Last night, as I hopped out of my truck and cruised, carefully, up the sidewalk to the door, I was reminded of the usual winters in Central Oregon where the biting wind nipped at your fingers making your hands a strange mixture of numb and pain. The wind was blowing and it was a balmy 26 degrees right here in little old Monmouth, Oregon. The wind blew through me. The tiny icy crystal-like snowflakes stung my fingers as they hit my bare hands.
I walked into the house and was instantly grateful I didn't have to carry firewood to be in a warm house. I was grateful I no longer have to walk in the cold to a bus stop nearly a mile away through the sage brush. I was grateful I had a warm dinner waiting for me in the crock pot.
I also thought of all the funny things we did to warm up fingers... putting your cold hands on mom's tummy... the Naugahyde mittens I mentioned before... and socks. Yup. I said socks. When you couldn't find mittens mom would pull socks out of the single sock drawer and shove them on your hands. It really worked! Like mittens, you could ball up your hands and your fingers could work together to keep each other warm.
Losing your mittens never got you out of carrying wood. This was a good thing, for if you didn't carry wood you would not be warm. The only source of heat for the house was the old fashioned wood kitchen stove the gave heat to the "little house" (and mom used to to cook with as well) and what we affectionately called "central heating," a large barrel type wood stove in the middle of the "big house."
I have some great memories of cold mornings. I remember getting up very early and starting fires so that the little kids would wake up to a warm house. I can still start a great fire very quickly, no gasoline needed. I loved warming myself in front of the wood stoves, baking myself on one side and turning around to bake the other side. I burned a hole in my favorite coat doing that.
In junior high my sister and I shared a shed across the yard from the main house because 7 kids was a bit much for the small bedroom that was in "the little house." The shed had a heater... the yard you had to run across, sometimes in your bare feet across the snow, to go to the bathroom did not. Sometimes the pipes would freeze or the ditch that brought water to the cistern would not run water down it because of the cold so you had to shower at school. I hated that. Never been a fan of standing in the middle of a big open shower room butt naked with others or getting dressed in the locker room while everyone stared at you because the only undies your mom found you were "granny pants." Talk about feeling like a loser. So, I went most of my junior high school and early high school years not showering during the winter and only taking "spit bathes" next to the wood stove with water my mom heated up for the purpose of washing.
During my high school years the log house or "big house" was finished enough to move into. My "bedroom" (in quotes because the walls were not finished until after my wedding years later) was on the southeast corner of the house. The wind blew hard on that side of the house. I remember several winter mornings waking to tiny snow drifts on the logs because the wind had blown it through the cracks before we had a chance to chink the logs.
I have this very early memory of walking down the mile long drive after dark to get things from the car with my dad. We had to walk single file, stepping into his footsteps as we went. I remember the world being whiter and and more peaceful than usual. So quiet as we walked. It was bright... nearly as bright a the day time, but it was a different kind of light. It was a blue silver light as the full moon light up the sky and the snow reflected its light making it easy to see everything around us. This is actually one of my favorite memories. The picture in my mind of this memory has inspired many theatre lighting scenes for me.
I think it was the same snow storm that buried the car and my dad had to use a broom handle to find the car. A few years later brought another large storm to the Central Oregon area. This storm came at my birthday. I think I was turning 7 or 8. I was excited. We didn't get much at birthdays and I was sure that that storm came just for my birthday. We were snowed in and couldn't go to school. We got to play and sit by the fire and read for days.
As I drove Lillian to school today and slide through intersections and starts I reminisced about taking my drives test during a big snow storm in Bend. I think the DMV was over behind Payless and some grocery store, neither of which are there anymore. The snow was a couple feet deep. I was driving the family car. A school bus yellow/orange 15 passenger van that my dad got from a school/government auction. We got in the van, and the test giver ask me to go out of the parking lot. He clung to the door handle and the dashboard. His knuckles went white. He asked me to drive down the street and to parallel park between two cars. The snow was still falling. I drove slowly down the street. The back of the van slipped and slid along the rode. I came along side the front car and slowly backed the car into the space, parking the van in one try. The man told me to go back to the DMV. I was done. My mom was shocked to see me. It had only been 10 minutes. She asked if I passed. I didn't know. I just knew he said to go back. He called me to the counter and handed me my license. He said anyone who could park a large van in that weather would be a good driver. I drove us home... and drove my mom everywhere after that until I moved out of the house.
Well, these little stories have been rolling around my brain ever since we got this cold snap. It isn't as cold as those Bend winters of my childhood, nor as cold as the Utah winters of my college years. Still. It's cold. The roads are slick. Very few people around here know what to do when it gets like this, therefore, it's rather dangerous. Now that I am old I still enjoy a good snow day and a small cold snap. I also enjoy a warm house and a nice cup of peppermint tea.