As I trudge a path through the snow drifts to the mailbox, I see white whisps of smoke curling out of my neighbors’ chimneys. Icicles drip from rooftops decorating houses with silver stalactites resembling tinsel on a Christmas tree. Bunny and deer tracks lead into the wooded park across from my mailbox, and snowplows are whipping through the neighborhood, creating piecrust edges of snow along the roadsides.
This is winter, that frozen span of time that tests one’s mettle. Just how tough will you be this winter? Will you escape to Florida, Arizona, California or Mexico? How many layers of clothing can you pile on your bodies to stay warm and still get exercise walking outdoors? Though we may not be fashionably cool in our plaid, wool lumber jackets, ear flap caps and fur-lined boots, we’re toasty warm. We’ve learned how to dress in this Nanook climate.
And we know we can’t exist in this cold on crisp green salads. Nope, give me pot roast, baked potatoes, lots of squash and other veggies topped off with a hearty dessert, maybe pecan pie, chocolate or carrot cake. There’s nothing delicate about my appetite with this weather! I need sustenance to stay warm.
Remember when we were kids and skated on the ice at the old football field? The city crew would hose down the field to prepare a skating rink kids enjoyed for endless hours each winter. Dripping mittens, heavy with snow crystals, soggily slept on the stove in the warming house. We called those ice balls “dingleberries”: they soaked our mittens. Unwrapping long stripes of colored scarves wrapped round and round our neck and mouth, we’d toss aside our stocking caps with tails and pompons at the tip, open our jackets and shed layers of sweaters. Sitting on wooden benches, as close to the belching blasts of warmth from the hot stove as we could, I’d plead with my pals to “pull my skates” lesssening the stuffed pains of my cramped toes. Hours of skating would do a number on my toes! Often I’d end up on the floor from a friend’s vigorous pull.
Each winter, dad would take my white figure skates downtown to the local hardware store, to have the steel blades sharpened. Sharp blades were necessary for a skater to cut a “figure 8” on the smooth ice or “crack the whip” with a gang of kids. We’d laugh hilariously as the kid on the tail end of the whip would be tossed into a fluffy snow bank. The whipping group skated on to crack the whip and shed another helpless kid at the end of the whip.
Are you one of the winter escapees? Do you fly south with the birds each November to escape Old Man Winter’s blasts of cold reality? Are you smiling in the sunshine, playing tennis in shorts and T-shirts, grinning at the weatherman’s predictions of snowstorms and frigid weather blanketing the Midwest?
That’s not me. I’m sitting at home by the fire, looking out at the frozen lake. I’m getting ready to don my bib apron and find my splattered recipes demanding plenty of butter, sugar, white flour and sweet vanilla. This is the season to bake sweet smells and tantalizing tastes. Just thinking about those 17rings of marzipan cake of the krensekakke, I’m already salivating. It’s time to search for the tiny flags of Scandinavia and the states to decorate the creation so I’m ready for my annual St. Lucia neighborhood party on Dec. 13. Thirty or 40 friends in their Lucia candle crowns will gather to drink coffee, munch on sweets, laugh and chat all morning. In Minnesota, some of us enjoy winter! Celebrate the season!