A cousin of mine moved to Florida to escape winters. Sometimes I am really jealous of that. I haven’t liked winter since I was a small child. In college, I made a best friend with whom I had so unbelievably much in common–except her love of winter. It was so great, we decided we could not room together. She liked to sleep with the window open in winter just to feel the chill on her nose. Me? I’d like that about as much as I’d like a snake under my sheets. I love to sleep in my wood-heated house routinely over 80 degrees, wearing warm clothes and piles of blankets on besides.
This January blizzard–record snowfall for my area of the state–is not something I’ve looked forward to.
We got slammed–3 feet in a day. My husband didn’t so much shovel the sidewalk as chisel a path, white walls rising on each side like a labyrinth. My son–bless his heart–tried to take out the garbage! (Daddy took over the chore from here!)
The day after the storm was a lot of work for my husband who went outside to plow us out and then to help some neighbors do the same.
But the day of the storm? A magical kind of awe descended on the house–the kind I cannot drum up for myself upon the sight of snow as can my children. But I learned to reverence another snow-day magic descending on our house: slowness. There was no rush. No place to go. Some were recuperating from being under the weather, so a slow day was extra-needed.
It became a day to watch way more shows on Netflix than I ever allow, reading aloud from Laura Ingalls Wilder books (whose crazy extreme stories of winter we kept referencing throughout our weekend), and napping. Some of us even got out paints and had fun with a mess that cannot always be squeezed into other days.
We were all together, blessedly warm and cozy, and even embarked on a Lord of the Rings marathon (with some fast-forwarding through certain violent scenes). A certain amount of idleness and boredom even led to experimentation. One son convinced me to fry bananas and sprinkle them with cinnamon, for a snack. “They’re in the same family as plantains, Mom–they should be good!) And the kids did love the result.
One of my strongest childhood memories is of a big storm that cut electricity to our house for at least 3 days. My grandmother had been visiting, so she was stuck with us. I can still see the pitch-blackness of our kitchen at the edges, my Mamie’s face aglow in candlelight as she studied the Scrabble board, her favorite game.
We slept in sleeping bags in the living room with its fireplace, and we really did melt snow for water and cook hot dogs over the flames. I was perhaps 6, 7, or 8? So this weekend, I was reminded this blizzard is making indelible, good memories for my kids–the beginnings of “remember when?” stories. (“Remember when the snow piled against the door was as tall as me?”)
Nothing earth-shattering or profound here, just a quiet reminder: maybe winter is good for the soul. I’ve thought it often in reading the Wilder books, how the agrarian lifestyle put people on a seasonal pattern of spending most of the winter slowing down, staying inside, doing only a fraction of chores in the winter as compared to other seasons. (Granted, winter for us is not with the hardships the Ingalls family went through some years, so I can appreciate the slowing without the risk.)
So I appreciate the reminder and opportunity of slowing down. This is one mama who needs it. I’m constantly fighting my impulse to over-schedule our time and lament there are not more 15-minute blocks in the morning into which I could squish one more thing I really want to accomplish. (See that–I used the word “accomplish”–I roll my eyes at myself for how revealing my word choice is. Think I was an overachiever much?)
Especially as a homeschool mom, I consciously work against this urge and want a kinder, slower, simpler life. I wrestle with the tension between two impulses, mostly hoping that maintaining the tension will result in my family getting the best of both worlds, i.e. a rich life: enough stimulation and content as well as enough time to soak it in and enjoy it.
Is this a tension anyone else struggles with? What reminds you to slow down?