Sunday Morning


If we were having coffee this morning, I’d invite you to sit in the rocking chair by the window so you could see the glorious sunlight on this beautiful morning. We’ve just had our first snow of the year, and brilliance of the sun gleaming off that pure white surface is a wonder to behold.

Aw, who am I kidding? I’d give you the rocking chair because whoever sits there will be blinded by the glare on sunlight on new snow, and I have a headache.

Yes, I am a horrible hostess. Does that really surprise anyone?

I hate snow. Loathe it. Despise it. Awful, nasty, slippery stuff. If I didn’t love Michigan so much the rest of the year, I’d head south at the first opportunity. But not too far south – my sister lived in Florida for a while, and she told us horror stories about Palmetto bugs and lizards dancing on the screens.

I have to admit that the first snowfall of the year always puts me in a nostalgic mood. It really is beautiful. As long as I’m safe and warm inside and don’t have to go anywhere.

The funny thing about winter is that everyone seems to have stories about how bad winters used to be. “These storms nowadays are nothing like the ones we had when I was a kid!” they’ll declare, and I have to wonder if it’s a symptom of Global Warming or if we all just get selective memory as we get older.

My mom used to tell stories about the Blizzard of ’67. It was so warm that morning that Dad went to work in his “shirtsleeves” as she put it. In other words, coatless in January.  She and Grandma sat outside in their slippers watching the baby play on a blanket, as the story goes.

Over the years, I’ve figured out that there were probably no slippers involved; that was just her way of saying that it was nice enough to go without boots. I’ve also figured out that the baby playing on the blanket must have been me.

The snow hit so hard and so fast that there were people who didn’t get home from work for days. They stayed where they were when the snow hit. Seven people died statewide as a result of that storm.

For me, though, the biggie was the storm of 1978, when I was in seventh grade. It was known as the “White Hurricane” and lasted for five days. I lived in Portage at the time, and we knew it was big because they closed Western Michigan University and Upjohn. Nothing ever made them close Upjohn.

I remember that specifically because my mom worked for Upjohn, and that meant she stayed home with us for all of the snow days during that storm. All of them.

Nobody could drive in that nightmare.  After a few days, some of the dads collected money and shopping lists and drove their snowmobiles to the nearest convenience store for things like milk and bread.

The snowdrifts almost reached the roof of our little one-story house. I really wanted to leap from the roof into the deepest drifts, but our neighbor, the minister, was keeping a pretty close eye on me and kept calling Mom every time he thought I was trying something too dangerous.

I had my first kiss in that snowstorm. All of the neighborhood kids bundled up and met in Lexington Circle for snowball fights and games of King on The Mountain. We played until we were numb and the streetlights came on, and someone dared Donnie to kiss me under a streetlight. I remember that there were runny noses and chapped lips involved, and I went home wondering why people made such a fuss about kissing.

Where were you to stop that dangerous activity before it started, Reverend Buwalda?

We really don’t seem to have winters like that anymore, but they’re still bad enough. I hate driving in it or walking in it or knowing that the people I care about are out in it. I hate bundling up in layers and smashing my hair under a hat, and I really hate the fact that I’ve already slipped and hit the ground hard already once this year.

But for today, safe and warm and cozy in my too-warm apartment, I have to admit it’s awfully pretty out there.

I wonder if the neighbor kids will play King on The Mountain or exchange sloppy kisses under the streetlights.

What about you? What are some of your favorite winter memories? What’s the biggest snowstorm you remember?

Be sure to visit Diana over at Part-Time Monster to link up and see what some other bloggers have had to say with their weekly coffee share.  Thanks to Diana for hosting the #coffeeshare posts!

Of Water, Ice and Fog

In the water I am beautiful.
― Kurt Vonnegut

I grew up near Lake Michigan, although I really prefer to say that I grew up in Lake Michigan.  According to family stories, I swam in the big lake before I walked, and getting me out of the water at the end of the day was a challenge that often involved screeching, kicking, splashing and a basic all-around kerfuffle on all fronts.

On land, I was clumsy and slow-moving.  I tripped over my own feet and bumped into doorframes.  My family used to marvel at the way I managed to fall upstairs or stumble off the edge of the stage into the orchestra pit; I would skid on freshly-waxed floors or walk into low-hanging tree branches, and to this day I still cannot walk safely into a room with throw rugs.

But all of that vanished as soon as I hit the water.  I was in my element. I could glide beneath the surface, change directions, and stay under long enough to send my aunts into a panic.  When I dove and kicked in the water, my body would move along so gracefully that I felt long and lean and beautiful.  Strong.  It was the only place where I could be fluid and lovely in my movements.

I feared nothing in the water.  Oh, my aunts taught me early on to respect the Lake and all of its power, but not to fear it.  It was almost as if I had lake water in my veins instead of blood.


But time passes.  Little girls grow up and have to come out of the water eventually, changing and growing just as the lake changes with each passing season.  There is less time to swim and play and be beautiful in water; more time to buckle down and find a job, face life’s challenges, accept a life on dry land.

In the winter, Lake Michigan doesn’t freeze over in a nice, smooth sheet like a pond or inland lake.  It freezes in great jagged peaks and mounds that hide dangerous crevasses and air pockets.  It is beautiful and sometimes deadly.  A hiker out for an adventurous climb can sometimes disappear without a trace, without a cry.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth and Haley Andre
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth and Haley Andre

It takes courage to tackle the lake in its frozen form.  Courage that I lack.  I’ve never walked the ice or braved the pier in winter.  I’ve stayed safely on shore, no matter how ugly and clumsy that made me feel.


If we’re not careful, we can spend too many years standing on shore because it is just too scary to take a chance on the unknown.  We can congratulate ourselves on our wisdom in avoiding those hidden hazards; pat ourselves on the back for being the smart ones who know better than to take a silly risk.  We may miss out on some of the fun, we say smugly, but at least we will never disappear through a crevasse or air pocket without a trace, without a cry.

And then we wake up one morning and face the fog on the beach, only to realize that the ice is gone and we’ve missed our chances.   Opportunities can evaporate like the mist that drowns out the sunlight, and the mournful wail of the foghorn sounds like a lament of “Too late!  Too late!”

I want to swim again in summer, and feel beautiful once more.  I want to take off my practical shoes and not worry about how I look in a bathing suit, and I want to plunge beneath the surface again. And in the winter, I want to bundle up and take a chance.  For once in my life, I want to take a risk and climb on the ice with everyone else, before I disappear without a trace, without a cry.

I am ready for the ice in my veins to thaw into lake water.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly writing challenge: “Ice, Water, Steam.”

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