For the ladies to whom I owe countless bags of hand-me-downs, many cups of tea, and an unutterable number of late-night Dutch Blitz games.
There was a time when winter was magic,
when we dressed for the weather and despised it.
When it mattered how deep the snow was,
because perhaps we'd sink and drown in it.
When half the year was groping along the edge
of a solid pond, clinging to aged tree roots;
pelting missiles of pine-cones from lofty boughs;
plummeting down a slope at a surely dangerous speed,
only to crash into a barrier of hay-bales and wait,
until another sled surfed past us, tossing snow in our faces.
When teasing was painful, and snowballs didn't hurt at all.
Now, we just walk.
With the taste of red wool in our mouths
and the wind blowing up our legs,
we set out with linked arms and bare hands,
ever the intelligent youth, too invincible for mittens.
Bleary stars peer sleepily at us from a smoke-coloured sky,
and the road is but a dark swath carved before us,
the highway glowing ahead. Snow drifts,
wind bites our cheekbones, we stagger.
Perhaps we look drunk, but we're just cold,
dragging each other into ditches of soft powder.
We talk as we slide with Olympian grace;
three times worth a wealth of memories
forming words in frostbitten air.
Recollections of blistering summers,
boys we disliked so much we're still fond of them,
trespassing hallowed cow pastures,
spooky games in dark woods.
Years go by as our feet turn to ice,
and the years to come are planned with laughter.
Our giggles rent the air, and our scarves strangle it;
hair and snot crystallized on our faces. At last,
to the soundtrack of coyotes in distant yards,
we turn to home, frozen and sniffling.
"Walking faster will warm us up."
Maybe our entire lives have been called up,
an hour of embarrassing stories.
Physics and Communism and rude life-guards,
flitting through our brains, tale by tale.
By the time the welcome lights of home are in sight,
the walk has become another snow-globe memory
that ends in a warm kitchen with tea and cards.
They'll ask, as we shake the snow from our shoes,
what we we did while waiting for the cookies to bake,
and we, implying twenty inside-jokes, reply with,
"Just went on a walk."
Years from now, it may hap that a small child asks,
"What did you do when you were young?"
and I mayn't be able to answer. All the memories, perhaps, will mesh.
But all of them are good ones. Dutch Blitz, Orange Pekoe ones.
By the time the lot of us are grown (and mature),
we won't have time to risk pneumonia on country roads,
to discuss the girly, the funny, and the obscene,
so for now let's fetch our boots.
For now, we walk.