Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A season for being cold…and thankful

By Karrie McAllister

Living in our little part of the world, my family is fortunate enough to fully experience the full range of yearly seasons. Our spring months are soggy, stormy and muddy. Our summers are hot, dry and green. Autumns are cool, brisk and colorful. And winters are cold, crisp and snowy. (Well, some of the time…)
I am thankful that my children can see the beauty in each season. Generally speaking, the change of seasons changes our time outdoors. Weather seems to decide what our days will be like more than we do, and as much as I love the easy days that don’t require special gear, I cherish the harsh weather days just as much. This is one of the many reasons that my family and I look forward to winter.
My own childhood winters were spent outside. Living at the end of a street, snowplows were constantly providing us with winter’s greatest playground equipment, and the lake effect snow off of Lake Erie was constantly providing us with plenty of it! I can remember so well putting on layer upon layer of clothing—old pajamas, my dad’s long wool socks, turtlenecks, sweatshirts. The more the merrier, and by the time my mom was finished dressing me, I didn’t think cold couldn’t touch me if it wanted to.
We’d play outside for hours until we were soaked and chilled to the bone. We’d drag our giant moon boots and blue lips inside, where I was told to “just go down the basement” and remove every wet and cold piece of clothing. This undressing process took just long enough for my mom to make up hot chocolate, as if the timing of the whole thing had somehow been worked out by the universe.
I never realized just how much work my mom had to put into our days of playing in the snow. Those layers of clothes? She had to gather them. Then she had to help us put them on. And after we played, she had to make us hot chocolate and while we enjoyed it, she wandered off downstairs to the mountain of soggy, stinky clothes and wash and dry them, all so we could repeat the whole process the next day.
And I’m not sure I ever thanked her for it.
But now, as I see my own children pressed against the cold glass doors waiting for enough snow to fall to merit a snowman, I know just why my mom did all that work so many years ago.
To watch children play in the snow is a wonderful thing. It is a paradox, almost, the loud laughter of children and the silent world that is a snow covered field, and the frigid temperatures of the thermometer and the warmth that is a carrot nose.
So I encourage my kids to play out in the snow every chance they get. I try to make it as easy as possible for myself, with big plastic bins of long underwear and the latest technology in outerwear, but it never fails. They come in from the cold with their clothes dripping as much as their noses.
I send them to the laundry room to get undressed, put on the kettle for hot chocolate, and wait until they come running in the kitchen with their frozen fingers and their hat hair. And while they drink, I separate their wet clothes and listen to their stories.
I could phone my mom and thank her for doing all of that laundry so many years ago, but instead I think I’ll put the kids on the line instead. Just by listening to their tales of winter play, I know my mom will understand just how much those snowy play days meant to me.
“You’re welcome,” she’ll say to me, and make herself her own cup of hot chocolate.

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