It’s finally January and my inner thermometer is hoping for some cold weather. I really love the cold and the last few years we’ve barely had to break out winter jackets.
Mom doesn’t like the cold. She never has, but now the least chill in the air sets her shivering. She’s most often cuddled up in her lift chair with a big, fluffy blanket tucked tightly around her. A draft from an open door will cause her to need a second blanket.
When she goes to the dining room to watch the birds, she’ll often have as many as four blankets keeping her snug. Since she exerts very little energy, she just doesn’t create enough internal heat to stay warm even for a short while.
When I was eight to ten, we lived in Duluth, Minnesota. It was cold there – very cold. With the winds and lake effect from Lake Superior, it would stay below freezing for months. I walked to school and had to wear a snowmobile suit, boots, and hat during most of the winter. The baseball field next to my school would get flooded to make an ice-skating rink and I spent many afternoons on my knees or bottom as I tried to learn to skate.
Our house was a split level with a wood heater in the basement. I can still conjure up the smell of wet wool as my gloves, hat, and scarves would dry next to that heater. I have so many fond memories of that time. I remember a lot of time with Dad out in the snow, but my memories of Mom involve activities inside the house. Of course, she must have ventured out to church and other activities, but I remember her shooing me out to play with my next door neighbors, Susan and Sally, as we built many snowmen and snow forts. Mom would watch from the sliding glass door as I learned how to ski down the hill in our back yard on little plastic skis.
Mom was into crochet back then and I would sit next to her and wrap her yarn into balls. She was my transportation to piano lessons with Sister Suzanne at Saint Scholastica, and of course, she made me practice! She tried to teach me to sew and cook, but I wanted to be climbing trees and playing outside, so she’d bundle me up and send me on my way. Every time I watch “A Christmas Story,” I realize how much growing up in Duluth was very much like that town of Hammond, Indiana where the writer, Jean Shepherd, grew up. Our schools even looked remarkably similar.
I don’t know how Mom survived those cold years in Duluth. Like most kids, I didn’t pay too much attention to her. I wish I could ask her now, but all of her answers are locked away.
All I can do is imagine how things must have been for her and make sure she is tucked warmly in now. I’ll try to keep the cold away from her as much as possible!