Winter, the ugly sister of seasons.

Typically I don’t spend much time thinking positive thoughts about winter.  I’m usually too busy avoiding slush, shoveling, or generally freezing my butt off to think positive thoughts about ice and piles of snow and my least favorite season of the year.  I’m from Maine.  I know all about snow and blizzards and winter sports and going to school in a foot of snow because that’s just a dusting.  I know snow and I only like it the first three times it hits the ground. 

The first three snowfalls are pure and beautiful and magical and each little flake sparkles and dances in the wind until the moment it hits the ground, either to melt or collect. The rest of the winter?  Eh, the snow continues to fall just like it did the first time, but it’s dirtier and not as magical  and it’s wet and downright cold and the only time it’s fun is when you’re watching it from your couch. 

But then again, maybe I’ve just forgotten what it’s like to be a kid during wintertime.  I’ve forgotten what it’s like to watch the snow fall at 11 o’clock at night, in the dark, out the window, willing it to fall more, hard and heavy, all night long, so that I could stay home the next day.  The excitement you’d feel in waking up every morning, like it was Christmas in January, the excitement to race to the nearest window or turn on Channel 6 news and see SAD 35 run down the list on the screen.   It has been too long since I’ve gone sledding, fast and careless, down the biggest hill in town.  It’s been too long since I’ve played pond hockey, on a pond found deep the woods.  It’s been too long since I snow plowed (fell repeatedly) down a mountain and called it skiing.   It’s been a long time since I put on snowpants and spent the day outside, all day, wet through the endless layers and freezing cheeks and snow angel making until my lower half went numb or building snow forts with maximum security gates and mazes of endless tunnels and rooms for snowball fight plotting.  

Maybe it’s been too long. 

It’s the Winter Olympics in Vancouver that got me thinking about winter as a kid again.  It’s the winter olympics that gets every kid crazy about winter, whether you live in California and have never made a snowball, or you’re in New England, chin deep in snow and worn out from climbing that hill one last time.  And so I thought to myself, what do the winter olympics mean to me?  And here’s a little of what I came up with.

Frost bite . Hot chocolate.  Lodges. Accents.  Bright and vivid track suits.  Chateaus. Sparkling snowflakes and sub-zero temperatures. Lycra. Lots of it.  Flags of red, white, blue, purple, green, orange, brown, black.  Faces, friends of every color and nation of the world.  Swooshing, cutting, slashing, racing, sweating, shooting, triple sow-cowing, jumping, scoring, encouraging, willing, praying, defeating, history re-writing.  Cheering, embracing, high-fiving. Fireworks. Hope. Medals. Dreams.  Values.  Tradition. Music that seeps into your blood and makes your heart want to explode with pride, as you hear your national anthem pulsate, ringing in the ears of people around the world. 

These are the very essential parts that make the Olympics.

In growing up in New England, the Winter Olympics doesn’t just occur every four years.  As a kid from Maine, the Winter Olympics occurs every year, from the moment the frost hits around Halloween, the anticipation building as Thanksgiving approaches and with the first snowflake that hits the ground, shovels and skates, sleds and mittens that have been patiently waiting by the door wait no more.  With the first snowfall of the year, every child from Rhode Island to Canada is sure: The Winter games have begun.

The Winter Olympics, whether the real deal or made-up version in a small town in New England, is never about being the best in the world, or the neighborhood, it’s about the opportunity for every person in the world to just be there.  It’s about the family you bring with you, making extended family in places you’ve never dreamt of visiting, and
traditions that are celebrated and passed on for hundreds of years, country to country, teammate to teammate, friend to friend.  It’s about being proud of where you come from, and having the opportunity to teach the world about your people, and make those people, your countrymen, proud that you were there to represent a land you love called home.

I’m looking forward to the Olympics this year.