Winter in full.
February 9, 2012 § 10 Comments
It rang beneath my shoes as I walked with my sister to the barren corner of Penn Lyle and Canoe Brook.
Standing at the bus stop, thighs pressed together, the wind funneled up our skirts. It chapped our legs from bare knees to panties.
The winter of my childhood swallowed the sun early and spat it out late. It clutched the day so close the sun could barely lift itself above the horizon.
It froze our eyelashes, our ears, our breath.
It wrote on our windows with frost.
It stole our mittens one at a time.
As Christmas approached we’d draw pictures of blocky houses with skeins of smoke coming from their chimneys, snow piled on the roofs, the jagged green branch of a Christmas tree visible through the crayoned rectangle of a window. We’d glue on glitter to make the snow sparkle and we’d hope. A white Christmas could not be taken for granted.
Tar roads, at first just dusted white, were quickly erased. Parked cars became irregular hills. As we stomped our names into the dry new snow it squeaked.
Then it might warm little, the snow growing soft. Icicles hanging off a roof fascia dripped holes in the snow below. At nightfall it would freeze hard, crusting the snow with ice. Come morning the icy surface would briefly support our weight before giving beneath our boots with a satisfying snap.
More snow would fall.
The plows would come, clearing the road, but sealing every driveway on Canoe Brook Drive. My father, in shirtsleeves and sweater vest would attack the frozen pile with a shovel; this was what it meant to be an adult in winter.
The crisp white life of snow was short. It got sooty and tattered. It congealed beside the curb with bits of trash poking out, and there it hung on through the bitter gray days of February and March.
My mother, casting about for proof that winter would end, offered a bounty for the sighting of the first robin and the first violet. Each could be redeemed for a cake.
By the time the patchy snow that lingered longest under the pine at the corner of the house finally melted and it was at last time to bake for robins and violets and begin to sew Easter dresses we had all earned spring.
As it unfolded its green shoots and warmer days we breathed deep, tied our sweaters around our waists, and turned our faces to the sun.
Here in Florida, winter is the season of forgiveness, our reward for surviving a summer that stuns us with its heat, dazzles us with its brightness, and only grudgingly gives way to the first breath of cool.
A slow dimming of summer’s green is what passes for fall colors here. We blink, and stir, and feel a sense of ambition that has been little more than a dead fly on a windowsill all summer.
In Florida winter is sissy-cold. The bird bath may freeze, but by ten it will be a murky puddle again.
We visited winter this year, going north for family, staying for ten days cantilevered off Christmas. But our experience of winter was only as real as the wishful drawings we used to make of snow-capped houses.
We dabbled at being cold, watching the snow fall on the other side of my sister’s kitchen window. We have become tourists of the season, undeserving of the return of robins or an inconspicuous purple flower which, when pinched between cold fingers, would be rewarded with cake.
Note: To experience the season we are really good at here in Florida please read Summer in full.