Ghosts of White Winters Past

Winter, 1969. New York City

A blizzard’s eerie silence overshadowed the distant honking and revving engines from the usual Saturday night car races. I remember my dad’s contagious laugh echoing through our apartment hallway after he promised to build the biggest snowman our neighbors had ever seen, if I hurried off to bed. He always said New Yorkers thrived on being outside in frigid temperatures and most didn’t mind driving on slick, icy roadways. If I close my eyes I can see snow covered streets and hear enthusiastic voices calling my name. These are a few of my earliest childhood memories that come and go like ghosts of white winters past.

Mom and dad

My mother would politely interrupt dad with her own native New Yorker commentary. “Only a crazy person would drive in this weather—unless they’re on their way to the hospital to have a baby or visit their dying mother. Why would anyone tempt God like that, otherwise?”

My father had a way of melting her heart with his smile. He’d tell a joke, and then let her rave on while they snuggled on the couch to watch Bob Hope or Andy Williams on our new nineteen-inch black and white television.

She’d reach her hands up toward the ceiling and end her rant with something like, “God forbid if our family was stuck out there in the cold. There isn’t a thing we need that we don’t already have right here.” She’d proceed to thank God, His son Jesus, and then added Mary, Joseph, St. Jude, and a few other saints in the mix as a sort of cherry on top of her prayer.

Child-like prayer

I didn’t get it, but that was my mom. She prayed every day and believed God heard her prayers. She taught my sister and I to pray too—Although I was the rebel who only prayed to God and Jesus. The cherry on top people didn’t matter much to me. I went straight to the boss and His VP, especially when I needed an answer to a special prayer, like; “Dear God, can you please make a mountain of snow tonight so my sissy can stay home from school and build a snowman with me?”

The next morning, I (and a gazillion kids from all five boroughs) screamed with joy when the weatherman announced schools would most likely close for a week.

The importance of sledding, building, and slurping

I remember, after much sledding, snowman building, and hot chocolate slurping, my sister and I often sat by our bedroom radiator after bath time to warm our feet and hands. Once warm and toasty, we moved closer to our picture window to count snowflakes and the few rouge stars peeking out from the clouds at dusk, then twilight gave way to the night. We’d giggle and tell stories while watching the icicles glisten on the streetlights.

All Photos courtesy of Pixabay

Music, American History, and. . . fairytales?

A Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley tune played in the distance, my mother’s humming melded with the sounds of running water and rattling dishes. And yet, I loved this imperfect perfect winter lullaby.

Every night, my father’s rendition of American History stories or my mother’s fairytales unfolded as my sister and I lay snug in our beds. I believe that’s when my story took flight. I dreamt vivid dreams of fantastic worlds covered in fluffy blankets of snow; all the while knowing God was our warmth in the cold.

Photos courtesy of Pixabay

To this day on frigid January nights, I revisit that house, if only in my mind. It’s such a beautiful part of my story. I piece together the sounds, the sights, and the memories—Now all ghosts of white winters past.

The rollercoaster we call life

When I think back to those days, I feel an unexplainable peace, comfort, and warmth that comes from the love of our Father. And yes, I know without a doubt He watched over us every day. I don’t need to compare any other exceptional time in my life to that snowy winter long ago. There were many beautiful moments. Life is a rollercoaster ride of exhilaration, pain, and misery. There are many memories we cherish and a few we wish to leave at the bottom of the ocean, never to be thought of again. Let’s thank God we can’t relive them.

What ifs and more memories to come

And now let’s fill in the blanks: W— i- the process of recalling the best of the past can bring healing to the present?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

Furthermore, what if we choose to live mindfully, contemplating the things that matter, not only to ourselves but the things that matter to The Giver of every season of our lives?

Might this honesty open our eyes to the real matters of life?

All photos courtesy of Pixabay

I believe God wants us to let his light shine on our best memories, especially those of ghosts of white winters past.

~ Happy Anniversary in heaven mom and dad. ~

Do you have fond memories of white winters past? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Joann Claypoole

Joann Claypoole is an author, speaker, master stylist/colorist, and former spa-girl entrepreneur. She's a wife, mother of four sons, “Numi” to four grandbabies, doggie-mom of two. The award-winning author of The Gardener’s Helper’s (ages 5-9 MJ Publishing2015) would rather be writing, hiking in the mountains, or inviting deer and other wildlife to stay for dinner near her western NC writing retreat. Visit her website: joannclaypoole.com and WordPress blog: https://joannclaypoole.wordpress.com/

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22 comments

  1. Love, love, love this, Joann! It’s snowing like crazy in Denver, so this is a warm, wonderful story to stir my own white winter memories!! Thank you, my friend! Love you!

  2. Beautiful Joann. I remember your parents and I can just see mom hollering about not having to go out in that kind of weather. Your dad was always sweet to me, so I can imagine how he was to his girls.
    Living in New York when we did was a different time. Life was so much simpler.
    Wish we could go back to the good old days.

    1. Ahhhh . . . Yes, dad was a gem. I’m glad you remember them. We were blessed to enjoy our childhood at that nostalgic time. I agree things are quite different now. I miss the whole gigantic family, the snow, and you too!

  3. That was lovely, Joann. Not having grown-up in the North, I’ve often wondered why you love the cold and snow the way you do. Now I know. It reminds you of those precious years growing up and feeling the warmth of your family. Even though it was bitterly cold outside, what you experienced was the fun of snow-days from school, building snowmen with your dad, and enjoying hot chocolate with your sis. All are rich memories that have developed you into who you are today, a loving wife, actively-involved mother, devoted Numi, and talented gardener. I am blessed to call you neighbor and friend.

    1. Love you, Vickie. Thanks for sharing this story with your friends. I’m glad it gave you some insight to some of my quirkiness ~ I’ll have to tell some stories that reveal the nature lover side of me soon. I’m blessed to call you my most recent mountain garden buddy. Miss you!

  4. Joanne, this was such fun to read. I, too, grew up in that time, although in the south. We were in Charlotte, NC so when we got a snowstorm it was something else! My favorite image you created was the one of hearing your mom wash the dishes. That one tugged at my heart. Thanks.

    1. Angie, Thanks for taking the time to read this story! My hope was to show a scene of my childhood to inspire more priceless pictures and stories. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. These are the stories that make the writing journey so worth all the blisters along the way. :0

  5. I always love the stories you have with you and your parents. These memories really do show why you love the snow and the mountains the way you do. God has surely blessed you with many wonderful things in your life. The boys and I love you numi.

  6. My winter memories are filled with sun, warmth and playing in the cul-de-sac in the back yard. My mom would pray for cold enough weather to have a fire in the fireplace. My dad, would turn the air conditioning on cold if it wasn’t and he would burn at least two logs just for mom. I haven’t thought of this memory in years! This past year was the first time we didn’t spend Christmas with my parents. It was weird, but we also spent time making new memories. We often spend too much time dwelling on the negative and bad things that happened in the past, but my husband often reminds me that everyone has a different perspective and to remember the good. What if we spend more time remembering the best? I know it will remind me to give my kid’s lots of good memories to look back on! Thanks for this <3

    1. Aww, so true, Nicole. In the end, the frigid temps, snow, and fun events in winter aren’t what warms our souls through the years (though I thrive on all and love the nostalgic visual). It’s the snapshots of each moment, even if only a handful of happy ones. Those memories. The smile on the faces of the ones we love. They’re the priceless gems I want to always hold dear. 🙂

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