I Had a Slow Childhood

I Had a Slow Childhood

School was called off for today before I even went to bed last night. It meant that my sister and I leisurely watched a movie and then talked for a while before curling up to fall asleep. This morning, the snow hadn’t started yet so I went out of the house for a couple of hours, returning as the snow began to lie thick on the roads. Ideally, though, I would have been still tucked away in my bed or perhaps snuggled on the couch with a cup of coffee as I turned through my latest book.

In high school, I was surprised when I heard that on snow days kids went to go hang out at the mall. For me, it was an unthinkable action. Why would I go out into the blustery weather when that was the exact reason I wasn’t at school? I also was gifted with a father who would have unquestionably smacked me with a hearty dose of common sense if I would have even asked to drive to town despite the weather. Being at home was actually what I wanted to do anyway. While I liked school, I didn’t mind a day of sleeping in and being home. The same still holds true as an adult.

I grew up slow.

By that, I mean, as I grew up, we moved slowly.

I look at the schedules my students have or the schedules of kids and it looks so different from my youth. In elementary school, I usually rode the bus home and I was there until the next day when I left for school. My mom made supper and we all ate together. Sometimes the older siblings were running off to practice or games, but we almost always ate supper around our dining room table.

My summers were quiet, too. Sometimes we explored the farm or watched too much TV or read book after book. But it was slow, with plenty of time and space for us to play in the hay loft or read through book lists with forty to fifty titles. It wasn’t perfection, although my memory tends to cast an overly rosy hue on the days of my childhood. However, it had the great beauty of not being rushed.

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It isn't unpleasant

It isn't unpleasant

I don’t usually watch the weather on TV. If I want to know what is headed my way, I check the weather app on my phone or I look up one of the local TV stations websites to see what is forecasted. But this past weekend, as I visited my parents at their house, we watched the beginning of the news to catch the weather report.

It is winter in South Dakota and so high temps and bright sunshine aren’t always in the forecast. Over Thanksgiving weekend, we had snow, rain, sleet, and the typical gusty wind on the prairie. Yet when the news announced the weather, they told us to brace for unpleasant weather. That ordinarily wouldn’t have seemed so striking, but for some reason, that word unpleasant struck a chord.

Already, before the weather has even hit, they are telling me how I ought to feel about it.

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A Lesson from Snow

I like to think of driving in the winter as a lesson in teamwork.  Usually, I don’t like to drive in the winter, but sometimes I get surprisingly excited after a new snowfall or some slick ice.  I go out to my car and think, “Alright, Humanity!!!  You can do it!  If you don’t get impatient when I turn slowly around a corner, I won’t get mad when you slide through a red light because you are afraid to hit your brakes.  We will all work together and it will be OK!”

Yesterday, I was able to live that experience out again.  I was slipping and sliding up to a stoplight, praying that Jesus would stop my car before it went into the back of the vehicle ahead of me.  Then I looked in my rear view mirror to see a car careening towards mine.  It isn’t going to stop in time.  I just knew it.  Sure enough, almost in a dream-like way, she slid into the back of my car.

Put car into park, activate flashers, and open car door to confront the person who played bumper cars.  She was apologetic and young while I was surprised to see no damage.  I got her information and carried on my way to school.  No yelling (not really my style, anyway) and no attempts to make her feel bad.  Besides, I had so very nearly done the same thing to the car in front of me.

The rest of the day, I was willing humanity to be patient with one another.  Yes, it is going to take longer to get anywhere.  But, if we work together, we can all get home in one piece.  At times it leads me to inordinate pride in the human race: no honking horns, no dramatic zooming away, and no freaking out over slight delays.

You did it, Humanity!!!!  You treated other humans like they mattered!  

Like I said, sometimes new snow makes me a bit excited.  It gives us the chance to show a little patience and see the needs of others as important.  And we could always use a little bit more of that.

The Gift of Winter

Snow in the Swiss Alps
When did snow become a drudgery?  I’m sitting in my classroom, grading papers, trying to let Pandora play music uninterruptedly and outside snow is gently falling.  It has been fluttering down for a few hours now and it looks peaceful.  Instead of an empty classroom, I should be in a cozy living room, warming my chilled fingers on a cup of hot chocolate, and watching the snow design an intricate blanket for the earth.  

This used to be a delight.  The arrival of snow was once something longed for, something wanted.  Now I seem to view it as a necessary evil, the consequence of living in a northern state, a sort of Purgatory on earth.  Yet only a few days ago I was able to witness first hand the disappointment of my 4 year old nephew when the snow melted.  He was debating other things and realized he was losing so he changed the subject.  Whining and with such a sad face that you would want to quickly give him whatever he desired, he told his mother that the snow wasn’t there anymore.  In his short lifetime he had only been through a couple winters and they still held a deep excitement for him.  It amazed me briefly.  I had begun to assume that everyone was as unimpressed and pessimistic about the snow as I was.  My nephew, though, was viewing snow through a gaze of wonder and awe.

When did snow become something I disliked instead of something I anticipated?  I always thought it was when I was required to help with outside chores and I realized that snow and slush make carrying 5 gallon pails of corn remarkably difficult.  I used to don snowpants, gloves, and a hat and go roll in the snow, make snowmen, and just relish in the cool air nipping at my nose.  Now I am more concerned in keeping my feet dry and how quickly I can dash from my car to the warmth of a building.  Much of the wonder of winter has been zapped from my life.  It is there, in brief glimpses of soft snow settling on window sills or the sunlight enhancing the sparkle of the icicles forming at the edge of the roof.  There is a cold sort of beauty that I like with winter, but the moments I rejoice in it are few or only when I am separated from the elements by a windshield or window.

That is my present goal–to embrace the beauty of winter and delight in it.  I plan to begin with putting my things in my car and then, perhaps for only a few seconds, tilting my head back and feeling the snowflakes kiss my face and melt at the brazenness of their touch.  Then I will drive (carefully) home and try to embrace the gift of winter.  Everything is a gift, right?  Today the Lord is offering me the chance to live and experience another winter day.  For all my aged and weary 23 year old bones know, this could be my last winter.