Winter Memories: An Answer to Jackie's Challenge
THE CHALLENGE IS ISSUED
When my good friend Jackie makes a request, I feel I have little choice but to respond. Jackie has been so good to me over the years, so supportive and loyal, so the least I can do is step up to the plate and swing at this pitch of hers.
The challenge is to write an article about winter memories. You can find her official challenge by following this link.
And you can find my response by allowing your eyes to drift below.
The Winter of My Youth
“You aren’t afraid, are you, Bill?”
Well, in truth, I was scared shitless as I stood at the top of 30th Street Hill in Tacoma, Washington that fine winter’s day. Before me was a quarter mile of ice-covered danger, and the goal, and the dare, was to traverse that slick-as-snot roadway on a wooden sled with metal runners and hope…no, pray…that I survived the experience. Only a fool of the highest order would not be afraid, but only an equal fool, at the age of twelve, would admit to that fear, with friends gathered around.
“Come on, do it if you’re going to do it. The rest of us want a chance at it.”
But I couldn’t help but notice that they were all waiting to see if I survived before they tried it.
That’s the thing about youth. Concepts like mortality are nebulous at best. The thrill of adventure will often override common sense. So it was on that afternoon. I put the sled on the ice, placed my body upon it, said one last prayer to Jesus, and pushed off.
Walking back home that afternoon, bloodied and colder than a witch’s tit, I felt invincible. Every nerve ending in my body was alive, and I was convinced that there was nothing I could not do. I remember arriving home to the shriek of my mother as she cast her eyes upon the wreckage that was her son. I remember getting patched up with loving care, making promises to be more careful in the future, and then racing outside to see what other challenges I could meet.
There are, after all, no mulligans when you are young. Balls to the wall, full throttle, break neck adventure and to hell with the consequences, that’s what youth is like, and that’s what youth should be.
And then we grow older.
Winter of Young Adulthood
“Dammit all to hell, traffic is going to be a bitch.”
Looking out at the winter scene, all I could think of was the impending doom as I prepared to drive my twenty-year old clunker to work. “Lord, keep me safe from the idiots,” I muttered to myself as I walked out to the old Chevy. I cussed as I scraped ice off the windshield. I cussed as I dug snow away from the tires. I cussed as I blew on my hands to warm them up, and I cussed as the engine took longer than normal to cough to life.
Sure enough, traffic was a bitch. Why is it that people who don’t know how to drive in the snow insist on driving in the snow, and hitting their brakes every ten feet? Do they not understand the laws of physics? Don’t they understand that I’m in a hurry?
“Get the hell out of my way, Gramps. Darlin’, park it or drive it, but whatever you do, do it away from me. For the love of God, what are you doing? I’m going to be late for work if you don’t drive that car the way it was intended to be driven.”
Then eight hours of work in the warehouse, the cold finding ways of seeping inside the clothing, invading the skin, and attacking the body warmth. Eight hours of shivering, followed by another hair-raising, death-defying drive home, trying, in vain, to avoid the vehicles stuck in snowdrifts and strewn across the road, deserted by drivers who had met their match in Mother Nature.
Finally, thankfully, I arrived home, immediately poured myself a tall drink, got out of my frozen clothes, and then listened as the kids begged for some “quality time” with dad. “Let’s go build a snowman, Dad. Let’s have a snowball fight. Let’s go sledding.”
“Sledding,” I say. “It’s cold out there. Why don’t you go and have fun, and I’ll catch up with you later.”
Of course, later never came.
The Winter of Middle Age
“Let’s go for a walk, darling.”
Twelve inches of heaven awaited us as Bev and I strapped on our show shoes and prepared for one of our favorite activities. The snow had finally stopped, and as darkness fell upon it, the lights from neighboring homes illuminated a breathtaking scene. Plumes of breath led the way as we walked smoothly down the street. Neighbors came outside and waved greetings, and little children stood in awe, some experiencing snow for the very first time.
Through the park we went, the only sounds were those made as our shoes floated across the top of the feathery ground cover. Bev stopped and looked up at the branches, covered in white, majestic guardians hovering over us.
“Isn’t it beautiful, Bill? And indeed it was. She was radiant that night, cheeks pink from the cold, a smile transforming her face and filling me with all the warmth I would need. And then she unbuckled her shoes, let out a shriek, and fell backwards onto a mound of snow. Flapping her arms, she called out “Look, I’m an angel,” and all I could think to say was “Yes, Bev, yes you are.”
Finally we turned around and headed back home. As we approached our driveway, Bev asked me if I was cold.
“Yep, freezing as a matter of fact.”
Then she asked me if I was tired.
“Yep, I’m feeling my age tonight. Bone-tired I am.”
And then she asked me if I wanted to go sledding.
“You bet your ass I do,” and we raced to the garage, grabbed our sleds, and headed off to 30th Street Hill.
Thank You, Jackie!
A wonderful challenge it was, Jackie, and I thank you for it. I also invite you all to give it a go. Share your winter memories with us all, thus giving us a chance to get to know you just a little bit better.
I look forward to your efforts.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)