Here in Alberta, the land of wild roses and other pretty growing things, we have experienced less than a month of actual winter.
Weird! Other than a picture on my office wall of wild roses all twisted around a barbed wire fence I can only vaguely remember a landscape that is not white on white.
I can hardly remember warmth and sitting on my deck and the way the sun feels, all warm and nice, on my face.
The reason is, of course, that my deck is barely visible, but is simply a white landscape boasting a lonely bird feeder over which hopeful sparrows hover.
But enough complaining. Slipping and sliding and shoveling our way through another winter can be fun.
I went skating with my daughter the other day and that was fun. Unfortunately, it was the one day I had decided to dress for work and I was still dressed for work when I went slipping and sliding through the snowbanks to get to the skating rink. I was, in fact, wearing high-heeled boots. I looked silly and I felt silly as I plunged through the snow, grasping my skates, trying desperately to look cool and failing. Finally, we arrived (the rink is only out her back gate and across the alley) and I gratefully sank down on top of a snowbank to put on my skates, immediately sliding to the ground with a serious thump.
Even the dog laughed.
But, the skates themselves were magic requiring only a twist of knob to tighten them.
I skated somewhat like an old lady, all shaky and s-l-o-w, and the dog glided circles around me, but for some reason I felt ridiculously happy.
When I was young and my legs worked pretty good and I was immune to such things as cold and didn’t seem to feel the wind, I loved to skate.
The town I grew up in was so small I’m not sure if it was even a dot on any self-respecting map. Bigger places like Red Deer got a dot, but I’m not sure we did. But, really the town had all the basic ingredients it needed. A church, a school and a skating rink.
And I, along with the handful of kids who grew up in the town, spent hours upon hours at that rink. It was a humble little rink, with only about three strings of lights stretched high above the cracked ice surface. Only a few of the lights worked, but the stars that crisscrossed the night sky were a perfect alternative.
The rink was surrounded with slab boards and the slab boards were surrounded with snow banks. On top of the snow banks is where I sat when I watched my brothers play hockey.
They played a lot of hockey and they were, in my mind, better than any NHL hockey star that ever existed.
I was so proud of them, I wanted to tell everyone they were my brothers, but, of course, everyone knew everyone in that small town, so there was really no point.
As I skate with my daughter, wearing my granddaughter’s skates, and shakily going around the rink, I remember all these things.
I remember the old shack and the way my frozen toes would burn white hot when I took my skates off.
I remembered the way my mittens, all frozen with snow and ice, would sizzle when I held them close to the pot bellied stove.
I remember and I smile and shakily skate a little more.
My daughter brings me back to the present. “You ready to go, mom?”
“Sure am,” I reply. And, I have to say, despite the cold, I’m all warm and happy. Skating is fun. It was when I was a kid and it still is.
I wish I were faster, though! I decide to imagine I am.
− On The Other Side