Doesn’t everyone look back at their childhood and certain things about a season bring a smile to their face?
Reflections of summers spent at camp or running through sprinklers in the yard; carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating in the fall or spring days spent searching for tadpoles or picking daffodils and daisies to make the perfect flower crown. I smile at all these nostalgic memories too, but a scowl mars my face when I think of winter.
I grew up in a small town in northwestern Pennsylvania, just a few miles from the shore of Lake Erie. Most of my early memories of winter months in the 70’s and 80’s are gloomy, cold and harsh. It’s an area appropriately named “The Snow Belt”, as it sees more than it’s fair share of seasonal snowfall.
I mean A LOT. It regularly started snowing in October, continuing through April.
The temperatures through these months also rarely rose high enough to melt the snow accumulation, so the flakes from the fist snow fall were still around – albeit buried under other layers of snow – for literally six months out of the year.
When spring would finally come, parking lots and sidewalks would have huge mounds of filthy gray snow piles for many more weeks, prolonging the gloom. When I was young, it seemed my whole world was cold and gray for months on end.
Now, as an adult living in northern Virginia, I look forward to winter. It’s like getting a do-over, a chance to have the childhood wonder of this season I wish I had.
The youngsters around here join me in anticipation of the first forecasted snowfall. They cumulatively help to ensure the fluffy white stuff actually becomes a reality by taking part in silly local traditions of putting ice cubes in toilets and wearing their pajamas inside out. They probably get up extra early on these school days just to run to the TV, awaiting the news scroll of a school cancellation.
Snow Day!!! Yes, I know these alerts go out via text messages now, but I like to imagine that they have a little throw-back moment like I did. Except, I rarely had these mornings. Where I was, it was incredibly rare to have a school snow day.
Here in Virginia, it seems that before lunchtime, every hill in town is filled with kids of all ages, bundled up against the cold, trudging and slipping their way up a hill, pulling a sled behind them, just to slide down it again, squeals filling the air. Over and over again for hours, and loving every minute of it. Snowmen are built in front yards. Snowball battles are waged. I’m sure at the end of the day, no child has a hard time falling asleep, having exhausted all of their energy.
I lived here several years before I was able to set aside my negative feelings about snow and cold.
After all, there were rarely cancellations of any obligations due to weather when I was growing up. You were still expected at school, it just took longer to get there, slogging your way through snow and crunchy layers of ice.
I remember one winter, temperatures fell so far below freezing that our heating oil actually froze in the tank. The house got colder and colder and my brother and I wore our winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves inside while covered with piles of blankets on the couch. While this only happened once, the misery of that bone-chilling cold remained in my head for years.
Now, as an adult living in a warmer climate, I actually do enjoy an occasional cold, blustery winter day. While children are planning their sledding adventures, I’m making sure I have a good book on hand, maybe a jigsaw puzzle ready to be spread across the dining room table.
There will probably be mulled wine in the crock pot and even a nap (or two). I’m not one to run to the grocery store to stock up on milk, bread and toilet paper, but there will be a big, filling breakfast – just later in the day than normal.
Usually my boyfriend and I will walk downtown to see the beauty of the fresh snow. We always remark on how quiet things get. Most businesses close up for the day. Neighbors don’t start to shovel their walkways until the snow stops, so we make our way the few blocks to downtown via the streets. There’s a rare car out driving, but they all seem to know that the locals will be trekking into town and no one is going very fast.
The houses we walk by are cocooned in soft white blankets, windows glowing with lights and looking like eyes while puffs of steam rising from chimneys. We always find a local pub open to stop in and enjoy a hot toddy before walking the few blocks back home again.
It’s all very Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie vibe, and I adore it!
So now, snow days bring about a feeling of calm. For at least today, there’s not really any place to go and no urgency to get there. No real responsibilities, just a relaxing cozy day to spend watching the flakes fall to a sparkling blanket on the ground. Whatever it is I thought I had to do is forgiven for a day. It can all wait.
Our first snowfall is predicted in just two days. I’m pretty excited to feel the magic of it. My book is selected and waits on my bedside table. There’s a bottle of wine and mulling spices on the kitchen counter, ready to go. I even found my winter boots, which had been hidden in a corner of the basement, stashed there over two years ago, wool socks still folded inside them.
I’m ready to feel the cozy. Some things really do get better with age.