Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I smell the spaghetti sauce before I see the house. The aromas of garlic and oregano lure me home. I want to run, but the darkness and the snow are falling fast, and I must be careful not to slip on the ice. My breath plumes in front of me as I quicken my pace.

I squeeze through the shortcut between our garage and the neighbor’s fence and come around the back of the house. The kitchen windows are steamed up from the cooking and laughing going on within, and I can’t wait to get inside and get warm.

My heavy boots crunch the ice and snow as I climb the steps. The winter chill and I burst in together through the back door, and I quickly close it shut. My mom and grandma are there making dinner together, the spaghetti sauce recipe we all know by heart. Their chatter and laughter start to warm me up, and I want this cozy feeling to last forever.

Although the walk home from Kelly’s house is short, I’m already frozen. I take off my hat and shake the ice chunks from my hair. I know my cheeks are red without being able to see them.

I slowly, painfully remove my thick gloves. My hands burn and prickle as they thaw in the warm kitchen. The prickling and burning subside after a few moments, and I’m able to wiggle my fingers. Then I slowly, painfully remove my boots so my toes can thaw, too.

Winter at my Dad's old house in Michigan

It occurred to me recently that my son, Quinn, will not have the same memories of winter that I have. My childhood in Michigan will be much different than his in California. Families here “go to the snow” in the winter, which entails driving a few hours into the Sierra Mountains. Some families drive only as high as they have to to find a good sledding hill. Others take elaborate ski vacations around Lake Tahoe. “Going to the snow” requires at least several hours in the car, if not a whole weekend trip.

That means Quinn will never wake up and see fat snowflakes slowly falling outside his bedroom window. He’ll never frantically put on his snowsuit and race outside to make snow angels in the fresh powder before breakfast.

He will never build a snowman or snow fort in our back yard.

He will never jump up and down in celebration in front of the TV because the morning news listed his school among those closed for a snow day.

He will never ice skate down the middle of our street.

Quinn will never stand under melting icicles hanging from our roof and let them drip cold water on his tongue.

He will never hide behind the garage waiting for his daddy to come home… only so he can annihilate him with snow balls when he gets out of the car.

He will never ride on an inner tube attached to a friend’s bike and get pulled down the icy street.

Quinn won’t come home to find our kitchen windows steamed up against the cold.

My younger brother, Aaron, digging in the snow (2000). 

Yes, Quinn’s memories of winter will be very different from mine, and that made me sad at first. But there’s a definite upside, too.

Quinn will never wait for the school bus in sub-zero temperatures.

He will never wear “moon boots” to school and have to carry extra shoes with him.

He will never drive down treacherous icy roads after a high school football game with his teenage friends.

Quinn will never have to shovel the driveway.

He will never be stuck in the house because it’s too cold to be allowed outside, or worse yet, be snowed in for two days.

He will never get his tongue stuck to a flagpole.

Quinn will never hate winter after five months of dreary cold, snow and slush.

Quinn will experience winter entirely differently than I did. We’ll be one of those families that “go to the snow,” so snow will be a novelty to him instead of a daily winter experience. But maybe that will be what makes the snow special for Quinn, and so his winter memories will be happy ones, too. 

What are your favorite childhood winter memories? 

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