There are those few hearty ones who love winter. Having grown up in North Dakota and northern Michigan, my dad is one of those winter enthusiasts. In his childhood, the winter was for ice hockey and later on, he added skiing to his list of cold fun. On January 25th, it was his big day to have a big party and take some of the family skiing for his 88th birthday…
Nearly everyone loves the beginning of winter, hoping for that first pretty white snow blanket for Christmas. As a child, I couldn’t wait for the snow to cover the hill beside our house at 4333 Myers Avenue. The days were long growing up at our house, with no TV or video games, and a cello needing to be practiced, so inside created little attraction.
The neighbor kids, along with any number of other friends would come over to share the sleds and toboggans, and sometimes dad would ice the runway for a speed rush. Of course, we had to make nice jumps also to teach my nine-year-younger brother Joe how to fly. He is shown below with some neighbor friends.
Here, Margaret, Jane and I are getting ready to slide!
An extra big thrill occurred when dad and mom packed us up to go to Harrison Hill for the great long runs on our toboggan.
When the creek froze, we skated. My first pair of skates (age two) were the double bladed strap-ons that kept getting passed down, and I kept working my way up through the series of old skates in the family skate box. Once in a while the creek would flood and the ice would freeze so we had our own skating rink in the back yard.
Eventually I my feet grew to the size that inherited mom’s white figure skates. They were past their prime with knotted laces and floppy ankles. This was embarrassing when we went over to the Concord Junior High tennis court, which the fire department flooded in the winter for ice skating.
Finally, I appealed to my dad and I got my very own pair of brown leather hockey skates just like his. He was the only dad around who could skate backwards in fast circles. For the decade ending in 1973 with my high school graduation, we were a pretty much an unstoppable pair on the neighborhood hockey scene.
Then there was the Christmas of 1963, when dad got ski equipment for the whole family. The boots were more like heavy leather hiking shoes, with inner and outer tie strings that took what seemed like eternity to put on. The skis had a toe holder with an adjustable cable to hold the heel forward. These did not meet any particular safety standard, but that was a fine time when people accepted the risks and responsibilities of living freely. Personally, I was immediately bound and determined to qualify for the ’76 Olympics downhill.
Mom joined right in and quickly got the hang of the old rope tow which was the only way to the top, and no small accomplishment. Although, once at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, legend has it that she was going a little out of control and didn’t stop before taking out a whole row of neatly stood-up skis.
My sisters got into the spirit also, but more on the fashion end. They designed and sewed their own ski suits and were an automatic sensation from Swiss Valley to Bittersweet, and even in Colorado.
Generations pass and traditions tend to recycle making new winter memories. When our children were young, we inherited some old skates and found some more in Grandpa Ed and Grandma Marge’s closet and restarted the skating tradition on Neufeld’s pond. This was the site of Jan’s training as she practiced after school in seventh grade, aspiring to be the next Peggy Fleming. As you can see below, Austin also had to endure the white skate stage as he and Adrienne plan the hockey strategy.
It was always a highlight when Uncle Joe came around for tubing.
. . . But on that 25th day of January, the temperature and wind chill finally exceeded Dad’s will to face the elements and he changed his mind. This made for the first time in 50 years that he did not grace the ski slopes of Swiss Valley. Eventually, the thrills and pleasures of the mind and body go away. Fortunately, our knowing God can sustain the joy of the spirit.
Sometimes, like 2014, the cold goes on and there are still 12 foot piles of dirty snow in the Wal-Mart parking lot. When the spring only teases and refuses to come there can be a season of winter of the soul.
The boat is in such a state. My neighbor Don came over yesterday and said, “I thought it would be almost done by now!” So little forward motion has been accomplished over the last three months that the goal of getting it in the water this year seems only possible if the basement floods. When the project intended for a year still has a year to go after the turning of four seasons, discouragement can descend into the shop.
Fortunately, my neighbor Mike Perron was listening to my woes and he responded, “If you want a boat this spring, you can go buy one. Where’s the journey in that?”
Well, . . . yeah.