The older I get, the more I hate winter. I especially dislike the month of January. It's long, dreary and depressing. In fact, it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It doesn't even have a holiday.
New Year’s Day doesn't count. It is far too close to Christmas and way, way too far from Feb. 1. Not that February is much better. But at least in February you have Valentine's Day and Family Day to break things up. Plus it's only 28 days long – 29 this year – and there’s a light at the end of the wintery tunnel.
I didn't always feel the way I do now. Growing up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, we used to shovel off a patch of Maynard Lake in front of the Lakefront Apartments where we lived and play shinny for hours on end. And on the weekends, Dad used to teach us how to ski on a hill at the Brightwood Golf Club.
Things changed after we moved to Ottawa in 1973. I can trace my disdain for winter back to my pre-teens when my dad enrolled me in the Parkdale Hockey Association. We had just moved from Nova Scotia and I had my heart set on playing with the Pinecrest Hockey Association, but unfortunately we missed the cutoff for registration, which is how I ended up playing in the Parkdale league.
Did I happen to mention that the Parkdale Hockey Association played all of their games on an outdoor rink on Meadowlands Drive?
The first season wasn't too bad. I could put up with the frigid temperatures and the burning feet after you took your skates off in the car because we were winning. In fact, we won the league championship in my first year.
Unfortunately, I suffered the cruelest of fates in my sophomore season. In an effort to make the league more competitive, they took the best players off the championship team and reassigned us to some of the weaker teams. I ended up on the worst team from the year before with predictable results.
I remember we lost our first game 11-0. We didn't fare much better in our second game which we lost 12-0. We eventually scored a goal in our third game, but the opposing team scored 10 times. And that was it. I retired from the sport at the tender age of 12. I don't recall my dad putting up much of an argument. I think he was as tired of standing in the cold watching me play as I was playing in the cold facing 80 shots a game.
But the worst was the burning sensation I felt in my feet when I took my skates off. It felt like they were literally on fire for about 10 minutes and no amount of hot chocolate could alleviate the pain.
The other haunting memory of winters in my youth involved downhill skiing. After we moved to Ottawa, my dad bought a family season pass to Edelweiss. Both of my sisters loved it and are avid skiers to this day. Me, not so much.
I can still remember Dad packing us into the car and heading up to Edelweiss with a -35 wind chill factor.
At one point, I refused to get on the chairlift. I can still remember Dad telling us that he had paid good money for those passes and we were going to ski down that hill whether we liked it or not.
Looking back, I don't think I was ever a winter person. Except for the odd day tobogganing, I’ve always felt that winter was a colossal waste of time. Bears and any other hibernating mammals have it right – they can just sleep it off. We humans aren’t so lucky.
I did make an effort to change my attitude toward winter after the kids were born. We used to take them to Winterlude every year, sort of, and I even enrolled the boys in a snowboarding school which nearly ended with tragic results, but that's
a different story for a different column.
My relationship with winter can be summed up in my relationship with Winterlude. After the ex and I bought a place on Sunnyside Avenue near the Canal, we were determined to make the most of our proximity to the Canal and Lansdowne Park.
The first year, we walked over to the Canal at Bank Street, put on our skates and then skated down Dow's Lake and back to see the ice sculptures. The second year we skated down to Dow's Lake, but took the shuttle back. The third year we didn’t even bring our skates. We took the shuttle to see the ice sculptures and then took it back.
I can't remember the last time I went to Winterlude.
Today, my outdoor winter activities are limited to shoveling the driveway and brushing the snow off my car and the less I have to do of either the better.
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