#55 - Winter


One of the things I remember best about my hometown of Chatham, Ontario is the weather. There were real Seasons back then – Spring Summer, Fall and, of course, Winter. It could get pretty snowy. I can remember, like “Good King Wenceslas” , walking in the footprints of other people to avoid the deeper parts of the snow on the way to or back from school.

One of the most beautiful and deadly sights then was an ice storm. Cold rain would turn to ice about the same time it hit the branches of the trees. The trees would become a crystal wonderland. It was wonderful to see but if a wind came along all the little frozen branches, sheathed in ice, would break, causing some destruction to the parent tree

I have other memories of cold. I moved up north to Atikameg, 200 miles north of Edmonton and above High Prairie, Alberta . Atikameg was a Cree Indian Reservation. Now, I was pregnant at the time and had had the child by Caesarian. I was healing from that, having been released by the hospital. Things weren’t going well and I didn’t know what was wrong. I was isolated in a little log cabin up on a hill (The Teacherage where my husband worked had burned down recently). We were part of the Anglican Church and teaching facility on the Reservation.

The Catholics were up on another hill were next door, if you call next door a considerable tramping distance in snow. There were two Nuns there with some medical training, so I thought I’d better go and see them.

To get there you had to go down a long road from our hilltop, along the main road a bit and then up another long road to their hilltop. I thought I’d take a shortcut from our hilltop to theirs.

Snow, where I’d come from, was a relatively mild affair but up there it got pretty deep. I found myself trying to plough up that hill in waist deep snow. I was using bushes and branches to pull myself along. It’s a wonder I didn’t fall into a snow crevasse and get frozen. Finally, I made it up there to the Catholic Station. Nothing they could do for me really except to say that I’d better get into town pretty darn quick.

They gave me, and this was all they could do, an enormous gelatin vitamin capsule. A lot of it was cod liver oil I found out from subsequent burps. They weighed me and they gave me this enormous pill. I said, “Why is it so big?”

They said, “The locals think that if one pill is good, then the whole bottle is best. They’ll take it all at once to save muss, fuss and bother. So, we give them the biggest dose that they can take at one time and send them away. When they come back, we’ll give them another dose. ”

I took that pill and struggled back down the hill and made arrangements to come back into town. Turned out a had a Staph infection in my Caesarian incision. Staphylococcus is no joke and it was rampant in that bush hospital. I survived the infection but I didn’t eat for about a week, the illness had stolen my appetite. I think the enormous vitamin pill the good Sisters gave me saved my life and I’m thankful for that.

Another story involving cold was in New York City. I was using an ice pick to get the ice out of the refrigerator freezer. There was a gas in there called Freon. I accidentally punctured the part of the freezer that held the Freon and gas started coming out. I thought it was dangerous, so I grabbed up Cathy, my daughter. She wasn’t wearing any clothes at the time, just little panties. She was so mortified that I’d dragged her out into the hallway in her skivvies. Turned out the Freon wasn’t all that dangerous and we repaired it so that the refrigerator was okay again. My goodness. That was an adventure with the cold!

My first husband, Bob Bates, may he rest in peace, had a little bit of trouble keeping jobs. One time he managed to get a relief job in a place the dealt in frozen foods. This was in August during the summer holiday time which is why he was doing relief work. It was the best job he’d had in a while. He’d get occasional free frozen food and they supplied a snowman suit and the pay was good but all good things must end. The other fellow was coming back from holidays. Bob was upset to hear this. I guess he’d been telling himself that he might keep the job. He was so dismayed that he ran out into the street in his snowman suit in the hot New York August, and claiming he was going to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge or some darn thing like that. I think he ran about four blocks and then the heat got to him. He dragged himself back to the place, gave them back their snowman suit and got his final cheque and that was the end of that.

The weather nowadays is chancy. There are some terrible storms out there. It’s all very well to look back and laugh at winter but winter can be deadly.

Wavy Line

© Sonia Brock 2006