One must have a mind of winterTo regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long timeTo behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to thinkOf any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the landFull of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Today I sit under a warm roof, watching the snowflakes fall delicately on the bare branches. The sky gray, the earth silent. I sit in remembrance of days like this on the hill.
The evening before great anticipation swelled in the house, ready to burst with excitement for a day off and a day of play. Childhood memories are built upon such nights. Procrastinating bedtime in preparation for school the next day but overtly hoping to wake up to mom saying, “No school today!” then back to a warm bed to finish a dream then rise with great vivre.
Maybe pancakes would be made or a steaming bowl of oats but as soon as the energy was gobbled down the time came for the great bundle.
Ah, the great bundle. I dreaded these times. The toil and sweat to prepare three kids for the cold, dressing them in bulky, obstructive snow suits, squeezing their little piggies into rubbery, fleece lined boots while shoving mittens on their little kittens, placing the cherry of a pom-pom hat on their head, remnants of baby hair making one last stance before the strands of time fade to extinction.
The fussing and whining at such an effort. Boy, I was frustrated. Shame I couldn’t savor such fleeting tears.
Then out the door, a wave of arctic air flushing through, waking up whatever senses still lay sleeping. Sleds and saucers gathered and off they went. At this point I was typically still in my pajamas and robe, skating through the snowy, icy driveway in slippers, long enough to get the kiddies set up for some fun on the hill before I returned inside for a grasp at silence.
We lived on quite the hill. Not great topography for a family with three young kids, but when a winter storm hit, our house was the place all the neighbors, young and old, flocked. Life and limb was risked tearing down that hill, sometimes fast and far enough to skirt across the road and down the wooded ditch. Those were fun times, filled with reckless abandonment, liberatingly wild and carefree.
At first I would watch through the frosty window and laugh and giggle from a distance. I’d watch as the kids would fly down the hill, getting smaller and smaller from my line of vision until they’d crash to a stop laughing all the way, then trek back up for another adventure. It looked like such a joy ride and it was! I’d break out the camera and take some shots, then I would drag myself to partake in the fun, reminding myself that such activity would invigorate my aging soul.
It was cold outside but the smiles and excitement from the kids at their mom showing up to be a kid motivated me to brave the elements. And we rode down that hill, dodging trees and gullies. Gathering branches and stones, carrots, old scarves and hats, we built snowmen and named them. Stepping back into my childhood, I became one with my own kids, for that moment and that day, investing in a memory that I didn’t realize would become so etched in my mind.
Time to come in from the storm and have some hot chocolate and bake some cookies. Sipping coco by the fire, cheeks defrosting and pink, mittens hung to dry until a second wind blew by ready to start the winter dance all over again.
Today I sit in my warm, new home on a flat lot perfect for a young family, except when there is snow on the ground and no hill to ride down. And as happy and at peace as I am, I reflect with a dull ache in my heart on those days and times on the hill. All is quiet here.
I longed for today, a day to savor silence, not having to deal with the great dance of a winter bundle and attendance to three dependent, young heartbeats. Today is that day. There are no suits to stuff mittens in kittens and cherries on tops. Visions of hot coco and cookies are saved for another snow fall. This storm is calmer. Yet as calm and as peaceful and as blessed as today is, I have a small ache as I remember the hill and those days. And the memory pleads to ride them once again. If just for a moment.
Today, on this quiet, kid free day, in the warmth of a new life, I pause, close my eyes, take a sip from a phantom vision, knowing and grateful that life is good, then swallow the nostalgia triggered by a gentle flake falling on a tree under a gray, wintery sky.