Stories by the fireside…
We didn’t have a fireplace in our New York City apartment, although my dad continued his fireside storytelling tradition throughout the winter months—minus the crackling fire of course. I remember many snowy evenings he and mom called out to my sister and me to gather around the kitchen table. “Come on, girls,” dad waved from the sofa. Your mother stirred up a pot of her delicious hot chocolate. If you two don’t want me to drink it all, you’d better hurry.” My sister and I ditched our Barbie dolls and raced from our bedroom, slippers scratching against the parquet floors drowning out the screeching of the nearby L-train.
Daddy’s tall tales
“Tell us a story, Daddy. Please?” I’d climb onto the avocado-green step stool I had claimed as my own. Soon my sister squeezed in beside me. “Stop squishing and squashing me,” I’d say.
The sweet scent of cocoa filled the small room and squelched our bickering as mom poured us all a cup. “Six-thirty.” She then glanced at dad. “One quick story will do for tonight. It’s almost bedtime.” A Tony Bennett tune played in the distance, my mother’s humming melded with the sounds of running water and rattling dishes.
My sister and I giggled when dad stood up and nodded, knowing he’d ramble on with at least two or three stories before she’d look at the clock.
“You’ll have to use your imaginations for this one. Close your eyes. Imagine we’re back at our campsite in the Catskills. Can’t you see the red and orange flames flickering?”
My sister would shake her head. “Not yet. Tell us more.”
“Everyone take a deep breath.” Dad always sniffed with the loudest snort. “Smell those hickory logs burning in the stone fire pit I had built last spring?”
I’d nod and then pretend to cough from the smoke. “You forgot about the yellow, gray, and blue flames, daddy.” My arms flailing, I’d then peak to see if my sister or mom opened their eyes yet.
Mom, dad, and a New York state of mind
One time I saw mom lean in as if she were about to kiss him, but instead, she’d patted his forehead. “We all know how much you miss the mountains. Spring will be here before we all blink. The city is perfect in the winter. There are a million things to do. The streets and markets always bustle with activity.”
He slurped up the rest of his hot chocolate. “No matter how you glorify it, the city will always be a rat race—and there’s something to be said about breathing fresh air…and making campfires.”
“Well, we do have a park right across the street. Some of those gigantic oaks have been here for over a hundred years. It’s beautiful. We should take a walk there this weekend.”
He agreed, and then told exaggerated tales about his deer, bear, moose, or bobcat sightings in the Adirondacks. She’d smile and watch his eyes sparkle like two twinkling stars.
Wants, dreams, and in-betweens
We spent summers upstate. He worked the night shift as a transit authority foreman in Harlem for the rest of the year. Many years passed before I realized how much he missed the mountains every winter or everything that must have gone with the inner conflict of wanting to be a full-time outdoorsman. My mother dreamed of being a model. Instead, she became chief cook, bottle washer, elementary school cafeteria worker, and queen of hospitality. My parents sacrificed their wants for our needs. We prayed together, and later, cried together. They always said we were blessed beyond measure. To this day, I believe they were right.
Remembering the daisies and weary roads
In the dead of winter, loved ones cheered for blessed new years; some singing their own version of Auld Lang Syne. The meaning remained powerful. Warm. Deep. It still reminds me of days gone by. God knows I’m one who never recalled the right words to that song, but the meaning stayed and grew with me. We remember good times and bad…the daisies and the weary roads. We pray and love and argue and nurture. All the while hoping that somehow we might become what God wants us to be…He will fulfill the purpose He has for us because we chose to remember the warmth of winter and all its wonders.
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whater 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. ~ Phillippians 4:8 ESV
Frigid January nights warm my soul with thoughts of a few thousand cherished days of childhood and the family who made it worth remembering. Ordinary people in not so extraordinary places—now all part of my life story. Tonight, I sit by a crackling fire with a few of my best friends: A stack of books begging to be read. Compassionate heroes and feisty heroines who resemble family members stand ready to leap off the page, and into my heart. Once again, my thoughts turn to vivid scenes and snowy settings of years gone by. With no shortage of thought-provoking dialog or emotional characters in my family, I smile at the possibilities of endless tales to come. I often revisit those remembrances, if only in my dreams. Perhaps that’s where the real warmth of winter and all its wonders come from.
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?
Blessings, love, health, happiness, and joy.JC (Me)
What-ifs and more to come
Finally, friends, let’s fill in a few blanks. W—i- the process of recalling the best of the past brings healing to the present? I believe God wants us to let His light shine on our best memories, especially those of the warmth of winter and all its wonders.
Do you have any fond childhood memories of winter? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below this post.
Photos/Images Acknowledgements: ALL images free from PIXABAY ~ Feature Image by DreamyArt from Pixabay, #1Top Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay ~ Gallery 2 L Image by wesweaver from Pixabay, 2 R Image by StockSnap from Pixabay ~ Gallery 3 TL Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay, 3TR Image by adege from Pixabay, ~ Gallery 4: TL Image by Skeeze from Pixabay, TC Image by emitea from Pixabay, TR Image by David Mark from Pixabay, BL Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay, BC Image by David Mark from Pixabay, BR Image by Skeeze from Pixabay ~ Single Image by Godsgirl madi from Pixabay, Gallery 5 TL Image by gamagapix from Pixabay, TC Image by Pexels from Pixabay, TR Image by JillWellington from Pixabay, B Single Image by bertvhul from Pixabay, Gallery 6 TL Image by Cocoparisienne from Pixabay, TC Image by geralt from Pixabay, TR Image by Monsterkoi from Pixabay ~ Single Image by JillWellington from Pixabay.