Winter Night Paper Boy

The file where I store my drafts for this blog is full of the most downhearted things imaginable. I am sparing you topics called “Running on Empty” and “Asunder” and “Barriers.” Do they sound uplifting or what.

No! It’s dark by 6:30 and the weather is getting cold. You need some cheer and so do I.


It’s 1964. I’m 7 years old. My brother, 11, has an evening paper route, which he has to finish every day by 6 p.m. at the latest. He walks it in good weather and bad, and my mother never drives him, unlike some rumored newspaper-boy mothers.

One foul winter night he comes back well past six — so late that we have finished our dinner – and he is crying because his boots are soaked with ice water, his feet are so cold he can’t keep going, and he’s distraught because he’s missed his 6:00 deadline.

Mom hugs him. She kisses him. She pulls off his coat and hat, exclaiming over the ice pellets that fall from them; she has him sit and take off his boots. She brings a pan of lukewarm water and encourages him as his feet gradually, painfully, warm up. She puts his coat in the dryer; the metal zipper clatters against the drum as it turns.

She brings him to the table and sets out his dinner, which she has kept warm. While he eats, she has an inspiration and puts the hose of her hairdryer into his boots, drying them from the inside out. She rustles up some dry gloves and a different hat.

Then, while the storm still pelts down, she sends him back out to finish his route.

What I remember is his happiness, and the happiness of all of us. Because she cared for him so kindly, imaginatively, and intelligently, his spirits lifted right up. When he went out again, he knew he could come back and have the same care all over again if he needed it. But I think he finished the rest of the route, by 7:30 or 8:00, in one go.

This isn’t an October story, it’s more a December or January story, but the cold and dark that have descended so swiftly seem to merit it anyway.

My Mom was loving and imaginative and capable. What joy she gave us. When depression overpowered her a few years later, life changed; how it changed.

But this is a memory from the time before.

October 11, 2020 COVID-19 Infections and Deaths

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