This morning I opened the door to the frigid temperature only to close it and return to the chair where I pray each morning. After a time of talking to God and asking Him to protect those I love and thanking Him for all the times He's protected me, I began to reminisce about other times when the thermometer plunged into the 20s and 30s and winter weather caught us unawares. With all the predictions available to us even now, some things cannot be determined with certainty. It seems today was one of those, as sleet and snow arrived earlier than expected. In the south, this can create much anxiety for parents with school closings and drives to work that leave everyone unsure of what a day is going to hold.
This summer I was a bit surprised to see the term “matriarch” used to describe me to friends on Facebook. The truth is, I have become the matriarch of my own crew. My grandmothers and mother have been gone for some time and I am left to represent my own family as the eldest female member.
I'm settling into that title and today more than others, I find myself remembering my mother and can identify with her concerns for her family. Most of her life, my mother was a stay at home mom and was there at home when we were all forced to go out into the world, even on what she called “bitter cold” days like this one. She must have prayed for us on these days and I'm sure she must have found herself looking out windows or doors to check the status of the roads and waiting to hear we had all arrived home safely. I confess quite a few gazes out the window as I remembered the tug of war mothers and fathers faced with the dilemma of children/job responsibilities. A picture of myself slip/sliding down Pump Station Road in Kannapolis after school was officially closed and all the students had been picked up came to my mind. I couldn't remember where my child was at the time. Perhaps not even born yet. Our memories can become fuzzy as matriarchs. However, I won't forget to remember my safe arrival home!
Since I was not forced to go out to work today, I began reading Facebook posts by others who grew up in my hometown. “You know you're from Kannapolis when...” has become one of my favorite pages and today I found myself reading posts about years gone by. There were posts about icicles hanging from the roofs of houses on the “mill hill.” Someone posted a photo of “galoshes” they wore to school and another shared how some people put plastic on the windows at the beginning of winter. Suddenly, I realized how many winters and snow seasons I've seen and I exercised my memory muscles and pulled up a cache of pictures that are printed on my mind. Why not pull out some of my photos and share them with my friends? That's one thing I inherited from my mother, a love for photographs. My family knows I can sometimes annoy at family functions with all the snapping of photos. I see it as memories in the making. Perhaps one of these days my photos will make it onto the some newer form of social media. Who could imagine what that might be a half a century from now, the age of some of the photos I'm sharing?
In my memory bank, it seems there used to be far more snows in winter in this part of the south. I also might add that many mothers, like mine, were stay at home moms and many of us walked to school. I remember it being a time of much less concern during my childhood and teens. I lived on Central Drive in between two really great hills for sledding. Often we'd be out for hours, having to peel the gloves off our hands and warming them by the fireplace my daddy built during the coldest part of winter. Once it even snowed on my birthday, March 4th! Instead of the traditional cake, my mother baked a stack of Toll House chocolate chip cookies and put a candle on top. I've never needed a photo of this memory, as I remember the substitution of hot cocoa and cookies well. Some pictures are safely kept in our minds.
I do remember breaking icicles off our house and having a taste as well as my trusty rubber boots stacked with all our wet clothes by the door after a day outside with my brother, sister and friends. Photographs of my brother in snowsuit bring back memories of one who left us too soon. Then there's my grandmother, once the matriarch, wearing a scarf about her head and the plastic, snap on shoe covers she wore when she braved the cold with her grands in the snow March of '62. Fifty years of memories since this snapshot with a backdrop of bushes blanketed with snow.
And how could I forget the teachable moment as I helped kindergarteners spread peanut butter and bird seed on large pine cones from Southern Pines, NC as giant size snowflakes fell silently outside the pull out windows of McKnight Kindergarten?
Shouts of “It's snowing, let's hurry so the birds can eat their food!” Who could have timed it more perfectly? Something inside me felt warm as my daddy's fireplace, in spite of the anxieties about getting all those kids home. This memory came as I viewed a picture posted by one of my former students, now a teacher. Her students donned chef hats and had a cooking class shortly before being dismissed early from school today. One memory can birth another.
My season of life has changed and the setting has changed as well. Now I can include memories of grandchildren building tiny snowmen from the seemingly smaller snowfalls of the past ten years. There's only been one really large snowstorm in quite some time. Looking through more photos, I see a grandchild bundled up in a parent sandwich and remember a White Christmas just a couple of years ago. I see names traced in the snow and I see traces of love and happy times. For all the cares and concerns we can have when the winter season brings a mixture of the elements our way, there's beauty to be found if we just look for it. The quiet whisper of days gone by can be heard as well as the shouts of excitement right outside our window.
It has to be our perspective that creates that warm place in our hearts when it comes to seasons like winter and what we sometimes call “bad weather.” Perspective can be everything and I have come to know in this season of my life that hindsight is indeed 20/20.
As the matriarch of my family now, I want my words to reach forward to a day when my grandchildren might be facing days like today. Anxieties and bitter cold concerns will certainly come their way as they most likely did for the woman in snap on galoshes standing by me in the snow. There's something warm in a picture the heart remembers. Who can't read the joy on the face of a little brother who's obviously just hit big sis with a snowball or proud smiles peeping out from under tiny toboggans beside a miniature snowman? The rosy warmth of a baby boy squeezed between mommy and daddy are certain to provide some warm fuzzies for the chilliest days.