Sarah E. Kucharski photo
Last winter was the snowiest winter I remember since 1993, when “The Storm of the Century,” struck and brought us two feet of fluffy, white, transportation crippling, power outing snow. We watched it fall for hours on end, the round patio table on our front deck mounding higher and higher so that it came to look like a giant coconut cake by the time the snow stopped.
I reveled in the time off from school—even though it meant days on end trapped in the house or at least as far from the house as I could tromp in a snow suit and boots. Normally it was no extraordinary feat to walk to my best friend’s house about a half mile down the road, and given the two feet of snow I could have employed a sled; however, hiking back uphill would have been murder, and so I relied on my parents to be my playmates.
Without electricity we relied on our woodstove to heat the house. I loved snuggling up beside the stove. My mother and I made dinners on the stove’s cook top, and being lucky enough to have the ingredients on hand, we made my grandmother’s fudge, which was all the better for the extra amount of effort.
My father and I embarked on building the greatest sled run ever. Commanding the ubiquitous disc sled, we started at the upper wood pile, sliced between the trees, slid through the backyard, teetered on the edge of the bank, shot down the hill, became airborne, slapped back down into the snow, and careened past the swing set at which point all appendages were used to create enough drag and friction to stop us from heading off the next bank thick with trees and rocks. During the night the below freezing temperature would harden the sled run into an icy track like the Olympic luge sledders would use. Without an Olympian’s skill or fancy equipment, my father and I were more like Calvin and Hobbes on our wild rides through the snow.
Last year, when the snow began falling on a Friday morning, I was lucky enough to be home curled up with our three cats and Bruce, the hound. My husband had gone to work despite the forecast. I called to casually inform him that the snow was starting to really stick at the house and he might want to consider heading home. Time continued to pass, and as the snow accumulated my weather updates to him became more frequent and increasingly pointed. By then it was too late, and he had to abandon his car at the office and hitch a slippery ride home in the boss’ four-wheeled drive. He arrived slightly sheepish but grinning, having stopped by the grocery store for an oil lamp and beer.
The power didn’t go out until the next day, when snow covered branches snapped lines and transformers blew. Without a woodstove to keep us warm, we bundled up and headed to the fire pit in the backyard. We stacked logs left from summer’s campfires and struck a match. As the flames jumped higher, we settled into our camp chairs, opened a few libations and watched as Bruce wallowed in the snow, packing his nostrils with white. We remained outside until time for dinner and were pondering our provisions when it occurred to me that I had a perfectly good fire over which to cook. Outside came ham, potatoes and some frozen tamales, which were all wrapped in foil and tossed in the fire. We ate huddled up in the kitchen by the light of the oil lamp and then went to bed early, cuddling with the animals in the house’s most central bedroom, which had been slightly warmed by the heat from 20 odd candles.
And so for me winter is a time for family, for departing from the normal routine, for making do with whatever it is with which one has been endowed and celebrating it. These themes are reflected in this issue’s stories. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.