“Ou Sonts les Neiges D’antan?”

“Mais, ou sont les neiges d’antan?” Francois Villon (ca 1431-1463)

Okay, are you impressed? I put an actual French quote up there. It means, “Where are the snows of yesteryear?” I know this because when I was in second grade, 5 of my friends and I took French from Madame Baylor. One afternoon a week, we sat in her living room and learned basic French conversational skills, and several French nursery songs. This went on for a couple of years, and I still know all the words to “Sur le Pont D’Avignon” and “Au Pres de Ma Blonde”. (She snuck that one in – I believe it is a drinking song, circa WWII).

Frankly, I rarely read quotes at the beginnings of chapters in books. Usually they are too erudite and literary, and I don’t want to waste time speculating how they apply to the story line. I just want to jump right into the chapter and see what happens. In a perfect world, I would see a few lines of Keats, and appreciate the author’s subtlety in sketching out the next installment, but it is not a perfect world, and I’m me.

Anyway, back to the snows of yesteryear. Obviously they are not in Vancouver. I like the winter Olympics, way better than the summer Olympics. Mr. GG made me feel guilty yesterday, when he commented that they were the “white people” Olympics. No Jamaican bobsled team this year. But I like snow.

I grew up in a winter wonderland. A lot of the snows of yesteryear were in Illinois. Every winter we went sledding and tobogganing. As soon as a kid in my family could toddle they got ice skates. We were an anxious mess until the lake froze enough to walk on. We brought snow shovels to clear the ice, and someone always had a 50 gallon drum for a makeshift firepit near the shore, so we could take breaks and warm up our mittened hands. We raced and twirled and fell down and had a great time. Some winters, my Dad would make us a rink in our backyard. He shoveled a flat area of the yard, built up snow berms at the edges, and then sprayed it with a hose over the course of a couple of days, to build up layers of ice. We were the envy of our friends, and Mom had hot cocoa and marshmallows on tap for afterwards.

Weekends we went sledding out at relatives farms, because those little hills in the local parks were just wimpy. Life was really fine when we got the toboggan. We could all fit on it, shrieking and screaming our little lungs out as we barreled down the Illinois equivalent of the Matterhorn. A few times, Mom roped the toboggan to the bumper of her Studebaker Lark, and towed us up and down the streets in our neighborhood. Man, today a stunt like that would get her up on all sorts of child endangerment charges, but at the time, everybody thought she was the COOLEST MOM EVER. She helped us build snow forts, and snow caves, and we sculpted snowcats along side our snowmen. We always got snow days off from school, so waking up to an unexpected holiday meant we were gonna be outside doing something fun.

So yeah, I like winter. I like snow. And I am sorry all the snow that was supposed to be in Vancouver got diverted to Atlanta and Washington D.C. Because it is quite apparent that those folks do not know what to do with it. Maybe like the grass on the other side of the fence, the snow on the other side of the years was way better. Maybe you have to be a kid to really appreciate a spate of bad weather – I don’t know. What I do know is that I feel very kindred to Monsieur Villon. Hmm. Wonder if we’ve got any of that hot chocolate with the mini-marshmallows?

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