The air outside made my arms shiver. Yet, I left my coat inside. It felt good to strip off the bundles of heat and feel lighter. My mother pushed my sisters out into the melting snow. Bundled up in their jackets and mittens, each girl hesitated under the maple waiting for the porcupine to rain needles down on them. The prickly animal held us hostage for two weeks raining down needles whenever we walked under the tree. Now, the porcupine was gone and the girls ran over to me in the slushy snow.
New leaves poked through the ice melting off the tree limbs. Daffodils and tulips bloomed next to the house. Children shoes melted the grass below. Each blade of matted grass popped up through the shoe print free of its winter blanket.
As the sun shone brighter, a rainbow arched through the sky landing on the far side of the meadow. The colors rippled through the ice melt. We stood astonished.
“There is a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow,” said mother.
“Really?” I asked.
My youngest sister Carrie put a hand around my leg. The other two kicked the snow.
“Do you want to find it?”
Carrie looked at mother from behind my leg. “Can we?” I waited for her answer too.
Mother smiled and led us down the walk. She handed me my jacket. The patch on the sleeve pealed up showing the fluff inside. I had tried to burn a hole through the sleeve at the start of winter by leaning on a standpipe stove. If I was lucky, I’d outgrow it soon and one of my sisters would have to patch it.
Mother pushed us forward and started off across the meadow. We followed her. All of us were talking at the same time and glad to be out of the house.
Near the turnaround, the snow piled higher where father had pushed the snow off the driveway with the station wagon. He took a piece of corrugated roofing metal and made a makeshift plow on the front of the Country Squire. He spent more than two hours slipping back and forth in the car moving the snow. A storm then piled up another coat for him to move a week later.
We climbed over the snow pile into the meadow. I looked for the end of the rainbow. It moved slightly north but otherwise landed in about the same place at the far end of the meadow behind a stand of junipers. I ran through the melting snow drifts catching my boots and covering my pants with melted snow and ice. I stopped to catch my breathe. Moisture streamed out of my mouth forming a cloud in front of my face.
I waited for my mother and sisters to catch up. My sisters looked like three bears being led by a circus handler. Carrie fell in the snow and mother picked her up in the middle setting her down in the meadow. Donna clung to mother’s leg and Debbie looked back at the house.
Two brothers built homes in the bottom of the valley before 1900. We rented the biggest house away from the trees. The second house stood empty near the creek full of trout hiding in pools. The paved road was at least a mile uphill from us and father tried to keep the road out of the valley clear with the makeshift plow. There was always snow on the road. In December, the temperature barely reached zero during the day and dropped to -35 at night. Now in March, the temperature hovered around 40 degrees. Still cold, but much warmer than a few months ago.
Mother grew up on a ranch near the Mexico border where the hot days made life unbearable in summer. She preferred the heat disliking the winter cold. She never seemed to adjust to the northern weather. For me, it was just another adventure and I imagined we were winter explorers looking for a frozen treasure cache.
“Years ago a family of flowers lived in this meadow,” said mother.
I stomped on the clumps of snow in the grass. Behind me, my sisters marched across the field with mother as if they were confident she spoke the truth. Carrie mashed the clumps of snow flattening them in the grass. She held onto mother’s hand.
“It sounds lovely,” she said.
“This is just a spring story, right?” I asked.
“They certainly loved spring,” said mother.
“I think you’re just getting us to take a walk outside.”
“We certainly have been cooped up in there,” said mother. “It doesn’t hurt to blow out the cobwebs occasionally.”
The three girls wore dresses made from the same gingham cloth mother found in town. She sowed up each one a dress before Thanksgiving. Donna, in the middle, stood taller than her older sister Debbie and much taller than the baby, Carrie. Debbie and Donna could have been twins if it weren’t for Donna’s brown hair and growth spurt. All three were very close and that left me as the only boy. I found myself spending a lot of time alone. Today, was one of the few times we went together for a walk. And this time, we were on a proper adventure.
“The rainbow moved,” I said.
Dark clouds closed around the trees on the far side of the meadow. The rainbow faded before returning slightly west of its last spot. Red, blue, green, and yellow light streamed up and over the trees.
“The flower family moved their pot of gold to hide it,” said mother.
“We’d better hurry,” shouted Donna.
The girls tore away from mother and ran past me on their way to the clump of trees. Carrie stumbled and fell next to me. I grabbed her hand and pulled her up. We ran after my sisters. Mother continued to walk slowly behind us. She stopped to look around her at the mix of clouds rushing out winter and bringing in spring. She pulled her sweater closer to her chest.
“Hold your sister’s hand Michael,” shouted Mother. I slowed down to let Carrie catch up. Then picked her up and scooted up to a rise in the meadow. On the other side, Donna and Debbie ran toward a group of Junipers. They slipped under a barbed-wire fence and ran down to the trees. I helped Carrie under the wires. Together we ran to meet up with the other two.
“Mom was right,” said Debbie. She pointed at a crushed pot rusted under the base of the closest tree.
“But we are too late,” said Donna.
I picked up the broken pot and a rusted piece fell on the ground. Mother walked up behind us.
“The flower family must have heard us coming,” she said. “And they scooped up their treasure before we could get here.”
I dropped the rusted pot. It bounced under the Juniper before landing nearly in the same spot where I had found it. My sisters wrapped around mother each jockeying for a hug. Mother smiled at her girls and then at me.
I looked back and gave her a smile. In that moment, I was sure the flower family was as happy as me.