Andrew Malcolm | January 1, 2019
Editor's Note: This piece is part of "12 Days of Classics," a holiday series drawn from the magazine's archives and published at magazine.nd.edu from Saturday, December 22, 2018, to Wednesday, January 2, 2019. Merry Christmas!
For many long adult years, winter was for me something to endure, a time of occasional beauty but mostly gloom, slush, slippery driving and shoveling. Ice was a dreaded matter, something to sprinkle salt on, unless the frozen matter was in a glass. Then we moved from the cramped ravines of coastal Connecticut to the mountains of central Montana. Winters there are assuredly longer and stronger, colder and bolder but also filled with a bracing beauty that at times overwhelms. And sunshine. In the capital of Helena the sun shines way more than 300 days a year. It might be 10 below zero, but most days will be sunglass sunny.
There, our little boy took up ice hockey. One day as a dutiful dad with Canadian parentage, I commissioned a landscaper to fill and meticulously level a sizeable chunk of backyard. We packed it, surrounded it with railroad ties and hay bales, and one Thanksgiving Day some years ago with the temperature drooping to 28 and below, I turned on our lawn sprinkler. In hours the spot was coated with ice, which we crunched underfoot every late November thereafter. We watered and watered. In two days, just like many generations of other northern North American parents, we began to flood and flood, watery layer after watery layer atop each other to freeze as hard as, well, ice.
Soon, we had created a patch of frozen water sufficient for skating. And there until late March for countless afternoons, brisk mornings and evenings, beneath bright lights, our son and his grade school pals skated and skated and skated. They hooped and hollered. They raced and fell and laughed. They shot pucks, blocked pucks and narrated for an oblivious world their own overtime championship heroics that are long forgotten and will never be surpassed.
It was grand watching his skills develop, his confidence in physical activity, his imagination and moves as those shiny skates became an extension of his body. All for little cost and in the safety of our own closely watched yard. “Are you ready to come in now?” his mother would call as the evening thermometer fell.
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