Growing up in Vancouver, winter was my favorite season. Although Vancouver has milder winters than the rest of Canada, I had my share of white Christmases. My memories of skiing at Whistler with my friends are some of my best. My memories of New Year’s Eve at Whistler with my friends are not as clear, but we shared some good times. Whether it was skiing, skating, or sledding, I enjoyed playing outside in the cold. But the San Francisco Bay Area does not have a real winter, and after living here for eleven years, I fear that I have been affected.
Last week, I took my kids for a walk to see our neighbors’ Christmas lights. It was 40 degrees (for my Canadian friends, that’s 4 degrees Celsius), but I wore a thick wool jacket and a toque (for my American friends, that warm hat you wear while skiing is a toque). I justified wearing the toque because more heat escapes from my head now that I am losing my hair, but maybe I was just afraid of being cold.
The week before last, I picked up my kids from school. Before leaving, they dropped their backpacks on the ground, lay down, and started swinging their arms and legs through a pile of leaves.
I said, “What are you doing?”
My son said, “We are making leaf angels.”
I cringed when his twin brother said, “Daddy, when are you going to take us to see snow?”
I am embarrassed to admit that despite my love of winter activities, my sons have yet to play in the snow. Three summers ago, our family went to Whistler, and Stacie and I took the twins up the gondola to see the glacier. Technically, a glacier is snow, but a glacier-man is a poor substitute for a snowman. I also refuse to admit that my twins’ first snowball fight was in July while wearing shorts and t-shirts.
Winter wasn’t always pleasant. The first time I skied, I tore a ligament in my knee. Other times skiing, I broke my thumb, hyper-extended my elbow, and split open my eyebrow. In my early 20s, I got four stitches when I wiped out, and my ski hit my head. During Christmas break when I was seven, I got my first migraine. I repeatedly barfed in my bed, covering the stuffed Smurf that my parents had just given me. I still get migraines, and when I do, I think of that winter night and my damaged Smurf. But we are shaped as much by our scars as by our successes, and the winter is when I received many of mine.
Stacie says I should appreciate the Bay Area winters. She spent several years in Minnesota and argues that a white Christmas isn’t worth the months of freezing cold thereafter. I spent four years in Montreal, so I have also experienced harsh temperatures. I wouldn’t trade San Francisco for Montreal in February, but winter is part of me. I am Canadian, and winter is when we are at our best.
So, this winter, I plan to escape the Bay Area to introduce my boys to their inner northern half. We’ll head to the mountains to build snowmen, make snow angels, and have a real snowball fight. My hip may not be ready for skiing and skating, but my boys better be ready for their first face wash.
But first, I need to buy them some jackets.