Memories in the Making

January 18th, 2013 by Emma Durand-Wood

I love, love, love this passage from a recent post on Kathryne Grisim’s Food Musings blog:

“When you live on the Canadian prairies, blizzards are not unexpected.  I have experienced some lollapaloozas in my memory but not surprisingly, the most precious one was when I was little.   In the midst of the storm, we could not see the Dyers’ home across the street, when in clear weather, my Mom could see her good friend at the kitchen sink washing dishes.  I know that schools closed (not such a thrill for me because I loved school) and my Dad got to stay home from work.  But true to form, he went to all the neighbours and took their lists for provisions and then snow-shoed to the grocery store pulling a toboggan to ensure that neighbouring families all had milk and bread.   I recall the post storm photos in the  Winnipeg Free Press of all the stranded Eaton’s staff and shoppers who had to spend the night in the mattress department (I remember thinking how cool that would be).  Just after the enormous drifts accumulated, my two eldest brothers fashioned a snow slide which started on the roof of the garage, down a snow bank and right to the far corner of the back yard.  Good times.”

Having to spend the night in the mattress department? That’s so cool!! I wonder if they raided the bedding department, too?

As adults, we tend to see bad weather as a giant pain most of the time, and I admit that this last stretch of very cold weather has been hard on me. I shuffle around the house bundled in blankets and wearing fingerless mitts (quite the sight, I know, but our drafty hundred year-old house doesn’t heat evenly and it seems I just can’t get warm!).

But I love the way that thinking about the cold and snow from a child’s point of view makes it seem like an adventure, something rare and memorable and, well, fun! Just the other day, my husband was shoveling out our back drive and noticed one of the neighbour kids was a lot taller than usual; he could actually see most of her above our 6 foot fence! It turns out she was standing atop the giant snow slide she and her siblings were building in their backyard. As he relayed this story to me, he had an air of excitement with a hint of wistfulness, and my reaction was the same. Adults just don’t do fun stuff like that very often.

I myself have only one very specific snowstorm memory, and it isn’t from wintertime; it’s of a freak snow storm that hit Alberta in August one year. My family was camping in our tent trailer at Writing-on-Stone. When I woke in the morning, I poked the canvas tent siding (which I was not supposed to do, because it ruined the humidity barrier) and was surprised to feel it sort of crunchy and cold.

“Mum!” I whispered frantically to my mother, who was sleeping with me on one side of the trailer. “I think it snowed!!”

“Shhh,” my mum said, mostly asleep. I lay awake, wondering if it could be possible. Then a minute later she frantically cried out to my dad, who was on the other side of the trailer with my sister. “WAKE UP! IT SNOWED!” She had opened her eyes and seen the tree outside the window, sagging under the weight of several inches of snow.

As we dug out and packed up our trailer, we started to hear stories from fellow campers. There were folks whose tents had collapsed under the weight of the snow, in the middle of the night. Imagine, I thought, waking up to that, and then having no choice but to pack up in the cold, snowy pitch black! We eventually hit the road, eating chocolate bars (that had probably been meant for s’mores) for breakfast. The roads must have been pretty bad. We picked up a hitchhiker – the only time I recall us ever doing that in all our years of highway driving.  We let him off when we stopped somewhere to get off the roads and to eat a real breakfast. I remember parts of that day so clearly, even though it was more than 20 years ago. I remember thinking, “Man, this is going to be a seriously awesome ‘What I did on my summer holidays’ story when we get back to school!” And it was.

So – you never know what happy memories might arise from bad weather.

One last random winter thing: Last spring, I went on a fascinating historical walking tour of Glenwood Crescent. The turnout was great and one of my fellow walkers was an older gentleman who actually grew up on the street, which runs along the Red River. He told us that when he was young, his father was a dentist who worked on Main Street. During the winter, once the river had frozen, his father would simply walk across the river and up the embankment to his office, rather than walk south to the Redwood Bridge to cross and then back north to his office.  Apparently, his crossings were the yardstick the area residents used to know whether the river was safe to walk on. I just loved this story because, can you imagine that ever happening in this day and age? Never. I love it.

I’d love to hear your favourite winter memories – Winnipeg-based or otherwise!

4 Responses to “Memories in the Making”

  1. Food Musings says:

    You know I think that you and I and my DIL (Baby Lady of the Prairies) should get together sometimes. I think that we would all have so much in common. We purchased their hundred year old house with them in Wolseley and she grew up in Glenwood. I’ll buy lunch whenever you are available. Love-that is all.

  2. Emma says:

    I would love that! I will email you to set a date 🙂

  3. Great post! I wrote about my winter storm memories back in November 2011, one storm took place in Halifax and almost prevented me from getting to Cuba, and one took place in Manitoba. The one in Manitoba will always stick in my brain as the snowdrift was so high it rang our doorbell! You can read it at Neither of my memories are as cool a spending a night in a mattress department though!

  4. I’m having so much trouble finding Winnipeg bloggers! Glad to find someone else who enjoys the sometimes hard to enjoy aspects of Winnipeg! Looking forward to reading more.

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