Friday, May 31, 2019

The Innocence of Morning Snow

Everyone remembers what they were doing when the titans struck.

My family’s little cabin in the mountains was much smaller than our home in the city. The ground floor had only one room and the upstairs was nothing more than a sleeping loft. The bathroom was in the basement, and there was only one for the six of us. But we all loved it and every long weekend and for at least a week of each season, we were up there. Mom’s job allowed some amount of telecommuting and Dad was a freelance digital artist who could work anywhere, and did so while homeschooling me and my three siblings.

We were lucky enough to be there on T-Day.

When my parents bought the cabin, they had no idea is was in what is now called a Dragon Zone. That’s why we didn’t die. If the Cascade Mountains hadn’t been the territory of dragons, those sworn protectors of mankind and longtime enemies of the titans, then the volcanoes would have erupted and even being at altitude might not have saved us. As things were, Seattle still drowned under the same waves as San Francisco and Los Angeles despite how protected by the geography of the Sound the city was supposed to be. Being on vacation that Thanksgiving weekend literally saved my family.

As I’m sure you recall, it was Sunday. My parents had considered heading home because Mom had a meeting Monday that she wanted to be at. But my siblings and I begged and pleaded and pointed out how much traffic there would be until she gave in and said we’d stay through mid-week and she’d just use a video chat for her meeting.

There was fresh snow that morning, pristine stretches of white beckoning us to sled. Dad promised we’d go skiing Monday while Mom was working, but to us kids sledding was nearly as good and no one complained as we grabbed our sleds and rushed down the hill. We were young enough not even to complain much about having to walk back up the hill rather than riding a lift.

It was a good morning. Maybe it was even a perfect morning, as I think the presence of chocolate chip banana nut pancakes takes a morning past merely good. The morning was idyllic, at the very least.

Seattle was hit while I was whooshing through the snow. Everyone back home was gone within minutes. But I didn’t know it. For hours, I played without the burden of awareness that my childhood friends were dead now.

I’m not sure when my parents found out. They didn’t call us back into the house. At some point, I realized they weren’t smiling while they watched us anymore. I remember the stark look on my mother’s face while she stared at her computer on the kitchen island and the way my father cried at the window as he watched us. I don’t know how long he cried before I realized it. I knew something was off for several runs before that realization hit and brought me inside.

“What’s wrong?” I asked as I came through the door. Mom stood up from where she’d just closed her laptop and Dad moved away from the window. “Is it Grandpa Alfonse?” My father’s dad had been in and out of the hospital in Spokane all year. That’s why he and Grandma Charlotte weren’t with us that holiday.

Dad shook his head, unable to speak as he walked over to wrap me in the tightest hug in my life.

I could hear my mother sigh as she followed him. She put her arms around us both. “It’s bigger than that, pumpkin.”

Bigger? I frowned and squirmed, wanting out the parental grip. “How so?”

“Get your jacket off and sit down,” Mom said. “Pour her some cocoa, Charles.”

My dad sniffled a huge, gross sniffle as he let me go. He went into the kitchen, were we always had a slow cooker full of cocoa on snow days.

My twelve-year-old wisdom was enough for me to know they didn’t want to tell me what was going on and I suspected it was because they didn’t want to tell us kids separately and have to go through the story four times. “Should I call the others in?” I asked.

“No, sweetie.” Mom sat down beside me on the massive couch. We could see out the window from there, see the others still playing. “Let them keep their innocence a little longer. The cold will bring them in soon enough.”

I didn’t like the sound of that, but nodded quietly. When my father handed me my cocoa, I take it and drank in silence.

Twenty minutes or so passed before everyone trickled inside. Mom helped them out of their winter gear, hanging everything neatly by the door as though the world hadn’t just ended. For a moment, I let myself believe that what they were about to tell us wouldn’t be earth-shattering.

Only after us siblings were all lined up on the couch with steaming mugs of cocoa, our dog Stanwood curled up at our feet and our adoring parents watching us, did my youngest sister realize something was wrong. She was only four and she started crying before anyone even said anything. Jack rolled his eyes and told her not to be a baby. Stacey told him not to be mean and that Shelly could have emotions if she wanted to.

I sushed them. As the eldest, I felt myself above the squabble. “Mom and Dad want to tell us something important.”

“Oh?” Eight-year-old Jack sat up straighter. “Are you getting divorced?” He sounded oddly eager for this to be the case.

“No,” Dad said softly. He put his hand on Mom’s shoulder and she was the one who continued, the one who explained that monsters were real. She told us about the elemental giants who submerged our home while we were playing. She opened up her computer again, showing us that famous picture of the tip of the Space Needle poking out from the water.

Stacey screamed and rushed up the ladder to her bed to sob. Jack’s eyes widened and I could almost see his thoughts jerking between “Awesome!” and “No!” Shelly asked if that meant we’d need scuba gear when we went back home. I sat still and tried to be stoic, to imitate Mom.

Six years later, I’m still trying to imitate Mom. I stand erect and motionless as the man before me reads my enlistment oath. I repeat it back, proud of myself for keeping my voice steady and firm.

Back on T-Day, Mom told me the dragons were fighting the titans for us. A month later, she told me they weren’t enough, that humans had to help, too. Although she had only served in the Navy for a few years, she was one of the first called back. She’s still in. And now so am I.

Everyone remembers what they were doing on T-Day. And I know in my heart that, with the help of dragons and of humans like Mom and me, one day everyone will remember what they were doing when the titans were defeated. The only question is how long it’s going to take to get there.

The above image is "December" by Zoe Persico. You can find more of Zoe's work at

The image was offered as a prompt on my writing prompt project Wording Wednesday, more information about which may be found at