The snow fell softly all through the night, muffling sounds from the street and deepening sleep. It swirled around the window panes and drifted along the steps and balustrades of the brownstones.
By late morning, it was nearly a foot deep and still falling. Tommy and Gabriel had gone out early to play in the snow and had to be coaxed back inside for lunch. Now, a few hours later, Lillian and her boys emerged from the brownstone, all bundled up, on their way to the library.
The smooth drifts and untrammeled snow of early morning now showed signs of children at play. The pure peaked snow on the railings was ribbed by gloved fingers, the sidewalks were patterned with footprints and long lines from sled runners.
It seemed that all the neighborhood boys and girls were outside playing, thrilled that it was Saturday. There were a few attempts at snowmen and snow angels along the sidewalks. Across the street some of the older boys were having a snowball fight. Their laughter and shouting, whoops and cries filled the air. Their heads popped up between the parked cars as they dodged, and then threw, snowballs. Other kids darted behind trees or took shelter behind snowy barricades. Flashes of brightly striped stocking hats and colorful scarves enlivened the wintry day as the children crisscrossed from one side to the other, free from the worry of traffic. Today the street was all theirs.
Lillian held Gabriel’s hand as they went down the steps, her other hand poised to reach for the balustrade should she slip.
“I don’t want to go,” Gabriel cried out in excitement. “I want to play outside again.”
“When we get back,” Lillian said. “We’re going to need our books if it continues to snow.”
Tommy spotted Mickey from next door and ran over to him. Then Gabriel broke free from Lillian’s hand and ran over to Billy, one of Mickey’s little brothers, to check on the snowman he was making.
Lillian looked in exasperation from one boy to the other. “Tommy! Gabriel! You can play when we get back.”
She saw Mr. Drooms walking towards her and noticed that he was carrying his briefcase.
“Oh, Mr. Drooms, you didn’t have to work today, did you – on Saturday?” She dodged a sled being pulled by some older kids.
Drooms instinctively took her elbow in protection as she stepped back, then quickly released it. “Just the morning.”
Lillian couldn’t help but compare that tiny, chivalrous gesture with Rockwell’s presumptuous taking of her hand the other day. The arrogance behind that gesture still made her bristle. Drooms was definitely another kind of man, whatever his faults.
Tommy begrudgingly came back. Gabriel ran up to Drooms and pointed to the snowman. It had a hunched over appearance and a coal mouth that turned down.
“Hey, look, Mr. Drooms. Billy made a snowman of you!”
Lillian tried to brush away his comment.
“Gabriel, snowmen don’t look like people –”
“Nuh uh, Billy said it was Old Man Drooms, that’s Mr. –”
“Oh, hush!” She took Gabriel’s hand and turned to Drooms. “We’re off to the library.”
“To get pirate books,” said Tommy. “I can tell you about any pirate. Just ask me.”
“Yeah, me too,” said Gabriel. “Just ask me.”
Tommy scoffed. “You can’t read.”
“I can too. Right, Mommy? I know how to read, Mr. Drooms.”
“Picture books,” Tommy said, under his breath.
Drooms looked down at Gabriel and spoke in a gentle tone that surprised Lillian. “Well, we all have to start at the beginning.”
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