“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”

Victor Hugo

 

What happened here? When did he go dark on us? You know what I mean? We liked him, didn’t we? When we were kids, he was like one of us, like Al or Bobby. He was just called “winter.”

“Old man winter,” your mother called him.

Parents never liked him, really; but then, they never really liked any of our friends. We didn’t care. Winter was our buddy. He came right after fall, sometimes before Thanksgiving. He was a pal who came with fun stuff, white and soft that didn’t hurt when we fell in it when we fell off our bikes or the skateboard went flying away.

He gave us snow that fell around the statues in the park, that we could roll up and toss at people passing by and build snowmen with. My father liked snow because it covered up the bald patches in the bad lawn.

Winter was my buddy, and I loved him coming every year, especially after the Christmases when I got a sled or skates.

He was a good friend who arranged to close schools two days at a time.

Winter was a kid’s friend, and now it’s like he’s grown up and has come back like someone from another neighborhood to mug us in the alley, make our bones ache and take our lunch money.

What happened? Who is this guy? We guessed that when we grew up, winter was not going to be the same old pal. But we hoped that at least, as we went along, that he would keep a smile and kind of always look like he did in the movies, on the Christmas cards, like that winter in “Meet Me in St.Louis” and “The Bishop’s Wife.”

But he got colder and vicious. He became bad, mad and dangerous to know. What happened? What did we do?

He grew a whiter beard with sharp edges, and his eyes grew colder. It wasn’t like when we were 9 or 10 and made angels in snow. He was gentle with us then. He liked kids.

We couldn’t understand it when adults stood at the window and shook their fists and cursed it. What was wrong with them? What were they so mad about?

Now we’re older, and we know. We can see that he isn’t as romantic as when we kissed our first New York girl, with his soft breath all around her green eyes, with his flakes in her hair, those soft flakes that melted on her lips that tasted of Christmas candy and wine. Oh boy. That was a winter, wasn’t it? Who could complain?

Once upon a time when our world was young, winter was magic. He turned the snow all blue at suppertime and made halos around the lamps when the street lights came on.

He made our lovers grow closer to us, to take off their gloves to hold our hands and make them warmer. That little bunch of cheap violets always looked better with a little snow on it, didn’t it?

Those were winters that were immortalized on Christmas cards and turned into heart-breaking songs that made soldiers on the islands miss home. Winter was still a pal. They dreamed about him, couldn’t wait to get home to see him.

Then when we got too old to put on skates, and the car wouldn’t start, the oil ran out and you were afraid you’d slip and break something. Winter changed. What happened? Why did it lose that loving feeling?

Then winter became someone we crossed the street to avoid.

Let’s face it. It’s us, not him. He’s just not into us as much anymore. Winter really is the same guy we waited for each year with new snowshoes in hand. It’s just that we saw the world through frosted window panes.

Once upon a time his smile was like ours, like that gorgeous somebody who walked past us in the blue, light snow on a city street, and changed the music in our hearts.

Winter is still the same. It’s us. It happens. Winter is still out there, waiting for us to come on out and play. We have to try not be like the old ones we watched standing at the window, who shook their fists and cursed. We must not do that. We have to just smile, and wave goodbye.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.