Monday, January 15, 2024

In the bleak mid-winter...


With needle and thread in hand, my grandmother Luella would always say, “When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen.” I always loved these folklore sayings from her. My head still holds them all in a special hiding place waiting for just the right time to say them. I think the time is now for that one!

The beauty of this week astounds me so…everywhere I look the pristine fresh snow gives our landscape a glow of life which we do not see in most of the other months. Each month has beauty although I often think the jury is out for March, but we carry through that month too with the promise of early snowdrops and sheets on the line. For now, it is January who holds court over the land.

Last week I held my first writer’s workshop in over several years. I tried it once years ago, but we didn’t get too far. I am hopeful with the new group that the writer’s group will not only be about writing but reading also. We sat cozy in my living room sharing the books we are reading, our thoughts on writing, our goals and, of course, a prompt with a ten-minute time limit. This month’s prompt was easy, “What did you do on snow days as a kid?” I daresay it was spurred on by the announcement of the Fremont Schools to have a real snow day! It was fun to listen to everyone’s short vignette about snow days.

Listening to WOWO on my transistor radio I always knew about the snow day before my mom even made it up to my attic stairs. One room at a time we, the six of us, would be thrilled about the day. We were part of Southwest Allen County Schools, so we had more snow days than the city schools, and we were happy about that.

On these days the McMillan Ice Skating Rink would open, and when I think about those days, that is all that comes to mind. Pancakes and hot chocolate made for the morning breakfast. It was early too as we could not stay in bed. No, snow days meant we were up as soon as possible so we wouldn’t miss the day.

I spent most of the morning helping with the younger kids. Snowsuits on. Snowsuits off. By noon they were worn out, and I could head over to the skating rink. Of course, we walked. No one would ever drive us anywhere…not school, not Girl Scouts, not sledding, not skating! I wore as many clothes as possible as the rink was all outside then. With skates slung over my shoulder, I headed out to pick up my girl friends one by one. We all looked alike with our old skating clothes on as we trudged through the neighborhood and to the park. There were pathways, some shoveled and some not. We chose the ones not shoveled! Maybe thinking of Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. The snow was deep, if I remember correctly, but we didn’t care.

In those days I thought my Uncle Norman owned the rink. He did not, and that is another story! On these days though, he stood at the doorway taking money for our skate and stamping our hands. We never had to pay as he took of that for us! Once in the pavilion we sat on benches and threw off those winter boots. Do you know the kind I am referring to? Worn out boots with felt linings that stayed wet from December to March. Lacing up our skates was part of the experience. Lace them tight and snug and head out to the ice. With no roof to stop the falling snow and music piped in boasting all genres, we skated all afternoon. We skated til 5:00. We skated until it was time to go home for meatloaf and mashed potatoes. We skated with no where else to go and nothing else to do. We were free to skate in circles, twirling and showing off. Yes, I did that. I was such a great skater. I knew someday I would be in the Olympics. Isn’t it wonderful to think we were free to want to be anything in our lives?

Of course, I am not an Olympic skater…I don’t skate anymore. I have given that to Jonah.

My grandmother was right, “When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen.”

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