Winter, Then and Now

Do you remember the winters of your childhood? Remember being bundled up in snow pants so bulky you couldn’t bend your knees? Remember the slightly musty smell of wet mittens? Remember pulling your foot out of your boot in the coat room at school, only to have the stupid felt liner stay on your foot. Those things were impossible to put back in for any person who couldn’t ride a two-wheeler. We all limped home after school with the liner bunched awkwardly into at least one of our boots and the extra felt sticking up out of the top. These things are part of Canadian childhood.

All little kids need to be dressed as a rabbit at some point: it's a requirement of childhood.

When I was small, we built snow forts at recess, or tried to, anyway. Most times we just accomplished an unimpressive pile of snow and didn’t get around to hollowing it out. We fanned our limbs to make angels and dared each other to eat the snow. I still remember how it tastes, although it’s been decades since I ate snow that has already touched the ground. Risking our lives and soaking the butts of our snowpants through, we slid down the biggest hills we could find –regardless of whether we remembered our crazy carpets. Some days, when the snow was really sticky, the best days of winter because the weather was warmer, we built snow men and snow monsters and once tried to make a snow Wilma Flintstone. Things fell apart on that project when we realized a bunch of second graders couldn’t possibly carve something so complex; the breasts were the biggest problem; poor gal was more Dolly Parton than modern stone-age.

And, of course, there was the schoolyard legend of the kid who licked the flagpole and left part of his tongue behind. Every kid swore it had happened the previous winter to a friend of his brother’s or a kid her babysitter knew, but no one ever saw it actually happen. Like any good cautionary tale, it kept us largely clear of stupidity. I remember being afraid of the flagpole when I was really small, like the thing was going to chase me down and force me to surrender part of my tongue.

This week, winter feels like a whole different animal, a vicious predatory critter with a thirst for blood (on ice) like an iron rich margarita.


My front door.

That’s the doorknob in my front porch. After having my fingers stick to it on Tuesday and feeling like I had lost the whorls on at least three digits, I’ve been putting mittens on to check the mail. Our coldest day this week went down to -47 Celcius with the windchill, so I’m not surprised that things are a little frosty in the dollhouse. For the folks who don’t know what that kind of cold feels like, imagine the “brainfreeze” headache earned by people who pull too hard on their Slurpee straws. Got it? Now imagine that sensation all over your body. This is painful cold.

This week, my garage door froze shut and has stayed that way. I did fight with it at minus forty something until I decided to admit defeat, and I’m parking in the driveway until things warm up a bit this weekend. Because I’m parking out back, I had to scrape my windows down this morning. I was dumb enough to wash my hair before school today (instead of before bed last night) and it froze immediately in the wind and tinkled like wind chimes while I scratched away at the ice on my windows. One of my earrings was on the windowsill in the living room, and it froze to the glass yesterday. I’m sure my gas bill will be a zillion dollars this month, even though my house is roughly the size of a entry-level Starbucks. I apologize for the whine. I just hate the cold.

I think winter stops being fun when a person has to do grownup things, like pay for utilities or drive on crap roads. Maybe sometime, just to revive a bit of the magic and alleviate my (blameless) cynicism, I’m going to try to capture some of the whimsy of those long ago winters. Perhaps I’ll feel better about it if I snatch a glimpse of winter the way I remember it.

Now, where can I buy a bunny snowsuit, ladies’ size medium?

copyright 2012:

4 Comments Add yours

  1. tamara says:

    NOSTALGIA! That old photo looks exactly like all my little kid old photos. Same carpet, same drapes, same TV. Ah … Northern Canadian childhood in the 70s. 🙂

    1. Or Northern Canadian childhood in the 80s. My parents just had old-school stuff, I suppose. How many photos do you have of yourself in a big puffy snow suit? Bonus points if it’s under a Halloween costume.

  2. Some day I will post my scary bunny head costume. Not cute at all. And I know what you mean about the cold not being so amusing when you are an adult. It snowed here for the first time in about a decade last year, and the Cap’n and Dimples couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to go out and play in it. After growing up in New Jersey, snow kind of loses its appeal.

    1. “It snowed for the first time in about a decade.”
      Really? I can have a bag packed in a few hours. Can I come stay with you? I have no problem dealing with your rodent problem in exchange for room and board.

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