Don’t wish away a single day of your life, my mother used to say.
This was her usual response whenever one of her children yearned aloud for an entire season to end already.
Winter, for example.
This winter, I’d like to address right now, please.
My mother has been gone for 15 years, but in this weather, I’m hearing her admonishment as if she were standing right next to me, brushing the hair from my cheeks as she always did before mentioning how unfortunate it is that I always feel the need to hide my face. She wasn’t big on self-pity, hers or anyone she’d raised, and I feel her disapproval.
“But here’s the thing,” I’d tell her if I could.
I just spent another morning wielding our snow shovel like a pickax to locate the stairs on our front porch and then tumbled down them anyway. Fortunately, I had about 2 feet of snow to cushion my fall. In the seconds it took me to remember my name, I imagined my mother darting away from the window, her fist pressed against her mouth so she wouldn’t laugh as I walked in the door and threw my boots halfway across the dining room.
My mother was a beehived little thing, barely 4 feet 11 inches tall in her thick-soled sneakers, which she always credited for the bounce in her step. One look at my crimson face and she would have gone into action. Leaping onto the kitchen stepstool with the flourish of a wizard at the top of his game, she would have whipped open the blinds, pointed out the window and celebrated as a gift from God the summit of snow obliterating her view.
I know there are people with real problems in this world. I know, too, that I sound like a sniveling snot of a girl when I say this relentless onslaught of snow and frigid air is doing things to me.
One morning this week, I stood on the front porch in my nightgown and puff coat as I waved a bowl of hot oatmeal and yelled to my husband, “If you don’t stop shoveling that snow, I’m giving your breakfast to the dog.”
What I meant was, “Honey, please stop doing exactly what the local TV people warn can kill any guy older than 40.”
I grew up in Ohio’s snow belt, so you’d think I’d be used to this seasonal entrapment. A good half of our family Easter photos show my sisters and me clutching our bonnets with white-gloved hands as we stomped for warmth in our chukka boots.
We were raised to appreciate winter, too. My mother loved it because this was the only time of year she didn’t have to use the church bulletin to fan herself in the choir loft.
“I was born hot,” she’d say, often loudly. You could tell a lot about a person by the way he or she responded to such an unsolicited declaration from your mother. Dad banned Mrs. Rose’s husband from our house for nearly a year. For example.
My mother’s approach to any disadvantage in her life was to pity those who’d never had the opportunity to discover the
other side of adversity. This joy for misery kicked into high gear around week 42 of winter.
“Everyone knows you can’t really appreciate spring without winter,” she liked to say. “All those poor people in Florida – I feel sorry for them.”
When I was about 10, I challenged her on this by bringing up Uncle Willard, who had left us long ago for sunny California and had a habit of sticking a picture of his winter garden in his Christmas card.
“Uncle Willard never has snow,” I said. “He doesn’t seem to miss it.”
“Every family has to have one,” she’d say, shaking her head.
To this day, I have no idea what she meant, but right now, I appreciate the smile it brings to my chapped, wind-burned face.
• Connie Schultz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “...and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate.