It’s the official first day of Christmas break, but I’ve already been on an unofficial extended version. All the smart people decided it would be best if I just had my homework funneled to me at home. You know, hide out and let the news lose some of its ‘cool’ factor. By the time school starts again after the new year, hardly anyone will remember what happened. Kids forget stuff easily. Yeah right…whatever.
It was a postcard perfect Monday morning. Like something you see in a Terry Redlin painting. Complete with quarter-sized, lazy snowflakes, dropping out of the sky, like soft feathers.
I was perched atop a barstool at the kitchen island, with my heals hanging onto the front edge of the seat. My knees drawn up to my shoulders. My hands were gripping both sides of a large mug, while my arms held my legs in place. A stationary cannonball, if you will. I was gazing out the wall-sized back window, as the evergreens turned from green to white, with so much powdery snow.
As I sat there sipping my marshmallow covered hot chocolate, something came over me. An epiphany? I don’t know if I’d go that far, but an awareness swept through my consciousness. A realization that everything was going to be alright. I think I was building my way to this, but something about the forest behind the house, clued me in. With my gaze firmly fixed, I felt happy and content, for the first time in a long time. It had been a while since I last looked to the woods for answers, for salvation. I needed to get lost in the wonder and mystery that it always provided me as a younger child. Escape and adventure. I turned my eye from it, yet it was always there, waiting for me, patiently.
Sitting on that chair, I let go of all my past baggage and senseless garbage. I had found again, this beautiful connection with nature, and life, and the privilege I have to be a part of something so unimaginable.
I slammed down the last of my hot beverage, burning my tongue, but I didn’t really care. I ran up to my mother, who was pulling blankets from the dryer, and I hugged her. Tightly. And I did not let go. When I did release her, I planted a kiss on her cheek.
“Daniel? What was that for? What’s going on?”
“I love you mom. That’s all.”
“You certainly are in a better mood this morning. Is everything ok?”
“Better than ok. Everything is great. I’ve never felt better.”
I spotted the hockey stick my father bought me a few months back, and picked it up for the first time.
“It’s such a beautiful day and I think I’m going to shovel the rink, and play some hockey.”
My mothers face brightened. Letting go of so much worry and tension from the past few weeks.
“I think that is a lovely idea. You know, your father has been taking care of that rink for you. In case you ever got around to using it this winter.”
“Cool. I’m gonna get my stuff ready and go skate. Come on Todd.”
Todd caught onto the vibe, and quickly jumped up, tail wagging, happy to see his old buddy back.
I gathered everything I would need, slipped on my Sorels, and trail blazed my way back into the woods. When I got to the rink, I did see evidence of someone working to maintain the ice and keep the snow off. There really wasn’t that much shoveling needed. Thanks dad. Wow! It felt weird to even think that.
After the rink was ready, I pulled my skates on. I pulled my toque down tight and donned a pair of sunnys, as it was wicked bright out from the blanket of fresh snow. I dumped a dozen pucks onto the ice and started to skate around, stick handling and shooting pucks into the net. It felt great to work my muscles and break into a sweat.
Words can’t describe the pure awesomeness of this scene. The overpowering smell of the pine trees, mingling with the unmistakable odor from so many distant fireplaces. The crisp, cold freshness of the unpolluted air. The strange echo from the skate blades cutting into the flaking ice. Or the distinct sound of a puck slapping off the toe of the stick blade, or clanking off the iron goal post. Take everything that is cool about hockey, and multiply it by ten. It was a game created outdoors, and it is best when played that way.
As mid-morning gave way to noon, the sun shined brightly in the sky. I began shedding layers, until I stood in only a sweat dampened t-shirt and messy, wet hair plastered to my forehead. I was standing somewhere near center ice, catching my breath, when Todd, who was sniffing around the edge of the woods, alerted me to some kind of disturbance. He was trained on the trail, at full alert, with his ears up.
Moments later, my mom emerged from the trail, in a very rare walk to the rink.
“For heavens sake Daniel! Where is your parka?”
“I got hot.”
“It’s your Norge blood, no doubt. But you’ll catch your death out her, my child. You done soon? You’ve been out here an awful long time.”
“Yeah. I was thinking of heading back soon. I’m starting to feel cold.”
“Is it any wonder? Look at you. You’re sopping wet.”
“I was skating hard.”
“Very well. Come home and I’ll fix you some lunch. You could stand for a warm bath, as well.”
As I sat down to unlace my skates, my mom turned to head back to the house. She stopped to say, “anyway, the reason I came out here was to tell you, you had a friend call on you a bit ago. I said you would call them back.”