winter vow

Because my entry to the CBC Winter Tales contest didn't appear on yesterday's shortlist, it now appears below.

Winter Vow

The morning of Monday December 10th, 1990 the world wide web was in its testing phase, Peter Gzowski was smoking cigarettes while hosting Morningside and I made a vow never to spend another winter in Saskatchewan.

This is how it happened.

I woke in the dark, buried beneath my feather tick (a down quilt weighing about eight and a half pounds), to a voice (not Gzowski’s) on the radio that said, “The temperature is minus 30. Minus 47 with the wind chill.”

It was my second year as a theatre major at the University of Regina. I was paying $100 a month rent in an old Victorian house I shared with a three guys (two Dave’s and a Mike) who were friends of my older sister. Photos of Thailand and China and India hung on the walls — all places they had been. I was discovering bands like Moxy Früvous and Skinny Puppy and watching Twin Peaks and Kids in the Hall on TV.

Sunrise was at 8:48 a.m.

It was two weeks before Christmas and I should have been excited about the holidays. I should have been looking forward to going back to my hometown (an hour and a half Northeast of Regina) to eat perogies and cabbage rolls and pig out on my mom’s ginger snaps and scuffles (crescent shaped cinnamon cookies). I should have been relieved I didn’t have to wake up in the dark for a few weeks.

I should have been all of those things, but all I could think was, it’s minus 47 with the wind chill. I made coffee and packed some leftover pasta and a shriveled up apple for lunch.

It helps to dress in layers.

Under my black wool winter coat, purposely three sizes too big, I wore; a tank top, a turtle neck, a short sleeved t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a football (Saskatchewan Roughrider) jersey, long johns, jeans, and wool socks over top of thin cotton socks inside my hiking boots.

Anyone who knows the prairies, knows how the snow gets packed so tight it squeaks when you walk on it. It sounds like you are walking on Styrofoam.

You cannot think about summer.

At the car door I fumbled with my giant mitts until I finally pried the handle open. Luckily it didn’t break like last time. Luckily my skin hadn’t frozen, yet. I wanted to take a deep breath but, even inside the car, it was still minus 30.

I decided to hold my breath until spring.

While the engine warmed up, I listened to the radio. “A car stalled on Wascana Parkway is causing some delay. You’ll want to take things slow today paying extra attention to that black ice.” I put the car in reverse. Clunk. The tires had frozen solid. They were rubber cubes of ice.

Minus 47 with the wind chill.

The morning of Monday December 10th, 1990 I made a vow never to spend another winter in Saskatchewan.

And I never have.