Frost on a leaf in winter. Leif Gregersen
As Christmas approaches, I often have warm memories of what it was like for me to celebrate the holidays as a child. For a month before December 25th, my elementary school would go all out to make it a time to remember. Year after year, we would have celebrations and pageants where there were endless cakes and cookies supplied by parents and teachers.
In those days, we always got a lot of snow, which meant that each parking lot and sidewalk had a huge pile of ice and snow churned up by the street cleaners. One of my favourite games back then was to play King of the Hill. All you really had to do was push everyone else off the snow hill and you were king.
Then, of course, there were the inevitable snowball fights, which mostly took place early in the winter season or late, because in deepest winter the snow was so cold that you couldn’t make it into projectiles, and it was an absolute no-no to use chunks of ice to throw at each other. Those very cold times were reserved for sliding. The other day at the bus stop, watching the children at the McCauley School play in their yard, I felt a little bad because they only had a small hill to slide down – maybe five feet high. At my school in St. Albert, being further out in the suburbs, we had huge hills that would send us racing at unsafe speeds, and an even bigger hill in the middle of town reserved for evening and weekend pleasures.
Of course, there was also the hockey rink nearby where I loved to just skate around in circles by myself for hours. I never did get into hockey – my parents felt it was too violent – but still later on they put me into Air Cadets where we had real guns. I don’t know if life would have been better for me if I had gone into hockey. I always felt people took the game a little too seriously, though I liked just as much as anyone to go to a live game.
Some people out there dread the onset of our Canadian winters. I have always felt that there are so many advantages to being cold for a few months. The first advantage is that I always sleep so much better in a bit of cool air, wrapped up in bed. Then comes the fun and games like skating, sledding, Christmas parties, and having the option of listening to cheery carols on the radio at any time. Since I turned 18, I also found a new passion that I have neglected as of late: downhill skiing. In my whole life I have never had an experience greater than skiing on a mountain in the Rockies. The feeling of speed, the excitement of cornering, avoiding obstacles, and going over jumps added to the incredible scenery is absolutely unequalled.
However, our neighbourhood is one where there is so much need. So many places need donations and volunteers, like Bissell Centre or The Mustard Seed and others. Sometimes when I haven’t got much cash to donate or time to spare, I like to try to do small gestures. I go to the dollar store and buy the best quality toques they have and pass them out as I see them needed. Places like Bissell that offer showers to people who normally can’t access them are in need of items like shampoo and soap. And something else I learned is that Edmonton’s Food Bank can do a lot more with a cash donation than a donation of food.
It is my hope that those who read this can contemplate for a moment how to see the cold months as opportunities. Opportunities for fun, for new things to discover and see, but especially for giving. And not just to children or loved ones, but to those who need it and who should remain in our thoughts and prayers all year round.
Leif lives in McCauley. You can learn more about him and his work at edmontonwriter.com