I’m teetering on the brink of becoming a fair weather friend. Frigid weather does that to me. I haven’t actually growled at one of you yet, but you’d best consider my declaration fair warning.
I’m wearing double socks and a muffler as I stand over the heating vent watching kids in shirtsleeves shooting baskets across the street. I can’t imagine what they have that I don’t, unless it would be youth. Ah yes, now I remember.
It’s been a long time since I eagerly woke at dawn on a snowy no-school day, eager to get out into the very cause for which wiser heads had dismissed classes. I can still hear the crunch beneath my dad’s enormous lumberman boots, feel the scratchiness of his equally enormous red and black wool shirt against my cheek. My mittened hands are numb before I reach the end of the block, and if I still have ears I don’t know it.
I’m on my way to the hill on the other side of town, as are my theretofore warm weather friends who turned cold weather friends with a dip of the mercury registered on the big thermometer that hangs on the north entrance of the courthouse.
From the direction I approach, the hill is actually a valley dotted here and there with trees of all kinds, standing ready to snare any one of us bundled-up teens swooshing down the hill on our makeshift sleds toward the creek below.
Mine was a dented, outsized metal dishpan with handles jutting up on either side. My friends’ sleds were cardboard boxes that disintegrated after no more than three slides; cookie sheets that were really too narrow for teen rears but had served them well in their youngest years, and an occasional actual sled. It seemed to me that their passengers never had as much fun as the rest of us.
Shrieking with laughter, calling out, “Watch this, watch this!” to the others, we dared the trees on that hill for what seems now like all day but was more likely no more than an hour or two. The crunch of dad’s boots in the snow and the scratchy shirt collar had pretty much lost their enchantment on my long walk back home, but visions of toasted cheese and ham sandwiches and Mom’s famous dill pickles hurried me along.
I was really too old at that time for Mom to heat my flannel nightgown on the towel rack above the bathroom heater, but she did and I didn’t object. It occurs to me now that I never told her how much I value the warmth of those memories: The fresh sweetness of the ironed sheets I crawled between; the layers of quilts and blankets I snuggled down into, the assurance of breakfast on the table in the morning. All in all, almost enough to squelch my disappointment when the phone rang announcing that our snow break had ended and there would be school that day.
Surely some of my friends’ parents drove them over ice and between snow banks to the schoolhouse, but mine rarely did. Certainly not on the heels of the extensive out-of-doors activity I had willingly undertaken the day before. I didn’t expect it. In fact I enjoyed catching up to other walkers, sharing stories of the grand feats, both fact and expanded, that we had accomplished the day before on the hill.
Well, now. Thanks for letting me share. I hope you have good cold weather memories. I for one am feeling a lot less like becoming a fair weather friend.
MARJORIE ANDERSON is an Edmond resident.