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Waiting for Winter

Saturday was the first day of basketball practice for Thing2.  Our basketball Saturdays are a lot like the rest of our Saturdays, except they start a lot earlier.  The odd thing is, that even with the addition to our Saturday to-do’s (a run to the dump, breakfast at Bob’s, and beyond), the early start to the day often leads to a fuller Saturday.  Yesterday, however, the extra hours let us do just enough to feel a little incomplete when we finally headed home.

No one thing on our schedule carved out that hollow feeling.  At the end of the day, however, we all felt it.  We’re still waiting for winter.

This is one of our only weekends without company or somewhere to go, so we decided to take care of a home improvement shopping enjoying some holiday activities.  So, once we got tired of the traveling circus act that is Thing1 and Thing2 (our 12 and 6 year-old boys) at a hardware store, we decided to head to a holiday craft fair hosted by a friend before cutting down our Christmas tree at the local tree and wool farm.

As we drove from Vermont to Saratoga, NY and back, we all noted the holiday decorations, but there was one glaring omission from the scenery.    We mind it too much on our drive, but as we shed our jackets between stores, it began to nag at all of us a bit more.  We passed a bank broadcasting the forty degree temperature, and the Big Guy broke the ice.

“It’s downright balmy,”  he commented as we passed a barren field.

“It’s the third mud season this year,” I replied.  He nodded and we both sighed.  We noted the mugginess again as we went to the craft fair, initially hunching in that traditional winter pose to protect our body heat and then standing upright as we remembered it just wasn’t that cold outside.

We’ve been having this conversation off and on for a few weeks – as I suspect, based on national forecasts, much of the country is.  But when you live in a state that depends on winter weather for its economy and even part of its identity, a December that isn’t that cold outside is an event – and not always a pleasant one.  This is the second un-Vermonty December in a row, and the kids who are old enough to participate in the statewide Junior Instructional Ski Program (JISP) have already been watching the skies and the weather forecasts for weeks.  There are even signs at some borders bidding visitors to Vermont to pray for snow.

My own life revolves around winter more than I care to admit.  I’m waiting for the snow pack that will slowly trickle down the mountain in the spring and summer, preventing me from needing to water my garden most of the year.  I’m waiting for the opportunity to bundle up the kids for the guaranteed energy burn that only a few hours in two feet of snow can bring.  I’m waiting to strap on my snow shoes and breathe in mountain air made more crisp by a coating of powder sugar.

But, hoping that getting our Christmas tree up would get all of us feeling more like winter, we decided to stop at the nearby tree farm on the way home.  Like most transactions around here, this one began with a lengthy (according to the kids) conversation with the farm owner about mutual acquaintances, the scuttlebutt from the country store, where the deer are, how much were the trees, and, of course, the weather.  This time it was the farmer who brought up the 800 pound snowplow in the room, and the mere mention of the missing snow made all of us a bit somber.

The Big Guy and Thing1 ditched their coats as we trudged out to the foggy, soggy field, sizing up the trees.  The farmer followed us offering his opinion here and there, and we all took turns sawing the chosen tree.  Upright, it had looked like the perfect size for our living room, but after we felled it and the Big Guy and the farmer hoisted it on the car, we realized it was huge.

Dwarfed by its cargo, our family wagon looked like something out of ‘Christmas Vacation’, and we all started to laugh.  It took twenty minutes to get the tree secured and say our goodbyes, and by the time we pulled away from the tree farm we were all laughing.

The paved road quickly disappeared, letting us know we had arrived in our hometown.  The Big Guy drove slowly, mindful of the pointy projectile on our roof.  The muddy mess that is our town road sobered us a bit, but as we passed a friend’s house, Thing1 brightened.

“That’s the best sledding hill in the world!”  he proclaimed pointing to the mountain behind our friend’s house.  “It’s a huge climb, but it’s totally worth it.  I can only do it five or six times before I have to come in for a drink. (I want to be 12 again someday.)”

“That’s a great party,” the Big Guy responded, and we smiled in anticipation of the annual sledding party in early that usually marked our last big winter social event.  Then both of us quieted, remembering that there had been no party last year.

“I hope there’s one this year,”  said Thing1, resting his chin on his hand as he gazed out the window.  We said little else the rest of the way home.