December 21st is always the first day of winter in Nebraska. If I don’t have to get out and drive on snow and ice-covered roads I enjoy winter, sort of like a spectator sport! I used to love winter as a child because it meant that Christmas was coming soon and I would be getting presents from family and Santa. I love getting presents, even now. I don’t think one ever gets too old for presents, do you? I remember many winter’s past when my family lived on a small ranch in the western part of Nebraska. There was a little pond that would freeze over and the neighbors and their children would come and children and adults alike would skate on the ice. I was too little and so I didn’t have the pleasure of skating but sat on my Dad’s shoulders as he skated. We also had sled parties too where the neighboring children would bring sleds, if they owned one, and we slid down a hill that was near our home. Such laughter and fun and the Dad’s raided the barn for shovels and inter-tubes and anything that could be used to sled down the hill. Oh how fun it was to participate. We also built snowmen and had snowball fights. Our Mom’s made hot chocolate with large marshmallows and hot soup with crackers to warm us up after the day of snow fun. I think that these may be some of my first memories of winter. Of course there were many other memories.
I remember one year when I was about three or four that we invited some of the people from church who had children to come out and play in the snow after church one Sunday. We had moved to a farm by then and didn’t have the lovely hill to sled down or the little pond to skate on any longer. But we did have a small creek running through the property near the house and there was a small embankment that went down to the creek. We would use it to slide down but we had to be careful because there was a barbed wire fence at the bottom. It was not unusual for some of us to get tangled in it and rip our snow-pants but I don’t remember any real injuries, probably because our Mother’s warned us constantly to be careful! We ended the afternoon with popcorn and hot cocoa as well as cookies and cakes and later hot chili soup for supper. We placed our wet clothes on the floor in front of the heating stove to get them dry. In those days there was no central heating like there is in many homes today, and the clothes dryer was the clothesline outside so wet stockings, gloves and mittens, and scarves were left by the heating stove to dry. People were practical then and brought extra clothes to change into so that the children would remain dry and warm. Such fun times to remember.
My parents didn’t have television and if they had there would have been only one channel to watch so our winter evenings were centered around quiet activities such as reading or playing with our toys in the living room which was the warmest room in the house. We went to our bedrooms mostly to sleep because it was cold in them. Every night my parents read us a bedtime story from Unger’s Bible for Children as we sat on the floor in front of the stove. I remember how sleepy I would get and as I listened to the story I would watch the fire dancing in the window of the stove. It seemed magical and so soothing. One of the most comforting things I remember from my childhood was the warmth of gathering around the heating stove and listening to one of my parents read the various Bible stories. We would always beg them to read just one more, one more please, just one more! Often they did until our eyes betrayed us by not staying open any longer. Then it was off to bed. What a loving time, a time that I shall never forget.
It seems that once we got a television our evenings centered around whatever program was coming on that night. By then we had moved to town and were no longer living on a farm or a ranch. City winters were different and not just because of television. We no longer had any hills to use for sledding because my little town was flat as flat could be. My brother loved winter and so he was always devising a way to utilize his sled. I remember one year he tied our dog to the sled and had the dog pull him through the snowy streets on his sled. It was fun for him but soon the dog got tired especially when it became my turn! As we became too big for the dog to pull us then my brother would tie his bicycle to the sled and I would ride it pulling him on the sled and then he would ride it pulling me. I can tell you that was a workout because bicycles are not made for riding in snow! But we would usually follow a path made by some person’s car tire and go for a block or two! And then when he was old enough to drive his car became the sled. He loved nothing better than to scare older ladies into calling the cops because of the crazy driving and sliding he did on the streets of our little town. Funny thing is that he never had an accident, not ever! I didn’t like to ride with him though, remember this was back before seatbelts, so sliding around in the car was as much of a hazard as sliding on the snow and ice! He always told me that he was practicing how to drive on snow and ice-packed roads and I believed him!
When I think back on those special winter fun times I think about how my life has changed so much since then. I don’t ever remember taking my children sledding. We always lived in town where such a pleasure was denied them. I do remember reading bedtime stories to them, but I think once they started school that ritual ended. I remember being busy, always busy, and when I wasn’t busy I was usually ill. Their Dad never took the time to make a snowman with them or do any fun activities because he was always working or studying. I think my children missed out on a lot of quality family time and that is probably my biggest regret in life. Quality family time is important. My son, who is twelve, loves to play in the snow and so far this year we haven’t had enough snow for him to even scoop let alone play in. This has been an unusual December weather wise but since today is the first day of winter there is hope for him to have snow! I wish I were as excited as he is about snow. I think I have had too many car accidents due to snow and ice to get excited. Granted it has been forty years since the last weather-related accident but the scars still emotionally hamper me into not wanting to drive on slick roads! Oh well! I am great at making hot chocolate with marshmallows and cookies for a snack after fun times in the snow for my son. Now that is my job! His is to play in the snow and my granddaughter loves to play in the snow too so if she is here when it snows he will have someone to enjoy snow with!
Memories are always with us whether good memories are bad. I am thankful that I have some good memories of winter with my family while growing up. My life is richer for them. I hope that my children have some good memories as well. I think that spending time together as a family is so important. Even if it is just watching a movie together or playing a game, or making Christmas cookies together, family time is a time to show those we live with that they are valued and important. And today we have the opportunity to spend some time with our loved ones, to make some good winter memories together. In a few days it will be Christmas and we can all make it a good time together if we try just a little. Merry Christmas everyone.
Until next time…Katherine