With a bit of effort, I nudge open the windows. It’s one of those days in February when the air feels more warm than cold, when the same 50 degrees that feels chilly in September feels downright tropical two thirds of the way into a long winter.
The sills hold tight to their seal the way a woman pulls her collar close around her throat against the wind. It’s the first time I’m opening most of the windows in our new house. Once or twice, the dining room window – the one that looks out over the backyard – was raised so that I could mediate an argument over snowballs and who threw them too hard and whether it was fair. Play is rarely just play, you know.
I open at least one window in every room and feel the house start to breathe. A breeze, the sigh of a spring not so far off, pirouettes through the rooms, and I am giddy with it. Especially as both kids have been sick for days, I’m eager to scrub the air clean of coughing and fever. Of all the closed up, housebound days of winter.
On the windowsill in the upstairs bathroom, I find a ladybug. It’s good luck, they say, and I fall for it without reserve. Who can afford to turn down a good omen? If you’re as lucky as that, well, I don’t think we’ve met.
It inches to the top of the window and I coax it into my palm. Then I push open the window and open wide my hand. The ladybug lifts off into the breeze and becomes part of the warm day that’s a promise more than anything. Spring isn’t here yet, but it will be.
Later, when the sun drops below the tops of the pines across the road, I close up the house against the chill of nightfall. After dark, I go outside to look at the moon. The wind has picked up and, like a broom, pushes moon-bright clouds across the shine of the moon and stars. As February days go, this one has put on its very best dress.
Later still, when we’ve all gone to bed, the cold wind hurls itself around the corners of the house, strong enough that the windows wince with the force of it. The day’s warm breeze has stepped aside. Winter still very much with us.
But then so is the scent of spring, closed up here in these rooms, as much a winter provision as the food staples in the cupboards or the snow shovel on the back porch.
And the ladybug? Who knows. Maybe tucked back safe again under a log until spring. Or blown far and wide, perhaps, to another windowsill where someone else who needs to believe in promise and good luck and spring will fall for it, just as I did.
As I always will.