There are two distinct Winters of my childhood. Both are cold and gray and covered in a thin layer of ice taking place in Jackson, Mississippi.
My mother had an aversion to winter. She didn’t like to go outside once the temperature dipped below 50. I always thought this was strange since her fair skin burned easily in the hot sun. But so it was.
Her aversion was passed along to us kids. She would dress us in long johns, heavy sweaters, corduroy pants, thick soled shoes, two pairs of socks, gloves, a hat, wool coat, scarf and a layer of Vaseline before we ever left the house. We were miserable.
My father would shuffle outside to bring in cut wood that my mother ordered for the fireplace. The fireplace drove our dog, Jellybean, crazy. He would sit staring into the blaze and bark each time there was a crackle. My father would then yell at him for barking at nothing. I would ask why we couldn’t just turn on the central heat and my mother would say it was too expensive.
During this Winter, our house smelled of spices and beef stock. My mother cooked and froze batches upon batches of beef vegetable soup. She would freeze the soup in individual and family size containers. If you ever said you were hungry, her ready response was “Heat up some soup”. Yuck! She also prepared what she called spiced tea. As an adult, I discovered that this was an actual drink and not something that she just made up. It is a mixture of Tang and spices. Other kids had hot cocoa and we had spiced tea. Again, yuck!
When my mother passed away, Winter changed.
We used the central heat. Our fireplace was idle and Jellybean laid in front of the hearth waiting for nothing.
Gone were the long johns and wools coats and extra socks and the Vaseline.
There was no soup and no spiced tea.
Just the cold and gray and thin layer of ice.