Words and stories normally pour forth from my imagination like water over Niagara Falls, however, this week has been a slough. It seems as the temperature has dropped, my words and stories have frozen like ice on the pond. At least until this very moment when thinking about the frigid temperatures, ice and snow made the image of a young girl bundled up in a hat, gloves, boots and a warm coat pop into my mind.
This young girl is frolicking in the yard with her grandfather, playing a game, waiting on the bus to arrive to take her to school. The game, fox and the hound, is one that the little girl believes was made up by her grandfather to occupy her on cold winter mornings while they wait for the bus. He claims it was a game that he played as a child. The game is simple: the grandfather in his big barn boots creates a big circle in the snow with his boots. Then, he cuts it into four pieces, like a pie. One person is designated the fox; the other the hound. Then, the chase is on! However, there are two rules to the game. The first rule is that both the fox and the hound can only use the pre-made pathways; there is no making your own path. Secondly, there is no jumping out of the circle; if your are caught, your are caught.
Often the grandfather plays the role of the hound, chasing the shrieking little girl around the circle, trying to anticipate her move and cut her off from her path. He growls like a dog tracking his prey, stopping to pretend to sniff the air, and surveying the moves of the little girl. The little girl stops to watch her grandfather, breathing hard, her warm breath creating clouds of steam in the cold, clear air. Suddenly, the grandfather springs! He catches the little girl, wraps her up in a big bear hug and points out that the big yellow school bus is at the house right before theirs and it is time to go to school. With a smile, wave, and a quickly tossed “I love you,” the little girl leaps over the circle so as not to destroy the game, eager to be on her way to learning.
That little girl is me and the grandfather was my grandpa, Joe. This memory still brings a tear to my eye; how if I had known then what I know now, I would have tried to stop time. I would have lingered longer on the hug, not thrown the ” I love you” at him but placed it delicately in his ear. I would have stopped and turned before getting on the bus, and really absorbed the picture in my mind, letting it linger like a fine piece of chocolate on the tongue. How remarkable that a man in his late 60s, early 70s would be out playing a silly game in the mornings with his granddaughter, especially on those freezing cold mornings when snow days were given out frugally.
Part of me would give anything to go back to those days and another part of me knows that it is impossible; that we all need to enjoy the here and now before we nostalgically look back and wish we had been more present.
This memory has made me think about how excited winter used to make me. How I could not wait for the first snowflake to begin its leisurely descent from the skies, or the joy in rolling a snowman, or even placing the first footprint in newly fallen snow. I remember looking out on our fields that only a few months ago had been bright green with growing crops, then brown with crops ready to be harvested, and finally white like an unexplored tundra, and thinking about the miracle of living in a place with so many seasons. The mystery of how dull, brown mud could turn into a new landscape with a coating of fine white snow captivated me.
As I’ve gotten older, I have fallen victim to the usual adult grudges against snow: it’s cold; it’s slippery; it’s frozen; it’s hard to get to work; it needs shoveled; and a whole litany of excuses that we as adults use to remove the magic of winter. It has only been with the help of my puppy, the one that thinks snow is the best thing to ever exist (besides maybe me and peanut butter) that has helped me begin to love snow again.
And as I wander back through my memories, I realize that winter and snow have provided me with some of the best moments of my life, moments of laughter, friendship and love that no subzero temperatures could ever touch.
Submitted by Christen Clemson, a Trumbull County Farm Bureau member, who has completed her doctorate at the Pennsylvania State University. She farms her family farm in Mecca Township.