Sunday, December 1, 2013

Winter, Snowy Days and Booby Trapped Mittens

Happy December. Seems like just a year ago it was December first. And it seems like not too long ago at all that waking up to the first snowfall of the season was a time of magic, excitement and trying to remember what closet your galoshes were in. Growing up in Ottawa, not the coldest but the snowiest capital of the world (around 200 cm per year), meant adopting a lifestyle where bulky one-piece snowsuits severely limited your range of movement and after spending ten minutes getting it on; the certainty the sudden urge to pee would hit the moment the zipper was pulled up.

One got used to voices muffled with scarves, perpetually runny noses and rosy cheeks. The good thing about mittens was you could make a fist inside them with all your fingers together for warmth. The only bad thing about mittens was when you first started wearing them and your mom gave you the ones with the string connecting them that ran inside your sleeves so you wouldn't lose them. We called them "idiot mittens" and they were booby trapped. The theory was if one mitten was off and one on, if someone pulled on the loose one it would make your other hand hit you in the nose.

And as the season went on the snowbanks became taller than you and walking along their tops became the favorite way to walk to and from school. After school meant building snow forts for snowball fights against imaginary marauders and odd-looking snowmen. Or lying in the snow thrashing arms and legs about to make snow angels and contests to see how far you could slide down the patch of ice in front of your house without crash landing (sliding with feet sideways worked best). And weekends meant throwing toboggans into the station wagon and throwing yourself down snow covered hills. Of course, memories would not be complete without images of ice skating outside (not in some arena) on the school rink and pickup games of hockey on shoveled ponds.

It was a wonderful time of the year back then. One wonders, as we grow older and wiser, what happened to winter? It seems to have become quite the bother. Unless one is looking out at it from inside a warm room beside a roaring fireplace...


  1. I grew out of those idiot mittens real quick; I was such an organized kid.

    All my life, I heard my mother complain about winter. It wasn't such a terrible thing for me: putting on the layers, taking off the layers. I was happy skiing (both alpine and cross-country) and curling and sledding.

    Nowadays, I can hardly wait for the cold weather so I can wrap myself up in fur. It's too bad that it's never that cold in TO. I love the luxury of that coat.

    And roaring fireplaces sure sound about right, with good wine and a hot traditional meal.

    1. Ha! Why did I anticipate that reaction from you Lynn Marie? Skiing, fur coats and good food!

  2. Beautiful! I love winter. Sadly, I no longer do a lot of those fun things, (although I still enjoy making snowmen and snow angels,) and the snowbanks seem a lot smaller than they did. I recall imagining they were mountain ranges that I was trekking across. I was Scott of the Antarctic!

    Favourite winter sound: The squeak of your boots on the snow when it's really cold.

    My wife is from Trinidad, and she absolutely hates winter. I've tried getting her to look past the fact that it's cold and see the magic of it all. Yes, it's cold; dress warmly and play!

    Or let yourself be overwhelmed by the hushed peace of a walk in a snowy wood or on a frozen lake in the moonlight.

    Orion twinkles the brightest on a cold January night.

    She kind of sees where I'm coming from, but remains dubious. I think you really have to have grown up with it:-)

    1. Thanks Raymond. I had forgotten about the squeak that walking on sub-zero snow. And the quiet hush that snow-covered streets bring. :)