Making Friends with Winter

It’s true that winter and I were once friends, a long time ago. But then, somehow, we drifted apart…

November 20, 2010 | | Back Issues | Community | Departments | Headwaters Nest | In Every Issue | Winter 2010

It’s true that winter and I were once friends, a long time ago. But then, somehow, we drifted apart. I’m not sure exactly when it happened. When I was growing up, winter was a wonderland just waiting to be discovered. I eagerly anticipated the day the snow would make its first appearance. Some years, it happened during the school day, and I had to walk up the driveway in my slippery, impractical shoes after the bus dropped me off. Other years, a most magical snowfall happened overnight. I would awake to a different light cast on my bedroom wall, and I would know it had come.

The first steps out into the snow were always exciting and invigorating. The horses on our farm would act as if they had never seen the white stuff before. They would snort and snuffle, and go for an extra gallop, tails high in the air. The barn cats seemed to have doubled in size overnight, their winter coats puffing out and filling up the hay nests where they snuggled together for warmth.

Once winter settled in, there was always skating, even for those who didn’t have ponds or outdoor rinks.
I remember skating on our flooded front field in East Garafraxa, a giant natural outdoor rink. I had to be careful to remember where the cut hay or straw was sticking out, or my skates would stop dead and send me flying. Later, in search of teenage fun, I made a good number of trips to Gage Park in Brampton to race around the outdoor rink under the twinkle lights, pink cheeks warmed by handsome boys and watery, scalding hot chocolate.

My misery about winter in the hills probably started in late high school. I had a night job at a gas station, working in a tiny, uninsulated booth. No matter how low the mercury dropped, the nightly shutdown meant going out into the howling wind, carrying a long stick to measure the litres of gas remaining in the underground tanks. I would drive home shivering from head to toe. In the quiet of the kitchen, I’d throw open the woodstove doors and thrust my feet over the coals until I thought for sure they were on fire. Oh, just to feel warm again.

Of course, I had many adventures with cars that broke down, cars that wouldn’t start, cars that wouldn’t defrost, cars that didn’t have good tires and cars that couldn’t make it up the hill. Friends visiting the farm slid their parents’ cars off of the driveway. Instead of a soft place to explore and frolic, snow had become something I just wished would get out of my way. Following fashion seemed impossible in winter gear. As for hair – well, might as well forget it.

Then came the first few years of parenthood, when the winter wind, sleet, snow, ice, layers of mittens, hats and blankets made getting outside seem close to impossible. Darting out to the store, or running a random errand, was not an option. The car must be warmed. The baby must be insulated. The baby must not suffocate. The windows must be scraped. Extra bottles and blankies must be packed in case the roads got worse. Easier to stay in.

And that’s when winter and I drifted apart. I thought the split was permanent. “I’m done,” I thought. “I will stay inside, find a grocery delivery service, and go out only to the airport to head to a warmer climate.”

However, “shack-wacky,” as a friend calls it, soon took over. I desperately needed to get into the community, to see real people, the kind that don boots and toques and don’t let winter bother them. Adults who know how accept, enjoy and make the most of winter. I wanted to be one of them.

I started walking to work. I bought some decent snow pants – something I hadn’t owned since I had lived on the farm. I bought real boots, with real treads, that came up to my knees (I told myself they were “outdoor chic”). I also decided that I would not be the mother who sat in the chalet, warming the bench while the family skied the day away (though, I must admit, there are merits to an afternoon in the chalet). I swallowed my pride and finally took some long-overdue ski lessons. I added skis, poles, boots and bindings to my winter collection.

For my efforts, I have been rewarded. Winter’s warm arms have finally wrapped around me once again.

The delight in my son’s eyes when he made his first snowman was something I couldn’t resist. I bundled up and ventured outside to help him roll the snow (filled with leaves the rake had missed). It wasn’t bad! I taught him how to make a snow angel, and I didn’t even feel cold.

We played outside for hours and hours last winter. We made a bobsled track in the valley in our yard. We stood outside for more hours to welcome the Olympic Torch to Orangeville on a late-December morning so cold that our nostrils instantly froze.

My son howls when I make him come inside, but eventually I lure him in with some watery, scalding hot chocolate.


Every season, we put together a compendium of some of our favourite community activities. Here is our “Must Do” list for Winter 2010-2011. Don’t forget, we have a great online calendar with more ideas to keep you and your children from becoming “Shack Wacky” this winter.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa Claus is coming to town

In fact, he has already made an appearance in Orangeville, but there’s still time to catch a glimpse of the jolly old gent in other local communities. In fact, Santa and his reindeer will be hopscotching over the hills on Saturday, December 4, as they make appearances at parades in Bolton, Creemore and Shelburne. Santa arrives one week earlier, on November 27, in Erin and Grand Valley. Check your town website for specific parade times and related festivities.

Snow Bunnies

For your little bunnies this winter, consider the Optimist Jack Rabbit Cross-Country Ski Program, facilitated by the local Optimist Club of Orangeville out of Monora Park. The club has provided cross-country ski instruction to children aged five to twelve for the past 26 years, with an emphasis on fun and enjoyment. The program runs for two hours every Sunday afternoon starting in January 2011.

For information, contact Todd Taylor, 519-942-8681, [email protected]; or visit

Introduce your kids to your old friends

So, parents and grandparents, you can’t really relate to Dora the Explorer? Take heart, ’tis the season to introduce the youngsters to your old friends Anne Shirley, Scrooge and the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Theatre Orangeville presents Anne, the musical adapted from L.M. Montgomery’s beloved classic Anne of Green Gables, from November 25 to December 19, when the irrepressible, red-headed heroine will, no doubt, once again win over dour Marilla and kindly Matthew. Times and ticket information at, 519-942-3423.

The ghosts that led cantankerous Scrooge to redemption in Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol, are too scary for most youngsters, but they’re easier to take in the kinder, gentler version, Scrooge! A Christmas Musical. It’s on stage at Rose Theatre Brampton from December 16 to 19.

And speaking of kind and gentle, the Sugar Plum Fairy will again dance her way into the hearts of siblings Misha and Marie when the State Ballet Theatre of Russia presents Tchaikovsky’s cherished holiday ballet, The Nutcracker, on December 8 and 9, also at Rose Theatre Brampton.

Times and ticket information for Scrooge! and The Nutcracker at, 905-874-2800.

About the Author More by Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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