It is nighttime and family has settled in. All that can be seen of the day’s festivities are footprints in the snow – a whole gaggle of them – running parallel to the sidewalk, as I imagine a random stranger trying to cipher exactly why a whole group of people would have walked some distance in the deep snow rather than on the clear sidewalk . . . and I smile.
The snow footprints are the only evidence of a family gathered and gathering, the last official task of the day the obligatory family photo, when we all donned our winter apparel to go outside for this year’s pic so we’d get the adjacent mountain in our background. Everyone save our grand dame, my mother, walking beside her in the snow to take our respective places for that caught-in-time moment that is the family picture, like so many we have of times and memories and people gone by.
And should our own descendants some day look upon this photo and wonder about us, they won’t know save from handed-down tradition of our repast . . . they won’t see all of us gathered round as each took a turn reading aloud from The Day the Crayons Quit , clapping at the end of each turn, claps turning to cheers as our agreed story-telling master Mary Beth lends her particular blend of interpretive humor to the mix, all of us listening intently and patiently as new reader Rowen takes his turn. . . they won’t remember all the good news shared, the quiet conversations had into the night, the wee boy ‘teaching’ an older cousin how to play his own favorite computer game.
And there, in the middle of our family picture is a small dog being held by a small boy and they’ll wonder, I suppose, about the dog – a visitor grafted into a family moment simply because she was there – and isn’t that grand?
They – those descendants I imagine into being on a cold almost-winter’s night, won’t remember . . . but we will.
And that is good and good enough and reason and reason enough for thanks.