Thursday, January 28, 2010

Winter Wonderment

Hello to you Blog Fans.

It's been a while since I've posted something on this blog. (too busy being awesome!) But once again, the monthly Words on Water at Saltwater Sounds has brought forth from me a piece of writing I like enough to post online. The theme for this month was "Winter". Here in the Miramichi we've had very light winter. It's been cold sure, but we've had very little in the way of snow. The day before yesterday it was 8 degrees and raining! But tonight we are getting a lot of snow and it's my favourite kind of snowfall; soft and beautiful.

I give you...

Winter Wonderment (which I dedicate to my Sorcha)

When I was a little girl, the most exciting event that could take place in my life, aside from days like Christmas and my birthday, was a snowfall. I grew up on the rainy west coast in Victoria and a snowfall, even if it was only a few cm, was a big deal. If it fell on a school day, waiting for recess was agony! The snow could be gone by 10:15 if it was suddenly sunny or rainy! What if we didn’t get a chance to play in it? Usually the snow was there for first recess, but by lunch time recess, usually due to melting and 100 kids making snow balls and snow men during first break, lunch time snow play was a desperate undertaking of rolling a snow ball from patch of white to patch of white over churned up muddy green, giving our snowmen a very hairy appearance or getting a snowball in the face a muddy experience. If our magical snowfall fell on the weekend or during holidays, my brother and I would spend hours in the yard building, running, piling, sliding, freezing and waiting for my Dad to offer to pull us around the yard in the almost pristine sled.

Some years, we would only get one snow fall or we wouldn’t get any at all. Some years, the snow lasted for a couple weeks and the novelty of the snow would actually wear off and we would want again for the comfort of our green.

As a teenager and in my early 20’s I got my fill of snow. I lived in Ottawa and in the winter there was no shortage of it. Much like a lot of Miramichi winters, the snow would last for what seemed like forever. Having to wear clunky boots, scratchy hats and bulky coats is never a strong desire for a teenager. I was never one for really caring about what I looked like in my warm finery, but in early high school my brother said that one of my hoods made me look like ET and I became quite self conscious about my winter gear for years. During this time in my life participating in outdoor winter fun was never something that brought me joy. I didn’t really like skiing, skating on the Rideau Canal was a bumpy affair that left me sore and sledding always made me miserable because I was extremely good at getting snow up my sleeves. Spring brought a sort of freedom; I could stop looking like an alien and feel more like the awkward teenager that I liked only slightly more and I could stop making excuses for why I didn’t want to participate in anything wintery.

My husband and I moved from Ottawa to the west coast after we married and rain or snow, dreary grey or bright white made no real difference in our lives. Rain in the winter was the norm, and snow was never a treat. It was just weather. However, when our daughter was born, we started to feel the tingle of magic wonder that a snow fall can bring. We pictured ourselves bundling up our wee one and teaching her how to make a snowball, or a snow fort, showing her how to make the perfect stereo typical snow man and sharing in the beauty of a soft snowfall at night.

Sorcha’s first experience with snow occurred when she was 17months old. We’d had a fairly heavy snow fall and I’d been stuck inside for a couple days because I didn’t have tractor tires on her stroller. However, once it melted off the sidewalks, I took Sorcha up to hill to a community park. Once out of her stroller, she stared around her at the whiteness mixed with green. Without hesitating she bent down and put her mitted hands in and immediately put one hand in her mouth. Being the wonderful mother I am, I didn’t scold her, but quickly took a picture of her first taste of cold white snow; she wasn’t impressed. I let her run around in it until she found a broken bottle under a tree and we went on home. Soon the snow was gone and it brought a quick close to Sorcha’s first experience with snow.

Shorty after Christmas of 2003, when Sorcha was just 2, we got about a foot and half of snow in a couple days; a huge deal for southern coastal BC. In a freshly purchased pair of used purple snow pants, Sorcha took her first walk falling snow. She laughed as the snow flakes tickled her lashes and marveled at the different pattern every snow flake seemed to be. The snow was barely covering the grass at this point so no attempt at a snow man was made, but Sean rolled a couple snowballs for her and Sorcha had great fun throwing them at me. The next day the snow was deeper, but joy and the novelty of snow were quickly replaced with dismay and frustration as Sorcha struggled to wade through the wet, heavy snow that came up over her wee knees. Tears signaled the end of fun thus ending Sorcha’s second experience with snow.

The following winter we got more snow then we’d had in years and it lasted for over a month. We had moved to a different place by then and the complex offered a huge park area for playing and running around in. Once again bundled up in her purple snow pants, Sorcha and I went out for fun in the snow. She was a bit taller, a bit stronger then the year before so the slog through the snow was more enjoyable. It was a lovely day for being outside and together, Sorcha and I built her first snowman. He didn’t have a hat or scarf as it was a communal yard and more then likely they would have been stolen from the poor guy within the hour so we settled on creating a snowman with a half classical whimsy about him. As we were building him near a tree that had shed everything for winter, sticks were easy to find and we used them for arms, a smiling mouth, nose and sticky up hair. For the eyes and buttons we collected pieces of bark from the gardens under the windows that hadn’t been covered with snow yet. When we were finished, we stood back and assessed our creation with satisfaction. Both of us were hot from the rolling and packing of snow, our long hair was coming out from under our hats and our hands were starting to go numb due to snow soaked mitts; but we were pleased. Sorcha beamed at her first snowman and I was happy to have shared another first with her. We stumbled back inside and right after we stripped off our wet snow gear, we went to the living room window to see if we had a good view our new winter friend. The view from our 4th floor window was perfect; there he stood, under a tree, leaning slightly back and smiling right up at us.

One morning, a few days after we’d built our snowman, I went to the window to see how our snow friend was fairing. He was still there, arms spread wide, big happy grin smiling up at me. As I sat there sipping my coffee, I saw a guy cutting through the yard most likely taking a short cut to get to a walking trail beyond the property. And from our window, I watched in absolute horror, as this person made a B-Line for our handsome snowman, walked over him and crushed him to the ground. I was shocked and angry! Why would he do that? Did he think he was a big man because he wrecked this happy creation? Had he been attacked by a snowman as child and now all snowman in his path were the enemy? It wasn’t as if there was no space to walk around it. He had clearly done it on purpose! Now you may be thinking “What’s the big deal? It’s just a snowman.” But to me, he was so much more then that. I’d found my childhood joy in snow again and created something special with my daughter who had discovered her joy for snow by creating this iconic winter being. My first thoughts after the initial shock had worn off were “How am I going to tell Sorcha? How will she take this?” I was guessing the news would not be welcome news because this was a girl whom the day before had had a near meltdown when she couldn’t get her socks on right.

I heard Sorcha getting up, and quickly got her ready for the day, keeping away from the window as to not bring the thought of anything snow related to her mind and went to have a shower. When I was finishing up in the bathroom, I heard “Oh no…” from the living room; Sorcha had seen the carnage. She ran to the bathroom and said “Mummy? I think someone wrecked our snowman.” Bracing myself for the onslaught of weepy tears I sighed and said “Yes, sweetie…a man walked over him…I’m sorry…I didn’t want to tell you because I thought you’d be upset”. But she didn’t get upset, my 3 year old daughter took the news with the ease of someone much older and said “Oh, that’s ok Mummy. We can build a new one. Don’t be upset.” I was so proud of her. I had imagined hours of comforting talks, hours explaining that sometimes people do mean things without thinking or caring about how it will make others feel, but instead, she put it out of her head, moved on and left me in a haze of wonder. She and I didn’t make a new on that year, but I think her father and her did. (A bit off any possible path to keep the new one from harm.) I picked up the pieces of bark that we’d used to help create his face and put then in bag for possible future use. They are still in that bag, all these years later, in a drawer of an end table in our living room. Every time I look at those pieces of wood I’m reminded that people don’t always behave how you’d expect them to and that cold winter memories are usually very warming and that sometimes, with Sorcha’s help, a bit of snow can still be an exciting event in my life.