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Cold weather recalls joyful memories

I’m ready for spring. Well sort of.

I usually appreciate a bit of cool weather sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I guess it’s the Norman Rockwell or Currier and Ives images of the holidays that make me nostalgic for frosty mornings, a chill in the air and the faint possibility of a white Christmas. Memories of winter weather around what has always been my two favorite holidays fool me into believing that cold weather is something to be desired.

Temperatures dipped below freezing last week for the first time since last winter. I’m good now. I don’t get along with cold weather as well as I used to, back before my blood got thin and my ability to control shivering muscles at the slightest chill completely disappeared.

I can recall, barely, that my brother and I used to play for hours in the cold, tossing a football in the backyard or dribbling a basketball over our uneven, muddy, rocky outdoor court with nary a complaint about the cold.

We used to hunt rabbits or quail on the coldest days of the year and our only complaint was if we came home empty-handed. We tried to track rabbits following the rare snowfalls that covered upstate South Carolina for a few days each winter.

We rode sleds. We tossed snowballs. We built completely hideous snowmen. We tempted fate by trying to walk the frozen swimming hole on ice too thin to support even small boys. We didn’t talk much about these escapades around adults. Our fingers turned red, as did our noses. Our feet ached with the cold. But we stayed outside until mom made us come in and warm up.

We caught the occasional cold. We had the flu. We lived through much of the winter with runny noses. But we never let cold weather keep us from doing things outside. I guess I’ve gotten soft.

Last weekend Pat and I planted a few pansies. I drilled holes with my electric auger; she plopped the plants in and covered the roots. We watered. We got cold. I couldn’t get in fast enough and parked myself in front of the roaring fire (Gas logs — no one wants me near a chainsaw).

The temperature was probably around 50. What a wimp I’ve become.

I can’t even fish for more than a few hours in cold weather. I get so shivery that the rod shakes wildly, giving the lure a quite unnatural movement that scares fish away or sends them into paroxysms of laughter.

But I still hope for a bit of cold at Christmas. I don’t believe there is any historical reason to assume that Christmas is supposed to be cold. Bethlehem might be cold in December, might not; I’ve never been there.

But cold weather at Christmas is tradition, at least to those of us who live north of the tropics. And it’s a case of nostalgia for me. Some of my best childhood memories come from Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the small house we grew up in near Greenville, S.C.

I remember bagging fruit in the cold foyer of our little country church and then helping distribute it following Christmas Eve services. I remember people bundled up in the pews until enough folks got inside to warm the sanctuary. I recall feeling warm, comfortable and safe.

I remember snuggling under several layers of blankets and homemade quilts, shivering until I trapped enough body heat to keep me warm. I recall often being too excited to sleep on Christmas Eve.

I remember Christmas mornings and hurriedly throwing on clothes to get outside to try out a new toy. And I remember the joy of a large family in a small house, vying for space around a smoky fireplace.

I remember laughing a lot, even in the cold.

Merry Christmas.

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