As a child I loved winter. We had a small hill in our back yard, and I learned how to ski on wooden skis with my initials burned at the tips. My father had a workshop in the basement, and for a while he seemed to burn my initials on everything. The working class version of a monogram.
The basement was warm, the oil burner in the corner of my father’s workshop. My mother had a mimeograph machine there. She taught English, and she used it to run of copies of tests, and also to publish the school literary magazine. It was cozy and industrious in the cellar and smelled of sawdust, light machine oil, and heavy heating fuel.
It snowed a lot every winter. My sisters and I walked a mile to school—back and forth, twice a day. We came home for lunch, and Mim, our grandmother who lived with us, would have grilled cheese sandwiches waiting. Jeopardy came on at noon so we’d take off our snowsuits, kick back, and eat our sandwiches along with Art Fleming.
Once, walking home for lunch, SB—a neighborhood boy too cute for his own good—pulled off my snow jacket and threw it up in a tree. I tried to climb for it, but it was too high up there. Mim told me, when I got home shivering and blue: “that means he likes you.” I was in fourth grade, the mysteries of boys far beyond my comprehension.
We built snow forts and went on winter nature walks. Juncos swarmed the suet we’d hang from maple branches. We’d hang garlands of strung popcorn and cranberries on yew and mountain laurel, and when cardinals came we’d practice their clear calls.
The juxtaposition of being cold outside and cozy inside gave a feeling of safety and belonging to our winter childhoods. We were lucky. Nature surrounded us, and inside the house we were warm. We had each other.