Twenty-eight glorious inches of snow have accumulated in my neighborhood in the past three days. The trees create enameled ivory frames around the evening’s January Christmas lights. The air is crisp as newly washed sheets and the golden moon takes in all that is good on Earth.

Except for the crunch crunch crunch of my snow boots, it’s a silent night. Why is it that I want to skip and sing “On the Good Ship Lollipop” at the top of my lungs for all the neighbors to hear? Why do my two adored rescue dogs avoid the shoveled sidewalks to instead jump with wild abandon into the mounds of flaky snow? I lay down my cane, drop to my back on a stranger’s pristine crystal covered yard, and make a perfect snow angel. My dogs tear around me like they’ve just discovered an enormous Paleozoic bone. I’m blissful; for tonight, I’m frolicking in my childhood’s snowy white playground.

Is this feeling something that comes from growing up in a place where it snows abundantly every winter? A place where snow becomes just a part of people’s lives and an absolute necessity at Christmas? Heck, I’d rather shovel the sidewalk than be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen by a long shot. I feel mighty and self-reliant when I confidently maneuver my station wagon on snow covered roads to arrive at my desired destination. When doing substitute work in Portland, the school secretaries marveled, “I can’t believe you made it here!” There were two inches of snow on the road. For gawd’s sake!

Yet nothing comes close to the power we kids felt when we hauled our sleds and cardboard boxes to the woods to brave the treacherous sliding hills or accomplished a backward aerial jump skating at the neighborhood ice rink. Injuries were given a dose of mercurochrome and slapped with a Band-aid; then we were good to go. Add the helmetless boys from my elementary school clacking pucks into the goal as they played hockey in sub zero weather and I defy anyone, even Superman, to match that kind of single-minded courage.

How many people get to experience the childhoods my pals and I did? It wasn’t without its challenges and believe me, I know from first hand experience. (My dad was an MP in WWII and my mother loved to push his mean button.) But we were not addicted to burying our faces into mobile phones to the point of running into a tree while walking to school. The only burying we did was when we slipped on an icy sidewalk and did a face plant into a snowbank.

When my British friend came to visit, she determined that we grew up in a “bloody pahk.” And it’s true, our feet skipped and cycled over every inch of our nature-filled park of lakes and hills, towering oaks and Ojibwe paths along the mighty Mississipp.

Lately I’ve been forced to endure the painful loss of some of my dearest friends. I’m not good at it. It’s wounding. I scream and cry and shout “Why him? Why her?” It is unfathomable to me as I knew them when we were young - vital and agile and so alive. Now, after experiencing another loss along with the knowledge that another friend is very sick, I’m beginning to accept that this is how it goes - the freaking circle of life.

In a message to me, a friend wrote, “You know, I remember when our parents began talking about their friends beginning to die. Now here we are - but it came so fast and it’s so sad - so shocking - but now it’s our turn.

Cue: The fierce stomp of one snow-covered boot.

Until it’s my turn, I intend to continue making a fool of myself on the dance floor at the “Gravel Bar'' where we have a place in the Ozark Mountains. Yes, phony metal knees and chubby derriere be damned, I’m getting down when those aging rockers get out their instruments and impress the hell out of this music old teacher. I will always search the skies on Christmas Eve. No, I will “not go gentle into that good night”. I will dress up in an outrageous costume, blast ghoulish dance music, and make my yard a Halloween wonderland for the one hundred local children who ring my doorbell every year. (Last year, one very scary three-year-old witch refused to leave my house along with her parents. She was dancing with euphoric abandon to “Burn, baby burn, Disco Inferno” in my driveway.) I live for this stuff.

Then one night, after the friends I grew up with and I are all dead and gone, a child will take her dog for a winter’s walk. The trees will create enameled ivory frames around the night’s January Christmas lights while the rapturous golden moon croons of tender bygone innocence. The child will stop suddenly and in wonderment turn toward the delightful sounds of mid century children sliding down a snow packed hill and smile.

Continue Reading
About the Author

Julie Peterson Freeman, née Wren Dubois, has been spotted in dark piano bars and tiny cafes in the oldest sections of cities around the world. At the beginning of her career, one was most likely to find her strolling the cobbled streets in the 18th Arrondissement of bohemian Paris. I spotted her arm in arm with the notorious Amantine Dupin (better known as George Sand), exiting Le Tagada, a quaint and popular bar among artists and eccentrics in the famed village of Montmartre. It was here where the flâneur was created. Bien sûr, none of this is true, except in Julie’s imagination.

Julie Peterson Freeman
Follow On
More Posts by this author…