Friday, January 7, 2011

I Pretended to Love Winter.

When we got married, we had a five year plan. It wasn’t detailed or specific, but in five years, we planned to live somewhere warm. Both of us being from the Midwest, we felt we’d endured our share of chapping and shivering, and it was time to bail. As we settled into married life, however, the smaller scale amenities of Central Iowa ensnared us. Ten minute commutes, solid job opportunities, affordable homes, and good schools trumped Old Man Winter and before we knew it, we couldn’t even consider the possibility of giving everything up to chase the sun. Even now, several record-breaking winters later, when we have the opportunity to vacation in beautiful places, it only takes driving by a dilapidated school to remind us why we stayed in the Midwest.

Even though a warmer climate was not in our future, someday our children are going to face the same choice. Although I hope that the warmth of our love will be enough to tether our girls, I am not one to leave these things to chance. If I really want to have grandkids around to visit me in the nursing home, I need to build strong winter memories in my kids while they are young and impressionable.

Footies are essential to winter joy.
 I set out to convince my daughters that I love winter. The first step is to invest in proper winter gear. If you’re going to live in Iowa, you need snow boots & pants, a warm parka, preferably with a fur trimmed hood, and, if you get cold easily like me, a nice set of mittens. Don’t go fashionable and opt for leather gloves and a trim pea coat, or you will hate your life. Footie PJs to sleep in doesn’t hurt, either. Then you must outfit your offspring similarly. If you buy them crummy mittens, they will leave you for L.A. someday. Remember that.

I learned in teacher training that memories are built by repetition more than duration. You don’t have to spend hours out in the cold; you just need to spend a little bit of time, regularly, for your kids to believe you played outside all winter long. When my younger daughter was small, I’d get home from work and bundle us up to walk up to the school. I’d pull her up there in the sled, load my older daughter on behind her, and drag them home. Even on the coldest days, they thought it was a hoot and I stayed warm from the exertion. Hot chocolate and vanilla wafers afterward didn’t hurt either! If there’s a Saturday with a few inches of snow on the ground and at least 15-20 degrees above zero, we’ll drop everything and brave the snow, making angels, getting buried, building forts, whatever. We discovered one winter that you get the park all to yourself, and you literally fly out of the tube slide, if you head up there on a snowy winter day. Thank goodness for bundling, or I’d have broken my tail bone. At least once a winter, we try to hit a pond or outdoor ice rink. Gliding around on the ice makes us feel like part of a Christmas Special.

Enjoying our awesome snow fort last year.

While some of these activities might be a good time, I do them in service to my kids. If they love winter, they’ll never leave us. For them to love winter, they need to believe I love winter. One afternoon our neighbor came out on her deck while we were sledding down the side hill in our backyard and said with a laughing smirk, “Wow, Emily, you must really love winter; you’re outside all the time.” I smirked back, thinking, “Ha! If I’ve fooled her, hopefully I’m fooling my kids!”

There are many occasions that I’ve heard people suggest one should “fake it ‘til you make it.” Apparently loving winter is one of those things for me. Heading into the third trimester of pregnancy, and having been told to back off from strenuous activities, I have the perfect excuse, this winter, to take a break from faking it. My snow pants won’t zip, so I can’t do the snowball fights and angels. No skating, no skiing, no sledding. Perhaps my greatest winter joy – I can’t even push the snow blower this year. I even have to wait for my husband to clear the deck for the dog to go out. I should be loving this. This is the best winter ever. Instead, it is driving me crazy. The kids are out there playing and I can’t go with them. I can’t get the sled out and break a path for them down the hill. I feel like a hobbit, hibernating in a hole. There’s a fantastic winter going on out there, and I can only watch through the window.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, maybe it’s hormones. But I have to suspect, that maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the line, I quit faking it; it became real. I started enjoying winter. After all, it doesn’t last forever. The pear trees are already budding and in just a couple short months, the crocuses will be poking through. I’ll always love summer best, but, it turns out, I’m a bit of a winter girl, too.  I had no idea.

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ Job 37:5-6

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