They warned me that winter is different here.
It’s true. More or less.
More snow. Less drifts.
But after a while, it all feels the same.
I pull the collar of my navy puffy jacket closer to my neck. My mom got the coat for me for Christmas. A knit orange Carhartt hat—another Christmas gift, from my brother a year or two ago—covers my head and ears. It’s too bright. Neon, really. I wear it because I don’t want cars to hit me. Or rather, I want them to see me.
Whichever perspective you prefer.
The wind pinches my cheeks like an Italian grandmother. I turn my gaze downward. Patches of ice mix with snow on the sidewalk, hardening into a slick safety hazard for my feet.
I keep walking.
I forgot my ear buds so I’m looking at the houses, distracting myself from the cold. They are all the same. Two stories. Narrow. Wide windows and small yards. Close together. Similar builds. Like a group of girls in a cafeteria, or hockey players on the ice. They are viewed as one until you take the time to look closer. That’s when you see they aren’t really the same at all.
I like the houses that hang twinkle lights on their porches.
Now Daisy pulls at the leash —a long yellow thing that looks bungee but acts umbilical—and I hold on for dear life.
Umbilical makes me think of belly buttons. Wouldn’t it be funny if dogs had belly buttons?
Daisy loves the squirrels. Hates the neighbor dogs. We now have different scenery and a different zip code in a different city in a different state, but Daisy still turns walks into sessions of make-believe like she did back in Michigan.
She pretends she’s a husky mushing across a tundra. I pretend my arm getting tugged out of its socket is fun.
We weave and wind around houses and beneath the glow of streetlamps. When we stand like a person-puppy popsicle frozen to the curb, speeding cars slam on their breaks to give all six legs of us a chance to safely cross.
“You stop traffic,” I tilt my chin down and tell Daisy, my eyebrows raised after a city bus halts to let us cross. “Nice.”
She stares at me with eyes a shade lighter than her dark brown fur, then shakes her new sky-blue collar with a daisy pattern (of course).
“Well, don’t go and get a big head about it,” I add, touching her chocolate ears. Daisy shakes her head again. Her metal name tag jingles, making a tinny sound.
Now, Daisy turns to the left and hops on top of a snowbank. The temperatures have hardened the pile into a platform of grey and white ice-slush-snow, so thick and heavy that it holds all 75ish pounds of Labrador Retriever.
I wonder if the harsh temperatures harden us, too. Maybe.
Daisy is uncertain of her steps, but forges ahead on the snow platform anyway. Soon, her right paw finds a weak spot in the snow. Her leg falls deeper. The snow is up to her chest. She is wading in cold.
I loosen my grip on the leash and give Daisy room to decide.
She pulls the paw up and keeps walking ahead.
That’s how I feel here most days. Like Daisy on a snowbank. Uncertain but sure. Moving forward regardless.
My worlds collide in Minnesota. Like where the sea kisses the sand, or the sun holds hands with the moon at dusk. While my birth certificate says Saginaw, Michigan, the origins of my immediate family tree began with seeds planted in Saint Paul soil.
My parents met at an Arby’s in East Saint Paul. They were teenagers working to make extra money. My mom walked to work and my dad drove a car. He often offered her a ride. She often declined. Then she caved.
A ring and a wedding and a move to Michigan later, they had two kids and a long-distance phone bill to keep in touch with family. Our rust-colored rotary phone in the kitchen stretched across state lines and landed in the mauve-filled living room of my grandma on Battle Creek Court.
Last year—when the leaves hadn’t fallen but change was in the air— I moved here, undoing the move my parents did.
Minnesota holds my parents’ past. And now, my future. I’ve drawn a line to make a full circle.
Six months later, and this state and I are still acquaintances. I’ve got to date her before I marry her, which means putting in the time and effort to build a relationship.
I drove by the Arby’s where my parents met a few months ago. I parked in the lot and tried to picture the younger versions of my mom and dad walking in the front door. I stare at the red letters, the lobby windows, the cars lining in the drive-thru.
This, I think. This is the beginnings of my parents’ story. So it’s my start, too, I suppose.
The cause to my effect: Roast beef.
Now Daisy and I keep walking. I stop and stare at my reflection in Corsica parked next to the sidewalk.
I look into my brown eyes. Which are the color of my mother’s eyes. Which are the color of her mother’s eyes.
She gave them to me, and now I’ve taken her hometown and claim it as my own. I hope she knows a piece of home will always be where she is, too.
I miss my mom. There’s no expiration date on missing your mom.
But I also know I’m where I’m supposed to be. With who I’m supposed to be. Growing into who I want to be.
My parents’ roots have wrapped and morphed into my wings, helping me leave the mitten state’s nest and fly towards cityscapes and extended family and love.
And me. A new life chapter for me.
They warned me the winter is different here.
Maybe a person can have both roots and wings. Maybe that’s why birds sit in the tops of trees. So they are close to the sky, but connected to the earth beneath them, too.
Still. Birds must fly the nest. I just went the opposite way. I flew north for the winter.
Daisy continues to tug on her leash. I follow her lead and turn towards our house. The one that has twinkle lights hanging on the porch.
I call out to Daisy, “Let’s go home.”