I have one other symptom of the forthcoming deep freeze—I can’t get enough sleep; even when I wake up from a nap, I want another one right away. We haven’t even had our first frost warning and my body is behaving like it is the middle of February.
Last Monday—Canadian Thanksgiving day—I was so cold that I began having fantasies about warm-sounding words (moomba, lamaya) and announced that I was going south (alone if I have to) to escape the cold (which hasn’t arrived yet…except in my bones). My sister finally said, “Grow up. It’s only been cold for a week.” Of course, she was right. I pursed my lips in frustration because I couldn’t think of a good comeback.
As I shivered my way through our family’s Thanksgiving apple-picking expedition, I looked up at the sky and felt the urge to shake Mother Nature by the shoulders, asking Why? Why? WHY? Why does it have to get cold? Why must it snow? Why black ice and blizzards and frozen pipes and salt stains on our leather boots? Why?
I wish I didn’t know the answer. But I do. We need winter to help us slow down. As the Wheel of the Year turns, our energy shifts, enabling us to gain a new perspective, let go and change alongside the earth. Winter is a gift; a time for the fields to lay fallow and for families to sit together, quietly, and reflect on what has passed and what is to come.
This morning, I woke up ready to embrace Mother Nature’s frosty gift to all living things. At 6 a.m., I poked my head out from under the covers and didn’t complain about my aching joints and runny nose. I rolled over, and began to drift back to sleep. Then, I felt my daughter’s cold hand on my shoulder. “Stroller?” She wanted me to get out of bed and find her baby stroller so that she could give her teddy bear a ride. Even though it was pitch black outside and frigid inside, she was ready to play. She was completely indifferent to her wintry mama wrapped in blankets, sprawled across the bed. When I didn’t get out of bed, she ripped through the house like a miniature Tazmanian devil, dumping out the contents of the kitchen drawers and over-turning any piece of furniture that she could tip.
And then finally it hit me. What was bothering me was not that winter was on it’s way but that my daughter didn’t seem to notice. Here I was, succumbing to the gradual inertia of the cold season while she was acting like it was mid-July. I began to feel like I was at a junior high school dance where everyone is terminally incapable of moving to the same tempo, leading to a roomful of knocked knees and trodden-upon toes. Only in my world, the dance doesn’t end until May.
It’s strange to be out of sync with your child. And this season, Ayla and I seem to be occupying different corners of the universe. I want to sleep and she wants to run around. I want to eat and she’s lost her appetite. When I feel hot and groggy from the effects of our heating system while Ayla is cold. I love the feeling of cozy sweaters and coats; she seems happiest in an undershirt and diaper. I like taking long walks when it gets cold; Ayla spends a few minutes outdoors and shouts “Cold, cold” and climbs into the stroller (I know she’s not cold because she’s wearing three layers on top, tights, warm boots and a snow jacket). I can’t wake up without a hot cup of tea and she wants frozen smoothies for breakfast with chopped up tropical fruits. Some days, I feel like I’m on the North Pole and she’s on the Equator and there is giant, un-crossable ocean between us.
Once I embraced the winter spirit, I longed to share it with her. As much as I detest the cold, I am willing to brave sub-zero temperatures for the sheer joy of teaching Ayla to ski, skate and toboggan. I remember how much I loved winter as a child; my sister and I would spend hours building snow forts, crashing our sleds into trees, tackling moguls on the ski slopes. I especially loved the apres-ski—the hot chocolates, the warm fires, the hot baths. Now that I’m no longer a child, I ache to share everything I’ve learned to love about winter with Ayla; I want us to hold hands and fall backwards into a soft snow bank and then carve snow angels and make snow balls and eat mouthfuls of snow.
Last winter, Ayla was still a baby. We shared a lovely winter; but it was on my terms. I strapped her into the Moby Wrap and zipped my winter coat around her and took her out into the cold. This year, Ayla is a totally different being. She has learned to express her individuality in words and deeds. And from what I have seen thus far, she hates winter and wants nothing to do with it. Even worse, she is in denial that it is getting cold and that it will only get colder. Last night, she violently tossed the book, A Snowy Day across the room making it abundantly clear what she thinks of my attempts to celebrate winter.
Seasonal change is new to her and toddler-hood is new to me. It’s anyone’s guess how we’ll fare this winter. Perhaps she’ll bow to the snow gods and my winter fantasies will all come true. Or maybe we’ll pack up and head south—where Ayla’s liable to develop heatstroke and want to go back home. Or maybe, we’ll reach a compromise. I’ll spend the winter on the balcony building a giant snow fort while Ayla will dance naked on the other side of the sliding doors, sipping a smoothie and waiting for spring...