Growing up, I was a girl through to the core. I wore frilly dresses and pink plastic barrettes. I divided my play time between Barbie dolls and Cabbage Patch Kids. And I rarely played outside, preferring the climate-controlled indoors to the too-hot sunshine or the frost-biting wind.
Fast-forward 30 years to find me standing in a store that caters to fishermen, campers and hikers – three labels never attached to me. My goal? Finding a pair of boots fit for a Buffalo winter. And that same girl who once trekked from store to store in search of the perfect pair of shoes to match the prom dress actually said, “Well, they’re ugly, but they’re comfortable.”
What changed me? I have a son.
On that first day of snowfall each winter, he glues himself to the front picture window, his nose pressed against the glass as he asks, “Can we go outside now?” With barely one inch of snow on the ground and grass still visible comes another request: “Can we build a snowman?” Too young to comprehend the concept of “good packing snow,” any appearance of winter sets off a chain reaction.
To the toasty warm indoor girl, the outside winter world was foreign to me. I never went sledding or ice skating, and I certainly had no desire to build a snowman. Some might look at my childhood and say I was deprived of these youthful rites of passage, but the choices were mine: I just did not like going outside, especially in the wintertime.
As soon as my son could walk, he was outside. One of his cutest photos shows a boy just shy of a year old standing on the front sidewalk, his height identical to the snow piles. He is bundled in a bright red winter coat, and his ensemble includes a hat with ear flaps. Before I snapped the photo, he had been playing in the snow, which clings to his mittens. The look on his face displays sheer delight.
I soon realized that I needed either to join him in the snow, or I would spend much of his childhood watching from the windows. My son gets his love of wintertime from his father, so I knew I would need to leave my climate-controlled comfort zone and embrace winter or stay inside the house, warm but missing out on my son’s childhood rituals.
I have since spent the past few years cobbling together my necessary winter apparel. As soon as my son’s little face touched the cold air, I had him clad for an Arctic expedition. Me? Not so fortunate. A thin jacket, jeans, a pair of wimpy boots and the first hat and gloves I found while rummaging through a basement storage bin. While my son was toasty and ready to remain outside for the day, I froze within minutes.
I unearthed a ski jacket bought in college, not for skiing but because it was the trendy item to wear. Amid the hats, scarves and gloves in our house, I assembled some warm gear. When I complained of cold toes, Santa Claus came to the rescue with a pair of thermal socks. And then last Christmas, I received a present that my 10-year-old self would never have predicted: a pair of ice skates. It was my first gift of sporting goods.
I still prefer the indoors, but I’d rather be a family. I’ve learned that a day of downhill sledding with family makes me feel warm and toasty inside … especially in those new winter boots.
Kristen Killian, a former English teacher who lives in Depew, still prefers the indoors but happily participates in winter sports.