My sweetest recollection of good times is not wrapped in the fragrance of a spring morning, or the warm comfort of a summer evening sitting in the swing, or even a crisp afternoon in autumn, walking hand in hand through crunchy red and yellow leaves. It is the clear cold of winter that nudges my weather-beaten heart to thaw, but only a little, as it reflects in the light of a few sheltered embers of memory.
A small, snow-covered town surrounded by the hush of empty streets leaves an indelible mark on my developing four-year-old mind. My handsome young parents consider me part of the innocent camaraderie they enjoy with like-minded friends from Dad’s workplace. I am the only child in this group, which makes me an object of no small amount of attention. I gladly respond with nursery rhyme recitations, my own rendition of songs I have heard on the big radio in our living room, and some occasional freestyle choreography.
My father is a tall and jovial instigator of adventures that do not include the outlay of funds. He finds an extra large wooden door, unattached to any portal, and turns it into a delightful sleigh. The clever conveyance is hooked on behind an old Army jeep so that eight adults and one small girl can slide on glaring, snow-packed roads.
A multitude of crystal-sharp stars turns our non-descript neighborhood into a winter-wonderland. I have absolutely no fear as I snuggle down between loving, coat-covered arms surrounding me from all sides, ever vigilant in concern for my safety.
This thick piece of magic-carpet timber whisks us through a vaguely familiar town briefly transformed by nature. A group of hard working adults and one dazzled youngster laugh and sing and shiver in their boots. Marshmallow adorned hot chocolate provides a bridge back to reality and a satisfying conclusion to a surreal experience.
Memory of the door-sled is rooted firmly in the archives of my childhood. Decades later, on a frosty December evening, an imaginary pumpkin coach delivers me to a real church full of attentive people. I am the beautiful princess; dressed in an elegant, long white gown, the object of adoration and kind wishes.
Flickering candles light a dim path as I float down the aisle to make a promise at the altar. A simple polished wooden cross at the front keeps my head up and my eyes focused. The good-looking prince, resplendent in a groom-costume, waits for me and takes my hand.
We honeymoon at a nearby lake resort. There is no heat. It is so cold our teeth chatter and by morning we escape to our first little bungalow, happy to be warm and get on with life.
A brief flirtation with palm trees and suffocating humidity sends us packing; back to the clear mountain air of a charming town we visited once. We pray for the right house and are like children on a sugar high when we find our answer; a cozy, gingerbread looking rental home sitting on three acres of woods, and at a price within our anemic budget. The oil tank is full. There is an impressive woodpile. Christmas is a few days away. We are ecstatic.
The first night, sleep is not even a consideration as we watch tons of glorious snow blanket our new storybook land. In our eagerness to explore this stunning scene, bright sunlight propels us outside to build a few flaky, granulated people with traditional carrot noses and coal eyes. They are magnificent.
We sit on the floor in a library filled with books left by the owner, captivated by the first flames in our wonderful fireplace. It doesn’t seem to matter that no furniture surrounds us. The ice-cold wind blowing through pine trees sounds like an approaching train but we are too exhausted to care and fall asleep like tired puppies. We feel secure.
Five years march by with no hint of impending storms. It is a chilly Christmas day as I labor at the hospital to deliver the ultimate present that brings more joy to our world.
Sunrise. Sunset. Seasons change. People change.
If I stop by the woods on a snowy evening I will not lose my way and freeze, forsaken and alone. Warm winter memories deposited to my long ago account are a blessing from our Lord.
I have no fear because He holds on to me, ever vigilant for my safety. I snuggle down for the ride, knowing I am safe.
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