Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Envy

I have lived in Texas all my life. Most of the time it is wonderful here, particularly in the Hill Country, but it is hot. Summer heat is a burden all Texans endure and the ability to do so becomes part of our general psyche. It's what makes us "tough." It's also what makes us flee every winter to ski resorts and the other destinations "up north." I like to call it winter envy.

When I started school in the mid-60's, our textbooks were the Ginn Basic Readers. We didn't have Dick and Jane; we had Tom, Betty, Susan and Nan. We lived on the Gulf Coast and never, ever saw snow. The children in our readers made snowmen, rode sleds, skated and had wonderful fun every winter while we sang, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" as if it were a prayer. Each year when the Sears Christmas catalog arrived I would eagerly find the pages with sleds, red sleds in particular, and beg my mother for one. At first she would try to explain to me that you had to have snow to use a sled and we didn't get snow where we lived. I knew this was true, but somehow thought that if I had a sled, it would snow and I would have winter fun like the kids in the readers.

From On Cherry Street, Ginn Basic Readers, 1957

I wanted to build snowmen, big shiny white snowmen like Frosty. On the one day it snowed at home during my school days, we rushed outside, eager to throw snowballs and build our village people. My dreams were finally coming true, even if I didn't have a sled. Of course, when I say it snowed, I am using the term loosely. There was enough snow to cover the ground, barely, and our snowman was full of leaves and twigs. Somehow it just didn't match up.

From On Cherry Street, Ginn Basic Readers, 1957

Since those days I have learned that the reality of winter is not nearly as fun as the Ginn Readers made it seem. It is really cold, like "I could die out here," cold. Snow makes driving dangerous and deadly, and it gets gray and ugly after it has been on the streets a day or two. When I go skiing I keep a constant dull headache from the altitude, and that's not fun either. I see the forecast for the huge storm that is about to hit the northeast, paralyzing all traffic and endangering thousands of lives and think that maybe the relatively balmy 40 degrees outside is fortunate, even if there is no snow. This is my adult self looking at winter.

But deep inside, my child self still has winter envy. The more I think about it, the more I believe that what I want is for winter to be like it was for the children in the readers. I want to be a child in that book. 
Susan laughed and laughed.
"What a funny old snowman!" she said.
"See his cowboy hat go up and down.
Come and look, Mother!"
Just then Tom jumped up.
"It is Tom," said Susan.
"Tom was back of Mr. Snowman all the time."
Mother laughed with the children.
They had a happy time in the snow.

From On Cherry Street, Ginn Basic Readers, 1957



  1. WOOO....Who!!!.....I love the cold weather.....would love some snow here too!!!

  2. I grew up in Missouri with Dick and Jane and several snowfalls each winter. I loved the way the neighborhood looked when it was covered with fresh fallen snow, and I loved playing outside in the first snowfall of the year. After that, it got old pretty fast.