I remember what it was like to love winter, frozen toes inside thick snow boots, wet mittens, a red nose. Suzy and I would spend days outside her yellow house just up the hill from the creek. We’d slide down through the trees, land on hard, slick ice, and skate in our boots. The ice never froze in the smooth, perfect way of skating rinks, but in jagged lumps punctuated with broken sticks and rocks.
The creek was our battle field and our home. There were places beneath the trees where roots stuck up through the snow and we’d dig in, building a nest, proving you could stay warm before the melt. We dared ourselves, taking off socks and gloves, feeling the cold prickle against our skin. We’d redden, and swear it didn’t hurt. We’d lie down and try to sleep, then jump up, a new battle on the other side of the creek.
Don’t touch the bottom, we’d warn, grabbing branches to keep ourselves aloft. I was the clumsy one, never coordinated or graceful, always heavier inside my bones. I’d skitter through the trees, scrambling to keep myself in Suzy’s graces, following her until I finally lost her scent.