I wrote an essay a few years ago that kind of knocked my socks off. That doesn’t happen often – knocking my own socks off – but it’s happened a handful of times in my life. They are especially good moments for me. I use them mostly as a way to remind myself to get off my duff and do something (or, in this case, get on my duff and write something).
My memories of growing up in Upper Michigan pretty much wrote that essay on their own. I remembered in detail the hill in the deep woods, the snow that shook off the windblown pine trees, that frozen lake we stupidly walked across. When I wrote the essay I didn’t remember everyone who was there, but now I can remember Heather and Tammy. Tammy’s family was from Georgia and she talked like one of the Sugarbakers from Designing Women. We were only in the fourth grade but that southern accent of hers made her seem very worldly to me. I had only ever grown up around people who talked like they were from Northern Wisconsin and the U.P., because they were. Anyway, her dad kept a bottle of peppermint schnapps in their winter coat closet. The four of us huddled inside that tiny closet and took sips of it, straight out of the bottle.
Back here in Oklahoma this morning, far away from Gwinn, Michigan, I woke to a wind chill of 15 degrees. This after having been lulled to sleep by last night’s blustery winds. Winter is officially here and I’m not horrified by the feel of it all, either. Strangely enough, this morning’s venture out into the freezing cold is what prompted me to think back on that bottle of peppermint schnapps. The biting winds helped me remember the red scarf I wore that day twenty-five years ago. I had red mittens, too, and a knit hat with a pom on top.
Maybe this winter while the temperatures fall and the snow blows in, I can get back to writing about those stupid, stupid girls on the ice. And I always relied on scent to bring back old, forgotten memories. Whodathunkit? I’ll certainly try to use winter to my advantage this year.