There were days I loved the snow, and the cold–no I don’t think I ever loved the cold–of winter. Of course, memory has this way of playing tricks with one’s mind; embellishing the not-so-glamorous parts, or darkening the somewhat ordinary moments.
As children, we waited at the door, like thoroughbreds at the gate, mere inches and moments from the freedom to bolt, while mom wrapped and tied itchy woollen scarves around our heads and over the hoods of our snowsuits. Temperature mattered not when fresh snowbanks awaited. Anticipation! Action!
I still recall the blinding reflection of the sun on the snow as I stepped outside, which made me sneeze, and the first breath of cold air that tasted like the wool of my musty old scarf, which made me cough. My feet barely touched the front landing. In an instant, I found myself waist-deep in the fluffy stuff, thrashing about, struggling to hoist my small body to the surface, every move sending me a little deeper in the snow and further from the house. I always imagined this was what quicksands would feel like… just worse.
Eventually, the scarf loosens, exposing cheeks and nose to the biting wind. On we played… I don’t think we talked much when playing in the snow, only screamed, and laughed, and cried, but mostly screamed. The snow on our faces melted and mixed with what flowed from our runny noses, creating this ever-present salty taste on our lips; the once warm and comforting scarf on our mouth now icy, heavy and inconvenient.
The fun and games would continue until our toes or fingers got too cold, or mom called us in. Usually the latter. Mom always seemed to know when it was time. The frosty adventure lasted maybe an hour, just as the pain and tingling of our thawing appendages would. Scarves, mittens, toques, and boots were put dry during that time. Lunch and hot chocolate were followed by a nap before everything began again until such a time when the children grew up.
Thrashing about in the snow–although at times still entertaining–eventually took a back seat to hockey: street hockey, pond hockey, and skating. Bright winter days when dad was home were the best. On those days, I considered my dad a kid, just like us. “Do you kids want to…” Yes! We never let him finish; we knew he meant to take us skating on the ponds by the track behind his Esso service station. He would load the snowblower in the back of his “petit bus” (what we called my dad’s steel blue Ford van). He also loaded a few shovels, our hockey sticks and a good supply of hockey pucks. If you’ve played pond or street hockey, you know that pucks seemed to vanish once they left the playing surface and entered the snow.
Those days are gone. I still enjoy bright sunshine on white fluffy snow, yet I think of winter as mostly a succession of long nights and short cold days, only interrupted by brief moments of activity (sometimes excitement) when the courage to step outside outweighs the inertia of hibernation. Winter is the assailant that knocks me down, and instead of fighting back, I turtle, I roll into a ball, waiting for the beating to end or to finish me for good. Every once in a while I lash back at the frigid season, only managing to touch innocent bystanders. Snap out of it! Go outside! Get some fresh air!
Days grow longer; the sun’s rays warmer. Just in time. Always. Thankfully.