining. Mother bundled Pigeon into puffy snow pants and fleece-lined boots. She put socks on his hands and an extra sweatshirt under his winter coat. Outside they squinted against the strong sun. It burned their cheeks. Mother realized they both wore too many clothes; soon everything but their fingertips was hot. Mother worked hard, rolling the heavy, melting snow into three large balls. Pigeon recognized the figure that emerged as she piled them one on top of the other and scraped off any dirt and pebbles collected along the way. He'd read books about men made of snow.
They gave him a carrot nose and pebble eyes and buttons. Pigeon's toy hammer made an excellent pipe. They found a big floppy hat and an old scarf to tie under his chin. Mother snapped two budding branches off a tree for his arms. Then they sprinkled nuts and dried fruit onto his hat and pressed them into his lap. They hoped birds would come to dine there. They also hoped the man wouldn't stay long. It was spring, after all, and the ducks were nesting.
Pigeon had guests for Valentine's Day. Mother was helping a friend by having her four daughters in for the day. With so many youngsters about, Mother had an excuse to throw a party. When Pigeon awoke that morning, his breakfast table was spread with a heart-speckled cloth and scattered with candies. A pink heart banner hung over his breakfast chair, and someone had left a package for him to open on his tray. Inside were two new books from Mother and Father. Pigeon knew it would be a special day.
Having the girls over in itself was special. So many people to play with! He shared his toys and his mother well. Together they made paper valentines. Mother helped Pigeon put glue on little paper hearts, which he pressed onto a red card for Father, along with stickers he picked out himself. Everyone's cards went into plastic sleeves. They dropped foil-wrapped chocolate hearts into each one to take the place of kisses, tied them up, and set them aside to hand out later.
After lunch, Mother brought out a tin full of heart-shaped cookies. They each got a pile to decorate with tubes of icing, sprinkles, candy hearts, and chocolate bits. The girls filled a whole box top with their work. Pigeon snitched chocolate bits when Mother wasn't looking.
After naps, they ordered pizza and the older girls got to pick out a movie to watch while they waited for their parents to come get them. Pigeon liked having so many kids around his table. Maybe one day there would be other children there--the kinds, he hoped, who didn't have to leave at the end of the day; they'd already be home.
That year Christmas was a mix of joy and sadness. A dear uncle of Father's had passed away. Mother was in the middle of baking and cleaning the house for parents and great-grandparents to come and stay for the holiday when Father called with the news. A change of plans, bags packed quickly; Pigeon and his parents piled into the car with Grandma and Grandpa for the long ride to a place where they could say goodbye and visit with grief.
Mother was glad that for Pigeon, the trip was just another party. He met aunt and uncles and cousins he'd never met before. All were glad to know him. Someone's little girl chased him down and gave him his first kiss. There was food, and people talking and laughing around tables. If he caught the sadness in the smiles, he didn't let on. He went about his play, doling out smiles of his own and cheering heavier hearts. Such was the nature of Pigeon's gifts--given easily, in passing, but not easily forgotten.
Halloween came not long after Pigeon's birthday. This year, Pigeon could walk on his own to the door to greet the trick-or-treaters. Mother brought out a costume his Grandma had bought him a year before. He'll never keep it on, she thought, slipping it over his head. But she was wrong. Pigeon liked being a pirate, after all.
The doorbell rang and rang and the children kept coming.
Pigeon smiled at each one, wondering at their dress. Mother and Father
took him outside to watch the parade of ghosts and butterflies,
princesses and cowboys. He tried to run after them, so Father took him
for a walk to join the fun. They came back with pink cheeks, noses running from the cold.
They'd carved pumpkins the night before. Pigeon had run his soft, warm fingers over the smooth, cool skin of a pumpkin that was almost as big as he was. He remembered these giant orange globes from his picture books. Now he understood how much fun they could be. Father got fancy with his pumpkin, fashioning a ghost opening a door. Mother carved a classic pumpkin moonshine. The smell of fresh-cut pumpkin flesh roasting over a candle reminded her of being small in her parents' house, cutting gap-toothed smiles into pumpkin faces with her own father and siblings, their dining table covered in newspaper. Sometimes her mother roasted the seeds and they'd eat them, salted and delicious, in the glow of the jack-o-lanterns.
For Mother, Halloween had never been about fright and mayhem. It was a
celebration of autumn's best: crisp leaves crunching underfoot;
breathing in cool air while the sun is still strong enough to warm your
shoulders; hot spiced cider and the taste of pumpkin and clove;
pie-baking season; kids traipsing through neighborhood, laughing, as if
the world were a truly safe and happy place. She hoped Pigeon would see
things this way. She hoped she could give him that kind of a world, even
for just a few years.
Mother sat down to write and realized how long it had been since she'd written. Pigeon liked to play on his own, unless he saw Mother pull out her computer. That lap was reserved for him.
In the months that had passed Pigeon had celebrated holidays that he'd been too young to notice the year before. In October, he'd had his first birthday. Grandparents and great-grandparents filled the house, along with mountains of gifts.
Pigeon's kitchen wish came true, complete with pots and pans for
banging, and a fully-stocked fridge and pantry. There were also books,
puzzles, toys, and clothes.
There was a special handmade train that spelled out Pigeon's name, made
with lots of love by Father's grandfather. These handmade wood treasures were Mother's favorite toys to find around the house. She loved the bright
glossy wood and the care it took to make them. She decorated the mantel with the train. It made the other birthday decorations complete.
There was also cake, made with lots of love by Mother.
Uncle helped blow out the candles.
It was a good day, full of fun, food, and presents. When the cake and candles were gone and the new clothes and toys long since lost or outgrown, Mother hoped Pigeon would hang on to one memory from that day: that he was and would remain surrounded by a family that loved him.
Many months passed. Amongst his many accomplishments, Pigeon had started to put names to the things in his world. He spoke first with his hands, and then with his lips. It began, as usual, with Mama and Dada, but then came banana (he ate one every day). Then Nana, for the sweet gray-haired lady whose name sounded like his favorite food. He could say book, but preferred to spread his hands in sign when he wanted to read. Ball was an early favorite. Before long, he learned truck (the sound of one woke him each morning), followed quickly by duck and dog (both of which he spied in the yard or on the pond every day). Where he learned clock was a bit of mystery, since Mother and Father didn't seem to own any of those, but Pigeon pointed at just about anything round and vertically hung and pronounced it to be one.
Pigeon with his 'baby'
Other words and half-words were popping up daily. Mother's favorite addition to Pigeon's new vocabulary, though, was love. She'd never heard a child so young say it, and with such sweet enthusiasm or easy understanding.