Sunday, January 7, 2007

Groceries by Night

Written by Sarah several years ago for a children's publication. A true story.

The Greeks are coming home.

Miles and miles from town, up and down and left and right, over the mountains and through the ravines, the van roars through the darkness.

It is a cold January night, but on the inside, the van is cozy and warm. The children sit with their heads tucked under their arms, half-asleep, like chickens on a roost in the barn at night. Maybe that's were they'd learned it from, for no one has to spend the night with a chicken to learn a thing or two.

Suddenly there is a loud splash. Icy water flies up as the trusty red van speeds through a creek, and then, a few minutes later, dashes through another one. The milk jugs tremble and nearly topple over.

The van crunches to a halt before a blue cattle-panel gate with fresh snow piled atop its bars, standing at attention like a sentinel before a palace. The headlights reveal only a steep hill beyond, covered in snow, with woods pressing in thickly from either side of the road. Deer and raccoon tracks cover the trail, but there is no other sign of life anywhere.

A general commotion breaks out inside the van as heads emerge from arms and arms from heads, seatbelts snap open, and a high litle voice pipes, "Daddy, are we there now?". Then confusion takes over in the form of a general scramble for coats, hats, mittens and boots before the doors swing open and the cold air breaks the warmth with an icy slap. Mom hurries to bundle up the babies for the treck ahead.

The door slams open and four children jump out eagerly, landing one by one in the soft snow. They race to the back doors, each grabbing a sled from the side of the road on their way.

Behind the back seat, the van is full of groceries from the day's trip. It is a huge pile, and with the moon shining dimly on it, it seems even larger.

By this time Dad has reached the back, and everyone begins piling groceries neatly in the sleds. Eggs, potatoes, milk, kiwi, peppers, bagels, and even a bag of oranges from Florida. It's a far cry from these snowy mountains, that magically beautiful peninsula where the sun always seems to shine and tropical heat beats down on endless rows of citrus trees. Imagine the waves pounding rhythmically on the sandy coast, while children scream in delight over their lovely sand castles....

But Florida is far, far away tonight, and here in the world of icycles and toboggan rides, most of us are only worried about getting home.

By now the group is huffing and puffing their way up the trail, their plastic yellow sleds slowly bobbing along behind. A single tomato, pushed out the back of a sled by a box of taco shells, rolls down, picks up speed, flies through the air, and then hurtles into a patch of ice at the bottom of the mountain. An orange follows in quick succession. Oh well. Someone is bound to find them in the morning.

The glow of the flashlights winds to and fro around the snowbanks. Coyotes howl eerily from the neighboring hills. The small group presses on, dodging trees and pausing every so often for someone to adjust the buckles on their snowboots. The walking is difficult, so the children stop occasionally to giggle and catch their breath. Mom and Dad, with little ones, are not far behind.

Thirty minutes and thousands of steps later, the soft lights of the house can finally be seen. It stands lonely in a clearing, distant and isolated from the refinement of the city so many miles away. The boys quickly take a shortcut through the woods, while the girls opt to stay on the trail.

The wind whistles past angrily as the shivering travelers stomp their feet and yank their sleds into the house. A gust of warm air escapes outside and rises quickly toward the clouds.

A few minutes later, all is warmth and coziness inside as the family stretches out around the crackling fireplace. The coals glow red and toasty, and the children curl their frosty fingers around steaming mugs of hot cocoa.

Meanwhile, outside on the mountain, a shadowy raccoon slips stealthily out of the forest and onto the trail, where the forgotten tomato waits helplessly in the snow. He hunches down and sinks his teeth into the juicy fruit.

Another day on the mountain ended.

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