The Reunion of Old Man Winter and Old Lady Frost. Part II
When rain falls it rattles on metal roofs, splashes in its puddles, and is a noisy element to travel through. Snow on the other hand is a very silent thing. It doesn’t make a sound as it falls and after a blanket of it has covered the ground the whole world feels muted and muffled.
This is the world that the townspeople woke up to the morning after Old Man Winter and Old Lady Frost arrived. The village baker was the first to venture out into the snowy world as he trudged down the street to start making the day’s bread. He was too tired to be excited about the several inches layering the street. The old dairy farmer was more tickled by the first snow of the year and while on his way to the barn he stopped to watch it fall in front of the light outside the house.
By the time the brother and sister awoke there was more than a foot covering the ground and all sorts of tracks crisscrossed the main street. A thick layer of frost covered their bedroom window and they eagerly scratched at the coarse coating to see what the world was like. They could only see as far as across the street from their second story perch and only in quick glimpses as their breath re-froze on the single pane glass. The pair had seen all they needed to and they scampered to get dressed in their warmest wool. They ran downstairs, grabbed biscuits from atop the woodstove and headed out into the snow.
A light wind swirled flakes in mid air and created small drifts on the sides of fences and light posts. Only the dogs seemed to be as excited as the children about the fresh snow. Pure breads and mutts all ran and leaped into piles of snow. They lapped at the whitened ground and sneezed large stellar flakes. The townspeople however were as glum as ever and bitterly shoveled their front sidewalks. They didn’t wave to the brother and sister as they skied down the middle of streets on their way to the hill nearby. The two knew the area so well they could practically close their eyes and fly down the gentle slope that lead to the river bottom. They were also the only two who ever made turns and switchbacks on its face. So, when they saw another pair of tracks dropping over and onto the hillside they were surprised and perplexed. The pack of dogs that had followed the children to the hill were equally perplexed by the tracks and sniffed at them curiously. The brother and sister felt like something had been taken from them. The blanket of snow was tarnished by tracks other than their own and there was no way for them to look up from the bottom and see only their signatures. At the same time though, they couldn’t help but wonder who had left the tracks as maybe it meant there were other people in town who enjoyed skiing as much as them. With that thought in their mind they set off whooping and yelling down the hill. The dogs barked with glee and followed in their wake. The children howled like wolves as the forgotten sensation of weightless flying swept over them anew. The dogs howled in return and for a minute it sounded like a pack of wolves was effortlessly gliding through the air.
As the hill’s angle lessened and the river’s trickling water grew louder the children arched to a stop and collapsed into the weightless feathers around them. The dogs bounded down on top of them still barking, howling, and wagging their tails. Then suddenly in the middle of it all and from over the sides of their cratered view of the world came the faces of the old couple. Their weathered and wrinkly faces were accented with wide smiles and eyes that sparkled with genuine friendliness. “Happy Solstice,” said the woman. Long braids drooped out from beneath a knit cap and fell down toward the children Her wool sweater looked as old as their own, but much more weathered and frayed.
Now even though the brother and sister didn’t recognize either the old man or the old woman it was impossible to even think of being shy or nervous around them. All they could do was beam equally big smiles and yell with delight. The old woman continued smiling her grand smile while the old man let out a deep hearted chuckle that sent snowflakes swirling and made his long beard tremble. And then, just as quickly as the old couple had popped into the view of the children they were gone and with their disappearance came a soft thud to their side. The sound of their newly met friends thudding to the ground brought the brother and sister to their feet. They scrambled up and looked over only to see the old woman and man making snow angles. The children laughed and laughed as they’d never seen grown ups make them before. The old couple laughed right back at them and the dogs rolled on their backs and bellies still barking with glee. Then at last after the waves of laughter ceased the brother asked, ” Who are you two and why have we never seen you at this hill before?”
From their reversed position on the ground the old lady answered, “Who are we? No one really. Just nomadic romantics who found this little hill and are remembering the feeling of flying on skis.”
“So you don’t live here?” The little girl asked.
“No we don’t live here. We live in many places and travel all throughout the year. We go to where the snow falls and search for places like this.”
“You two have got a pretty good hill here.” The old man chimed in. He rested his head in one of his hands and closed his eyes against the falling flakes.
The brother and sister felt proud after he said this and the brother told them boldly how it was their favorite and they came here as often as the snow allowed them to and skied down it over and over again. And then they all chatted about all things winter; the ways animals survive the long cold months, the sound of a frozen lake creaking and groaning as the ice grows and shrinks, and the wonderful feeling of sitting beside a raging fire as a cold wind blows outside. But soon the children grew impatient and were eager to ski back up to the top of the hill so they could fly back down. The old couple were comfortable and from the bench they made out of their skis they told the children they would wait at the bottom and watch them ski down. And so the children set off to make a second run.
By the time they reached the top all of the tracks were filled in. The hill was once again a blank canvas.
And so the brother and sister made a second run down. This time they did close their eyes. They squeezed them shut and only avoided one another by hearing each others whooping and yelling. When they reached the bottom of the hill they didn’t hear the running water, but the sound of the old couple whooping and howling right back.
The brother and sister opened their eyes and saw the older pair standing on their skis with packs on the backs.
“Well kids, it’s about time we take off and get a move on.” Said the old man from behind a snow encrusted beard.
“You’re going to leave in this kind of weather?” The girl asked. Both her and brother looked at the pair dumbfounded by such a decision.
“Oh we’ll be alright. We know the area pretty well and have been out in storms ten times as bad as this one.” The lady said with the same large grin. “Besides, you’ve got to get back to your skiing and not waste such fine weather by talking to us oldies. You’ll probably see us again anyways. We’re always moving about.”
And with nothing more than a wave and final, “Farewell!!” The old couple disappeared down the valley as the children began their ski back to the top of the hill.