Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Beauty and the Beast

The last time we went grocery shopping, just for fun we bought a bag of fortune cookies. Today my son's fortune was this:

"Accept something that you cannot change, and you will feel better."

I realize this is nothing new; I know my way around the Serenity Prayer. However I also dare not skate too close to the thin ice of "positive thinking" type philosophies which do not support the real weight of life's predicaments. But this little scrap of paper, for today, was in a nutshell what I had just yesterday concluded about winter.

When I was six years old my family took a vacation to California. This was back in the late 1960's and I'm sure things are much different now, but back then, it was to my heart and soul a paradise. There were orange groves, mountains with streams, dirt roads, fig trees, old barns, and sun. Also my dearly loved cousins were there. It was two weeks of bliss. After that I always wanted to live there.

The older I got the more I wondered why in the world anyone would ever live here, in the suburbs of Chicago. It is horrible in the winter, the l-o-n-g winter. I hate the cold--it is painful. When I was a teen, my Dad told me that if I really wanted to get out of here I'd better do it while I was young. That was the plan. In the back of my mind was always the dream of moving to California.

Well, Dad was right. I didn't go right away and I'm still here, forty years later. And all of those years I've been hating winter, grumbling and complaining about how many months we have bad weather, and being in a bad mood for all of them. I know we could have moved, still could, theoretically. But first of all, we had kids. And Ron got a good job. It's pretty hard to walk away from a good job when you have kids to think about. Then you get rooted. And now we're pretty much stuck.

The boys and I were looking at the Ten Commandments yesterday in our Story Bible. Included is, "Thou shalt not covet..." I explained that coveting is wanting what other people have and not being content with what you have. Just think of it. That is so important that God made it one of the Ten Commandments. Then John wanted to know what "being content" means. I said,"it means being happy." It is interesting that "contentment" is kind of the opposite of "contention."

There really are some things to like about winter, not the same things for everyone. My husband enjoys ice fishing. I enjoy baking, and making soup. Winter is a good time to get projects done, like sewing blankies or quilt-ishes. It is also the perfect time to buckle down with school. (It's not like there's tons of fun we're missing out on.) Despite my bad attitude, I did tune in to the winter olympics and found them spectacular. There is football, which I like. And our neighbors flooded their back yard, so just last night I had the thrilling experience of watching my seven-year old learn to ice skate! (They have it all lit up--it's really pretty.)

He was even playing hockey. This is quite exciting to me because one of my greatest dreams--like California--is being able to ice skate. Ice skating looks to me like a combination of dancing and flying--two of the most lovely and joyful things on earth. But I guess with ice skating too, if you're gonna learn how, you'd better do it while you're young. Alas I never had the chance, but I am so happy that my little guys will.

While I was visiting my oldest son in Colorado, we went to a college hockey game just for something to do. When the players first came out on the ice, and there were all these colored flags, and they were just soaring around so was so beautiful to me that I cried. (I know, I don't get out enough.) But sometimes I actually like being able to cry like that, because I am not desensitized to the wonder of it all.

Yesterday I realized that I may never go to California. There may be long, cold winters in store for me the rest of my days. But maybe I can be happy anyway. Maybe I don't have to hate it so much, or even at all. Maybe I can look forward to cooking and studying and hobbies and snuggling up under the blankies with my family. Seeing them enjoy the cold outdoors, even though it might seem crazy to me, is something I can be content with. Or even happy.

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