I’ve lived in this city most of my life, so you’d think I’d be used to our long, brutal winters. But I think I hate winter more every year. Maybe it’s because I’m more crunched for time than ever. It takes too long every morning to bundle reluctant preschoolers into snowsuits and then scrape away whatever snow, frost or ice has accumulated on the van during the night. Plus I hate being cold. I can’t stand the way my nose hairs freeze when I step outside. I hate it when an icy wind whips my hood off my head, as if to say “Hah! You think you can beat me by dressing warmly? Guess again.”
When my sister and I were kids winter wasn’t so bad. My dad often took us skating and cross-country skiing. I complained constantly about being tired and cold, but the effort was worth it when we stopped to rest and Dad would pass out hot chocolate and warm our feet under his sweater. Sometimes we built snow forts in our yard or went sledding on the local hill. When my girls are a little bigger maybe we’ll do some of those things and winter (weekends at least) might seem more tolerable. After all, who can resist the Beavertails they sell on our famous Rideau Canal skateway?
At least it’s the right time of year to be working on my sequel to Sense of Touch. It takes place in the winter of 1947/48 and I decided to set it in the neighbourhood where my dad grew up. Britannia has since been swallowed into a suburb, but in those days it was a cottage community on the outskirts of the city. Some of the cottages were winterized for year-round residents, but they had no indoor plumbing. When I quizzed Dad about his childhood I wondered how the heck my grandmother coped with winter. She had to walk three blocks to fetch water from a spring for drinking and cooking. Bad enough having to trudge out to the back yard to use the toilet! Even on the coldest days she had to hang the wet laundry outside, where it would freeze stiff, and her hands would get chilblains (itchy blisters caused by exposure to cold). Having grown up on a farm, she was probably pretty tough. A lot tougher than me, I guess.
All I can do is hang in and wait for spring – there’s nothing like the euphoria of watching the snow recede and the irises in my front garden poke out of the ground. Just thinking about it, I can already feel the sun warming my shoulders.
For now, you’ll have to excuse me while I shovel the walk.