First Real Winter

Something a bit different.

Elsie was born in the desert of California. To her, winter meant 75 degrees during the day and 40 at night. She still got to go to the park during the warm parts and was never too cold, even in her sundresses. She liked it – it was a nice change from the scorching summer days when the temperature would reach 125 and she couldn’t go anywhere because mom said it was too hot. When you’re a kid, you think that what you know is all there is, so she assumed her winter was everyone’s winter.

The year she turned three, her family moved to upstate New York. Elsie didn’t really know what that meant or why it was happening, but she liked it. She got there in August and it was pretty – she could go to the park any time of day and the nights were cool enough to need a jacket. She thought it must be winter here even though it was summer in California. At least, it felt like all the winters she’d ever known in her life. Mommy told her it was summer in their new home, but that didn’t make sense, so mommy must be wrong.

Everyone talked about winter for a long time. There was a day with white stuff that fell from the sky and Elsie’s mom told her that it was snow. She hadn’t ever seen snow and Elsie thought it was pretty in the sky, cold but pretty. It got so cold after Thanksgiving that her big sister had to put on lots of layers of clothes before she went to the bus stop every morning and take off lots of layers every afternoon when she got home. Elsie didn’t like the cold. It hurt her face and made it hard to leave the house. Even the car was cold when she’d get in it to go run errands. Her mom told her it would get worse, but she didn’t see how that could be possible.

It was after her sister’s Christmas break that it happened. They got snow. Real, deep, fast, frigid, sledding snow. Her sister got a day off from school and everyone seemed excited about it. Everyone except Elsie. To her, it was cold, wet, and not something she enjoyed playing in at all. Her mom dressed her in a long sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt, two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, boots, a jacket, gloves, a scarf, and a hat – so many clothes that it was hard to walk in – and told her they were going sledding. Elsie put her sundress on over her winter clothes; she wasn’t willing to put it away. Sundresses meant warm and cozy, things she desperately wanted to be.

Elsie, her mom and dad, and her sister all walked in the cold through the snow to the sledding hill. Her sister thought it was fun to walk in the white stuff, but Elsie couldn’t figure out what was fun about walking while being cold and having a hard time moving. She didn’t like this at all. After a ten minute walk, they got to the hill that was covered in kids and their sleds. Her sister went down the hill laughing and grinning; maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. Then, it was Elsie’s turn. She sat in the sled and it started gaining speed. She didn’t like this. She didn’t like this at all. She hated this. She was cold already and now she was just colder and scared. Elsie got off the sled, walked up to her mom, and said, “Take me home. NOW!”

The next day, Elsie’s sister said she wanted to go sledding again and make snow angels. Elsie had a great idea. She laid down on the kitchen floor and started moving her arms and legs – she could make kitchen angels! Then, she grabbed her little folding laundry basket, folded it flat, and rode it down the steps – warm sledding! The best part? Even though she didn’t get cold, her mom still made her post-sledding hot cocoa. Maybe from inside winter wasn’t so bad after all, and she still got to do it in a sundress.


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