It’s crisp, it’s clear, and it’s cold. Minus temps, down to 47 below, keep us all appreciating what heat we’ve got to get us through the winter. Today it’s more than 20 degrees warmer and, as I sit beside this stove, a fire crackling its merry winter tune, I’m very glad the frost is outside the windows and not on my sill.Two little boys swathed in snowsuits, gloves, hats and boots, are packing firewood. A small thing for small muscles, repetitive and not exciting, but a worthy effort and (how I love this term) character-building activity. Along with the firewood, few chunks as may fit in the woodbox, is a garage floor decorated with “oops” from four large dogs – a weekend’s worth of oops, in fact. There are two shovels up to the task, and I’ve assigned two budding operators to the end of each. Such surprise that they should be responsible for firewood AND oops, but they’re well into it and I can see the character sprouting; I can hear it, in fact, from inside the house as they urge the processed leftovers out the garage door and into the snow. The sound of enthusiasm mimics that of my own girls’ in their games of Kick the Can and Pick Up Sticks – the cleaning up of garbage left by summer tourists and packing firewood from beach to boardwalk and onto the woodpile inside. Winter was long, and chores seemingly endless to a kid whose experience and perspective had spanned only a decade.
Sniffs and snuffles, a few scratches behind the ear and two dogs are singing along. One little boy with two hounds in his lap, the other with a snout pressed nose-to-nose to catch the tears – all the concern and attention warranted to get through the moment. In six minutes, toes should be warm and cheeks dry, and then back to the money end of those shovels. I’d guess the chore slips might be worth an extra fifty cents, at least, if for nothing more than the drama of it all. They’ve informed me that “every last reward is just money,” so perhaps this afternoon we’ll figure out another form of gratification. Too soon, perhaps, to expect delight in watching that stack of dollar bills grow; I’m thinking a trip to the library later might take their minds off the morning’s indignities.
I remember two daughters presented with a goose to pluck. Enthusiasm for the unknown was replaced with disgust at the thought of bird bugs, guts, seeing AND touching anything repulsive, and a great, big pair of serious rubber gloves “just in case.” It took them at least 4 hours, likely 6, and at least all the available daylight, along with protests, tears and an impressive display of theatrics to get the feathers off that bird.
It has been many years since I had to be Mom the Enforcer, and I’m wondering to myself: Did I have as much fun then as I’m having now?