True Winter Tales: Today's pick

Snow Piling Up by Erin Renwick

Winter, 1980: We are in Nelson BC, a town on a hill so steep and so constant that you can slip from top to bottom on sleds in winter.  It is snowing and when we look up into the lamplight we see big soft flakes floating heavily down and when we listen we can hear them landing, piling up on the streets and sidewalks, the pretty wooden houses. It is just us three: my dad, my sister and me, and if we stand still this snow piling up is the only sound we hear.  I am five and she is eight and this will be our last sleigh ride with our dad; it is his last winter.  We trudge up the hill with our wooden toboggan and we slide down and almost over the embankment but he is there, so much snow on his moustache, to catch us.

Winter, 1985: In Cranbrook now, a town of varying hills and dry, crisp air, and my sister and I are hauling our red plastic sleds back up the alley behind our house, an alley slick with ice from the tracks of cautious cars and the collective sleds of the neighbourhood kids.  It is a clear night, and we are looking up into the stars as we walk. 'Do you think one of those stars is daddy?' I do, and as we settle our bundled bodies into our sleds at the top of the hill, just before we slide down again, we choose his star.

Winter, 1996: Protection Island is tiny and drips with mist for most of the winter, but from my small cabin this night I watch the snow fall onto the ocean and stay there.  In the morning it is still snowing, and I pull on my gumboots to take bread down to the ducks that seem to be stuck in the slush beside the dock. They cackle and swish toward the crumbs as best they can.  Later I call my sister in Salmon Arm to describe what I see.  She is alone too and tells me about the icy roads near her house.

Winter, 2010: At Mt. Washington this year, there has been a record snowfall.  From my sister's house in Campbell River, we watch footage of skiers digging themselves out of their holiday condos.  In the interviews the men smile as they describe all of the work that they have done, all that shoveling just to get their kids onto the chair lift. In the morning the sky is blue and we bundle up our children and drive to the hill. We stop as soon as the snow seems deep enough.  On this small hill we take turns sliding with the kids and then catching them before their sleds careen onto the road.  I watch my sister carry her little boy up the hill again and again, and I wonder if, from the sky, our dad can still see us playing in the snow.

Erin Renwick is from Victoria, BC



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