It was one of those winters like we have every year now, when there isn’t much snow, even after Christmas.
And cold? Some of the ways I’ve heard to describe such frigidity cannot be printed in a family newspaper, when one’s exhalation turns solid and shatters tinklingly on the planet’s rock hard surface. Walking at the normal rate of four miles an hour was enough to create a wind chill at least 50-below.
A few days of that was guaranteed to solidify the surface of the pond, drawing kids and dogs to walk upon it long before it was really a good thing to do, safety-wise. Admonishments from Mom and Dad, or from TV news and weather personalities, held no sway in 10-year-old minds. After all, we young folks knew grownups cannot walk on the ice because they are bigger and heavier than little kids.
There are few joys to compare with the thrill of peering through glass-smooth ice into the liquid world below your feet. A layer of ice is like a glass laid over the water, allowing one to peer at the flora and fauna in the world below one’s feet. On the other hand, the view can distract a youngster from paying attention to the crack spider-webbing from beneath his feet.
Fortunately, the water was only about 18 inches deep. Joe was in nearly to his waist. And out. Fast. Muttering some words, if I heard them correctly, I was previously unaware filled his synaptic lexicon, he headed for dry land.
Unfortunately, his mom was home, in the kitchen, between Joe and dry clothes.
“You go distract her,” he said, “and I’ll slip in through the garage.”
So in I went. While making PB&J sandwiches, I described in colorful detail the myriad wonders lying below the ice – the chain pickerel and sunfish wandering in the watery world and the plant kingdom through which those wandering denizens made their way.
“You be careful out there,” his mom cautioned. “The ice hasn’t been frozen long and it may not hold you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said, and assured her we were being very careful to stay close to shore, where the water wasn’t deep, just in case (which, of course, had nothing to do with the dumb luck Joe had so recently experienced.
Soon, Joe arrived in the kitchen, dry and hungry. His mom apparently didn’t notice his change of wardrobe.
Until during a recent Christmas gathering, when the subject of thin ice surfaced, and we were discussing our concern that our kids might find ice on the pond thinner than could support their young bodies.
“Just make sure they’ve got some dry clothes handy,” Joe’s mom said.
We looked at each other, and at the smile on Joe’s mom’s face.
What is it about moms that allows them to see the unseeable actions of their offspring?
A new year has arrived. The one just ended was like a Netflix movie when the power has gone out – so many scenes we didn’t get to see, so many new memories we didn’t know we would make and now, sure enough, can only imagine.
But there still are lakes and streams, and nights cold enough to make ice for youngsters – under, one hopes, adult’s watchful eyes – to look into other worlds.
Just be sure to stay close to shore, and have some dry clothes close by.