It is snowing as I write this, so gently, such pretty, fluffy flakes. This year the snow is late, so I love it, having missed it. I’m reminded of a quote from Through the Looking Glass, “I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently?”
Beautiful, but an odd little quote, coming from Alice, normally a cynical and rather selfish creature—and even odder from Carroll, who had no successful romances anyone knows of.
But it does remind me, a cynical creature with unsuccessful romances, of a lovely evening of skating.
I was sixteen and the boy I liked was nineteen, which meant he was in college when I was still in High School. He lived a few streets away, on a street pretentiously called Lake Avenue.
Pretentiously, because the “lake” at the end of the street, was really only a pond, and a man-made one at that. It had a man made little island in it, with a short but poetic little bridge to the island, so short that when the pond froze, no one could walk under the bridge. But the beauty of the man made pond was that there was very little current—still is—when it freezes, the ice is thick and smooth, perfect for skating. Because the pond was just outside city limits there were still city lights that kept it just light enough to be safe, but no so light as to be oppressive.
These days the Department of Public Works comes along and shovels off any snow, and officially declares the place open for skating when they deem it safe. Back then, skating was officially frowned upon but it was done, anyway, mostly by rebellious teenagers.
He was home from college for February break, and invited me skating. This was a dream come true! Our previous dates had been hockey games or movies, nice traditional dates but loud and public. It seemed so intimate, just the two of us, at night, at a pond we were really not supposed to skate on.
I walked the five blocks from my house to the pond, my skate laces tied together and the skates merrily hanging over my shoulder. He was waiting for me, skates already on his feet.
And that’s it; we just skated around one side of the pond for a long time—by “one side” I mean on one side of the bridge we couldn’t skate under. Snow began to fall, and there was no breeze, so when we stopped to take a breath, we could feel it so softly touching our cheeks, and hear the sound, something like a sigh, as the flakes touched the ground and our coats and our faces.
If you have ever skated outside in the snow, you know how beautiful it is. The city lights illuminated the flakes like never-ending fireflies. And really, it can snow for a very long time before it slows down your skating. A good half inch had fallen and we were still enjoying ourselves. And he said, “Wait. Wait here.” And he went to a different part of the pond while I waited for whatever he was doing.
Was he seeing if the ice was good on the other side? I am very short and he was tall, weighed twice what I did. I strained to hear the crack of unsafe ice but heard nothing. Then I started to pay attention to what he was doing.
With his skates, in the fresh snow, he had drawn a Valentine’s heart. And, yes, I melted, and when he got back to the shore, we shared a kiss.
What happened after that is a blur. All I remember is the romantic gesture in a wonderful evening. Feeling safe, safe yet romantically heady at the same time. I cherish this.