I grew up without winter. For the most part, at least.
Winters in central Texas were brown and chilly, but you never knew when it might hit eighty degrees. In December, we never bothered to ask for a white Christmas. Instead, I would secretly pray that it wouldn’t be so warm we’d need the air conditioner. Even at eight years old, I found air conditioning very depressing.
As a young girl I read every one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books repeatedly. But I read The Long Winter more than any other. It isn’t a pretty story, far from it, but something about the extreme cold and snow fed my soul. Even then.
It’s a truism that home is where you come from. Home is where you began.
I disagree. I think home is the place we’re headed. Home is the destination.
Here in my little southern corner of Pennsylvania, winter’s grip is fierce. Not Midwestern or New England fierce, to be sure, but strong enough to leave me feeling more than a little battered. More than a little caged-in.
Replacing the chickens’ frozen water with fresh, I feel like Laura Ingalls herself, but by the fourth trip out to the henhouse the literary novelty has quite worn off.
And yet I love winter.
Recently, I dropped the baby in her father’s arms and escaped out the front door with my other daughter, my firstborn. I don’t have ice skates of my own, but I carried hers. We opened the gate in the split-rail fence and we half-slid, half-stumbled down the sledding hill until we could cross the street to the frozen pond.
I stood in the snow, my toes slowly going numb, and I watched my daughter slice one foot and then the other across the ice. I said to myself, “This is Pennsylvania. This is our home.” The word Pennsylvania felt awkward. Perhaps I should blame my frozen lips. Or perhaps not. We are still learning the contours of this place and these people.
She circled the perimeter three times before I made her come in. I might lose my toes, I shouted.
My poor toes. They really did hurt, buried in snow like that, but it was a good kind of pain. Like the sharp, stinging realization that comes at the end of a very long walk. You know you’ve gone farther than you can handle, but it will be worth it. You are so close.
Three times around may have been too much. My daughter fell to her knees only part-way through our climb back up the sledding hill.
You’ll make it, I said. We’re nearly there.
Look! I can see our home from here.
*all photos taken by yours truly (with apologies to our talented, much beloved Photographer)