Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Winter is coming

Frost makes everything beautiful. And cold.
I'm just going to throw out that reference and see what sticks.

Recently, the husband and I were up north visiting my family. During our extended weekend trip, a cold front moved in at the end, dropping early September temperatures from the previous heat wave of 96 degrees down to barely 60 degrees.

That Monday morning, when we went to walk the dogs, I was struck by the icy smell in the air. There's something about the air up there - and especially further up north, like in Michigan - that just smells different from where I live now in Florida.

I know you're probably thinking something along the lines of "Dani - that's crazy. Cold air smells cold where ever it gets cold."

Except it really doesn't. I've noticed that in places were it can snow, the cold air can come with the smell of ice.

And that morning, the smell reminded me of winters spent in the upper peninsula of Michigan with my family. Basically the majority of my mother's side of the family lives up there; it was were I was born and subsequently where I decided I would never go to college (sorry mom! sorry dad!). When I was fairly young, like kindergarten young, we moved down to IL, but continued to visit the UP as often as possible.

I remember two things about the UP during my childhood. The snow, and throwing up a lot.

We'll talk about the snow today. As a kid, snow is pretty awesome. Snow means that there's a chance school might be canceled and that sledding is a definite possibility in the near to now future. It means that, yes, there might be a request to shovel the driveway but afterward there will be snowmen and snow forts and snow whatever-you-can-imagine.

And in the UP, where, if you are familiar with the definition of "peninsula," it is surrounded on three sides by water. It never quite gets as bone chillingly cold as, say, Minnesota, but the trade off is snow. Tons and tons and tons of snow. Like, snow drifts three times my height when I was a kid - and I was a pretty tall kid.

I remember at my grandparent's house in Painsedale, their backyard would turn into the world's best sledding hill. After not so patiently waiting for my mom to equip us with our winter gear - snow pants, jacket, mittens, scarf, hat, heavy socks and boots - my siblings and I would grab black trashbags to use as sleds and gleefully scramble up the snow pile to slide down.

For people who've never grown up with snow (my husband), this seems crazy to him. And I understand that - if you haven't experienced snow as a child, it's pretty hard to come to like it. When you're young, snow is just fun. Also, I suspect that the part of your brain that feels extreme temperatures isn't completely developed yet because snow never seemed so cold when I was five.

As an adult, nay - the moment you learn to drive and then suddenly are slipping and sliding your way to your part time after school job - snow loses a lot of its fun potential.

As an adult, snow is one more obstacle to deal with on your way to the grocery store and one more way for you to trip on what would otherwise be a perfectly flat surface. It might be a snow day for the kids but your job won't feel the same way. And even having an office with windows (a dream of many a child, I'm sure) won't save you. Sure, you might think it looks pretty as it falls, but then you'll glance down at the parking lot and be reminded that your commute just got a 15 minute "removing snow and ice" addition.

Still, for those brief moments as I reminisced, walking the dogs down the sidewalk, I thought about a story that my mom told me when I was younger, about how once when she was in high school, she came home from school after basketball practice one night and there - on the top of the snow pile tall enough to almost touch the power lines - was a wolf, just staring out into the distance behind the house.

The wind picked up, and I bowed my head against it as we finished our walk.

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