Winter park

Central Park, with its granite outcroppings, its pond, its brown grass, and wet black ginkos was, in late January, a charcoal sketch. An occasional red scarf, a yellow nylon parka, was the only color that winter afternoon. The rest was pale gray, sandpaper black, and cola-stained snow. But it was a pleasant little hike through the park's south end to the west side. It must have been past three o’clock by then. The sun was in the latticed branches, spoking the brindled lawns with quick black strokes. I didn’t want to look at my watch.

Far away, on the unseen perimeters of the landscape, a closely woven tapestry of tiny voices, kids released from school, was unraveling; bright threads of giggles, shouts, broke loose and drifted through the park. I stopped at a bench near the pond. There a boy under the fond gaze, and watchful shadow, of his young mother, stood throwing little clots of snow into the brightly cold and rippling water. With each splash, the boy’s excitement grew, his mother’s affectionate amusement billowed. With each handful his little nylon mitten grew heavier with wet snow. Then just as he seemed to be seriously lapsing into a rhythm, a concentration, into something nearing, perhaps, a first taste of that special frontier that a boy glimpses when first realizing that he can accurately project an object through a magically captured quantity of transparent real space, he aimed a little snowball into the pond, and his mitten flew off his hand with the snowball. It landed on the surface of the water, spun, and was quickly caught on the breeze and carried out into the pond. The boy turned to his mother in surprise. He turned back to the pond, to his briskly departing mitten, which he watched for some time before a huge wail, rising with a deep gasp from some innermost well, suddenly spilled over and was presented, with blatant plaintive abandon, to his mother. He bawled and wailed, betrayal and grief squeezed out like toothpaste from a rolled-up tube. She hauled him up into her arms and with little chortles and coos, kisses and secrets, she turned them both around to face the pond, and with the same affectionate laughter, she lifted his hand to wave bye-bye to the mitten. She then carried him around to the far side of the pond and waited for the mitten, floating light as a leaf and still drifting, scurrying, to come ashore. They had a funny good time fishing it out, with the help of a stem of wilted gladiolas, frozen stiff, that they found in a trash can. She wrung the mitten out and gave it to the boy who wasted no time putting it back on his hand, and that hand in hers.