Here’s the problem with snow: I’m supposed to like it. I mean, everybody does, right? I’m supposed to get excited and talk about making snowmen and snow angels and throwing snowballs and… I can’t. I just don’t have it in me!
I got back minutes ago from driving my car down the steep hill that leads from where I live to…well…the rest of the world. I parked it in a friend’s driveway in the hope that the roads down there MIGHT be clear enough in the morning for me to get to Switzerland for radiation. As I was trekking back up the steep hill, as bundled up as an amateur Everest climber, I had a flashback. It had to do with my family’s traditional “Christmas in Switzerland” trips.
Every year of my childhood, we’d pile into my parents’ flat-nosed VW van (or Ford or Peugeot or Renault…my dad was big into buying cars!) and head off to Switzerland to spend a week of our holidays in a cow-smelling chalet. The cow smell, I didn’t mind. The snow? Not for me. To my unimpressed young mind, Switzerland came to mean “Icky, icky, ICKY white stuff all over everything.” If I’d been allowed to sit inside and just watch the snow falling, it might have been a different story. But, for reasons I don’t really understand, my parents considered snow to be some sort of license to exercise—and outdoors, at that! Which means that the white stuff became synonymous with frozen eyelashes, sweaty undershirts and wet socks in freezing-cold boots. My aversion to snow is so strong that, when I wrote a short story a couple years ago about my dad’s battle against leukemia, I recounted my reaction to his diagnosis in these terms: “It felt like I was four years old again, too small for this icy reality and unsure that I could pull my heavy sled all the way to the top of the big hill ahead.” Yup. That’s how fond my memories of sledding are. Seriously.
So the fact that it’s been snowing for the past couple of days doesn’t particularly put me in a mood to frolic. It puts me in a mood to take my trusty salt-shaker outside and sprinkle the steps with snow-repellant. Which I just did, much to the amusement, no doubt, of my snow-loving neighbors. But tomorrow will come (probably whitely) and life will go on—it must—despite snow and all the hurdles it throws in our way. Sometimes we wish we could stop facing our challenges for a while, just until our eyelashes thaw, our undershirts dry and our feet get warm again… But life’s battles don’t always allow for that kind of luxury.
We used to take our dog, Coca, on Christmas trips to Switzerland. And while I’d trudge through knee-high snow pulling ridiculously heavy, home-made sleds bearing names like “Blue Streak,” “Oh Canada,” and “Black Mariah” up slippery slopes for WHO KNOWS WHAT valid reason, I’d watch Coca. The snow was deeper than he was tall, but it didn’t stifle his enthusiasm. Why did he keep leaping up and down those hills? Even shaking and panting with exhaustion, he just kept on going.
Simple: it’s because we were all on that hill with him, living our climbs and descents around him. There’s an obvious parallel there to my current medical challenge and the friends who are living alongside me as I pull this increasingly heavy sled up the six-week hill… But the chief image in my mind as I dragged myself up the real hill outside my house tonight, concentrating on deep breaths and clean language, was of Jesus standing at the top and coaxing me forward with words like “Be still” and “I am with you” and “It won’t be much longer now.” I don’t have to like the snow any more than I have to like the radiation, but the good news is that it’s fleeting. And to buoy me as I trudge uphill, pulling an imaginary pink sled called “Cancer Twofer” behind me, He has given me companions who are knee-deep beside me, lending their enthusiasm and comfort to a process that would otherwise be exhausting and dreary. Some of them are adults—others are students. They have been bright-parka’d playmates to this up-to-her-ears-in-snow “Coca”…and I am so, so grateful for them!
It’s Thanksgiving week. How appropriate that the weatherman has given me a reminder that gratitude sometimes takes effort! But learning to peer around the giant snowball in our path and find the treasures lurking there is by far the most productive of winter activities. And it doesn’t even require that we dress up like the Michelin Man in Antarctica!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone… Take an extra run on those sleds for me!
Full disclosure: The pictures above were graciously loaned to me by unsuspecting photographers who listed them on Google images! …mostly because photographing snow requires going out in it.
The following, however, are all mine!
Still trying…but this time the whole bunch isn’t cooperating!
Finally! Take that, Autumn! Stealth photography at work…
We decided that they needed some Native American names, so Josh is now Bear, Morgan is Puddles, Jenna is Mountain Gazer, and Shipley is Sippy Cup. Can’t remember Autumn’s…
Meghan and Eliza came over on another night to watch a movie, but when both of my hand-me-down DVD players failed, we ended up having to crowd around my laptop for viewing…