Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I arrived in this world with the first snowfall of the year more years ago than I care to admit. My wedding day was also a day of winter whiteness. So you'd think I'd have a particular fondness for snow, but not so. One of the most frightening experiences of my life was driving alone with two small children on a winter night following a snowstorm when a cloud of fog wiped out the road, the sky, and every other car and truck that shared a winding highway beside a canal. With the heaping helping of white stuff we received this week comes memories of past snowstorms and my personal mixed feelings toward winter.

My childhood was filled with snow forts, snowmen, tobogganing, ice skating, icicles ten feet and more long hanging from the schoo house roof, and sleds. It was filled too with hiding under the covers each winter morning until Daddy got a fire lit in the stove, treks to the privy when each breath formed a cloud in the air, blowing on my hands to warm them before beginning the miking, wearing knee socks to bed at night, and long hikes through the snow to catch the school bus.

Do children still play fox and geese? I once loved that game. I still remember exhilarating feeling of whooshing down a hill with seven or eight kids on a toboggan too. One of my favorite memories of playing in the snow is the day my mother joined all of us kids on a long sheet of tin my brothers had fashioned into a toboggan. As our makeshift sled shot down the hill, she laughed and screamed along with us until we all tumbled into the snow.

My older brothers once formed a tunnel beneath the drifts between our house and the barn. It was a scary magical place where I loved to play until our parents decided there was too much risk of a cave-in.

Since my father worked for the Hudson Bay company as a young man and ferried supplies by dog team to distant outposts and later did the same for the Canadian Mounties, i grew up with a love for sled dogs which resulted in me trying to train our stock dogs to pull my sled. One big collie got very good at pulling me around the farm and to the neighbors about a mile down the road.

As teenagers, my friends and I skated on canals and ponds. There was something romantic and mysterious about skating on the neighbor's pond at night while a huge bonfire leaped into the night sky at the edge of the frozen sheet. In the daytime there was almost enough water left in the canal to skate all the way from my house to my friend's house several miles away.

In the years since, snow has become associated with unpleasantness instead of games. Driving on snow-covered roads is a nightmare I try to avoid. Each snowstorm brings a flood of worries concerning whether or not my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren made it safely to and from work or school. Frozen pipes, cars that won't start, and power failures have intruded on the magic that was once part of winter. Even the fun times of sledding with my grandchildren, watching them ice skate, and their enthusiasm for throwing snowballs or making snow angels doesn't quite ddispel the negative feelings toward winter. Now I only catch glimpses of the beauty and newness a snowstorm brings.

Snow was once magicalo. The first snowfall of the year was greeted with whoops and shouts of joy. It's funny how I really didn't mind the cold as a young child, but as I grew older I began to mind the cold a great deal. Somewhere along the way I lost interest in skating and other winter games. Now I prefer a fire in the fireplace, a good book, and a cozy chair. I'm content to watch the snow pile up through a window with only an occasional trek through the snow to fill the bird feeders.


Gale Sears said...

Your writing paints such wonderful pictures, Jennie. Thank you for the ride on that wild toboggan!

Anna Buttimore said...

I hate snow! It's cold and wet and slippery and dirty, so I totally sympathise! Happily we hardly ever get any here.

Julie said...

I love fox and geese and spent many hours with my brothers and sisters playing this fun winter game. We now have all taught it to our own children. Of course we now all stay inside where it is warm and watch from a window as our children play.
Great memories....