In Florida our weather can be unpredictable. Those who live here know that it usually doesn’t get very cold until at least January. This can make celebrating the holiday season in our usually warm December feel like something is missing. As you decorate with snowmen and listen to the song “Let It Snow”, it can be challenging to really feel the spirit of the season when you’re still wearing flip-flops.
However, this year I am astonished to find on this December 1st morning, frost all over the ground and on the roofs. After looking out the window, I immediately crawled back into bed to warm my feet from the cold wood floor. As I laid there I thought about my favorite Tori Amos song, “Winter” and a line from the lyrics that goes, “I get a little warm in my heart when I think of winter.” Then I realized there are many things from winters past that do make my heart feel warm.
I remember getting up early for the school bus. Applying layer after layer to prepare for the cold air. I would put on my backpack and walk to the bus stop up the hill on the corner. There my childhood best friend would be waiting for me. She was always all smiles bouncing around. Then I hated the cold and would be scowling behind my turtleneck. I wouldn’t be able to move I was so frozen, but she would say, “Jump around, so you can get warm!” Then I would roll my eyes and say, “Are you crazy? It’s too cold to move!”
When I was even younger I took my first horseback ride during the winter time. My daycare was closed that day, so I got to tag along with my brother and sister. It is one of my favorite memories of my brother Jimmy. I didn’t care at all that it was cold. The riding trail was in the country with ponds and dirt roads. The height of the day was when my brother’s date took a swim in the pond! The horse wanted to drink some water and make sure she have some too!
My mother played cards with my Grandma every week. First, we would visit my grandparents bait and tackle shop located next door to their home. At this time of year my Uncle Jackie would cut firewood to bring for sale, which would be stacked high outside. Grandma would be watching TV and Grandpa would be in his black reclining chair. During the cold months they would catch up while I made a bee line for the wood burning stove at the center of the shop. I could smell cork from the fishing poles and hear the tanks filter water as the crickets chirped.
My family never had much money since I was raised by a single mother, therefore, we never did much traveling. However, at 13 years old I was given the opportunity to travel to Canada for Christmas with a friend to see her family. We drove to reach our destination and along the way we stopped in Michigan to sleep for the night. When we arrived it had just began to snow. Everyone piled inside towards the hotel lobby while I stood outside looking up. The snow fell on my face, but it was soft and light. Unlike the heavy rain we receive in the south that by now would have plunked in my eye. I walked around to feel my shoes fall through the snow. When I awoke the next morning the ground was covered with undisturbed white snow. It was breathtaking.
Many years later I can recall really bundling up for the cold in the morning. At least 3 layers to protect me while working in the gardens at school. The campus was located in Milton, a town north of Pensacola, which meant it would be a good deal colder than at my house. When I got there the large fountain would be completely frozen. The sprinklers would have run earlier leaving behind a layer of ice on the plants and ground. As I walked through the mulched paths I could hear the crunch of the frost under my feet. I liked to see how each plant would be outlined in frost, especially a Rose of Sharon that I always walked past that typically had long icicles on it – a rare sight in Florida.
Last year’s winter I worked at a mail order plant nursery a little less north of Pensacola, but still a place that reached lower temperatures. The nursery was located in a rural area where many families had horses, goats, and even turkeys. Alongside the road I traveled, there would be large fields for the horses to graze upon and when very cold would have frost glistening in the sun. It looked so peaceful. The horses would have a blanket on their backs to keep them warm and their breath could be seen as they chewed.
I look forward to the new memories that will be created this winter. Today I will need to pile on the layers to prepare for the cold I will encounter in the garden. It’s always a big transition to this season, but I think everyone has a special place in their hearts for winter.