Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Snow Fix

A few inches of snow. That’s what it took to adjust my attitude toward winter this year. For as long as I can remember, I have loved this season of white – it’s filled with Christmas magic and snowy woods and skiing. But this December, I just wasn’t feeling it.

This year, I held tighter than ever to summer, lamenting its passing in a way I never had. Summer had provided a bit of a respite from the pandemic, as we spent the long days mostly outside and often with friends – hiking and splashing in the river or just sitting together. Here in the more northern realm of New England, it felt as if we were in a germ-free bubble of safety. Autumn arrived with colors as brilliant as ever, but also with the kids returning to school, less opportunity to gather (safely, outdoors) with friends, shorter days and continued uncertainty.

While visions of powder days and wintery wonderlands normally fill my head once the leaves drop from the trees, this winter took shape in my mind as an endless stretch of cold, dark days. Even the thought of skiing didn’t excite me. I couldn’t – and still can’t – picture a ski season without the banter of the coaches’ room in Ernie’s Haus, the young kids I coach sharing candy at snack time, my own kids goofing around with their friends and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at lunchtime.

Rather than bemoaning the lack of snow, as I would normally do, I reveled in the warm weather that lingered into this strange December, in long walks through the woods, and in the extra time of unexpected free weekends due to a delayed start to the season. It didn’t feel like December or ski season or Christmastime. It felt like endless November, and despite my normal disdain for that month, this year I didn’t mind.

But Saturday afternoon, the steady drizzle turned to snow, and Sunday morning, we woke up to a landscape transformed to white. The tree limbs, long bare of leaves, were sheathed in snow. The mountains were covered. The plows once again prowled the back roads near home.

My son pulled the old toboggan out of the depths of the garage and we trudged through the snow to my folks’ house to visit (outside) and help with the shoveling. After lunch, we rallied some friends and a cousin, and the kids spent a couple of hours tramping up, then sliding down the long hill of my in-laws’ yard.

It was an afternoon of laughter and rosy cheeks and snowballs lobbed at passing sledders. It felt almost normal. It felt good.

Back home, the lights of the recently-trimmed Christmas tree twinkled against the early dusk outside. Our familiar hodgepodge of holiday decorations occupied their regular December spots along windowsills and across the mantle. The skis, hauled out of their summer storage place just the day before, were waxed and ready – for whatever this season will look like.

It still doesn’t feel like all is right in our little piece of the world, and maybe it won’t for some time. Our anticipation of the season is tinged, in this year of 2020, with anxiety. But a little bit of snow went a long way to remind me that I really do love this season – and had me embracing winter again, at last.

Original content published by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul. This essay appears as Meghan's December 10, 2020 Close to Home column in the Littleton Record. 

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