The sound of winter

Winter is all around us now, and I find myself taking great joy in simple pleasures. The snow lies thick and heavy on the ground, and I love the way it reflects the moonlight and chases away the night’s shadows. The air smells clean and crisp, and the kids come inside after happy hours playing outdoors with their cheeks shining pink with cold and their eyes sparkling with delight as they press their cold fingers against my bare skin just to make me howl in protest.

And I do howl. Loudly, and amidst many giggles.

But best of all is when I stand in the fading light of afternoon listening to the hiss and scrape of skates against the ice, the slap of a wooden hockey stick, and the unmistakable sound that marks a puck that missed the goal and hit the boards instead, to a chorus of groans and hastily shouted redirections.

Over on my side of the little rink that dominates our neighbourhood park in winter, I trudge across the ice from one side to the other in my sturdy and warm winter boots, pushing a shovel before me, taking my turn at scraping the non-hockey side of the ice clean while kids swirl around me in a jumble of colour and sound.

I wish I could say it was all a pleasure, but it often isn’t. Falls happen. Bruised bums and knees and elbows abound. Collisions are not uncommon, and neither are tears, or even moments of absolute frustration when one swears they are done with skating for all time, for real this time, Mom, I swear it.

Until the next day, that is, when the ice beckons us yet again.

I cannot skate any longer. I was never very good at it, if the truth be known, but I enjoyed it, and I pouted more than a little when it was suggested by wise heads in the medical field that my knees and back and neck would not be best served by my strapping on skates. For some reason, it struck me hard this year that my kids have never, ever seen me in a pair of skates. That I was banned from the sport before they came along. This is nothing new, and I have no idea why this year it hurts, but it does.

Some days, I know that I can do this. That I can do anything. That even though skating is yet another one of those things that I will never be able to do with them, I can still share it with them.

I am that mom, you see. I’m the one who sits on the sidelines, cheering them on, teasing them, laughing with them (and at them — let’s be honest here). I hug them after each success, and I hug them after each failure too.

I’m also the mom who grabs a shovel and clears away the snow to make the ice easier to skate on, because I can do that much at least. I always try to take the metal shovel. It clears the ice quite nicely, cutting closer to the surface than the plastic ones, but that isn’t the reason I choose it above all the others.

When I move along the ice with that metal shovel in my hands, it just sounds right. It whispers sweet nothings in my ears. It scrapes along with that particular metallic hiss that hints at skate blades and speed and the rush of wind biting at your cheeks.

It sounds like skating, that shovel, and it lets me, just for a moment, close my eyes and pretend that I am skating. That I am the mom I wish I could be.

I love that shovel. Whenever we go to the rink, it calls out to me: “Come, come push me across the ice. Come listen to me sing the song of winter.”

I do, and it sings, and I listen.

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