Perfect Winter Day
© Copyright 2020 by June Calender
Where: Cazenovia, NewYork, a small village 20+ miles east of Syracuse, 500 feet higher elevation, settled on shore of a lovely little lake about 3 miles long and 1 mile across. By the 1970s it had become a bedroom community for executives from Syracuse. The shores of the lake were entirely build up with expensive homes. After several years my husband Joel. one of the town’s pair of family doctors, and I purchased the Colgate Cottage—not really a cottage—built for a member of the family that endowed Colgate College when he married a Lincklaen daughter. Lincklaen being the founder of the town whose home was a historical site, originally on all the property at the south end of the lake but now divided. We were across Rte US 20 from a grand house called Lake Meadow which had become an inn and event center. Beyond the house across the street we looked all the way up the lake which sparkled in the sun half the year and was covered with ice and snow most of the colder half of the year. On sunny days, which were few, it reflected a light that surely could be seen by astronauts (the few there were in those times)
Weather: Syracuse is in the same snow belt as Buffalo. In fact Cazenovia, being higher than Syracuse, regularly got Buffalo-like storms. The sun did not shine much any time of the year. Winter was gray and white and sometimes very, very cold.
Me: In the very midst of my Mommy years I was also busy as an officer of both the Syracuse Symphony Guild and the Syracuse Stage Guild so I had many meetings. Of course there were ballet and piano lessons for my two daughters. Their school was about a six block walk away. Their best friends were five children across our back yard and Leslie’s long time best friends, Pam and Cheryl, who lived a few blocks away.
There are many things I should remember about that period, but I don’t. I was very busy. I remember that in the winter I was usually awakened about 5:30 by a snow plow scraping Rte. 20. I think we must have had a man with a plow come clear the fairly long drive from the garage to the the highway because Joel had to be able to get out at any hour of day or night. If he had a patient in the hospital in Syracuse he would be out of the house by 6:30 so he could be back at the office at 8:00. I drove back and forth to Syracuse for meetings often and it would be late much more often later when Rachel took up gymnastics and had roles in plays at Syracuse Stage. I have memories that could be the basis for another essay about our involvement with the theatre. And memories of the glorious autumn drives. In terms of winter, I had one morning drive home from Syracuse, climbing that long hill toward our town when the sun was shining on new fallen snow that bent the cedar and pine trees into graceful arcs when I suddenly felt overwhelmed at the beauty of winter. In all seasons it was a beautiful place to live.
Event: Perfect Winter Day: Every year the lake froze. Sometimes the snow covering the ice was light and recent enough that an area was cleared by some town officials at the little park that included a small beach at which the kids took swimming lessons in the summer. Those few opportunities to skate must be why we all had ice skates, although I don’t remember any skating except for the “One Perfect Day”.
The elements gave us the gift, just once in all those years we lived there we got a snow free, hard-frozen lake on which to skate. I can’t imagine why we seemed to be the only people to take advantage of the good luck. That one Sunday, when Joel was not on call, we and the Moultons who had been neighbors and whose daughter Pam was Leslie’s oldest friend (at that time they were 10 or 11) decided to skate from the north end of the lake down to our house at the south end. The transportation plan was in place. Four adults and five children put on skates—all except two-year old Tommy Moulton who would ride on a sled that had a chair back affixed so he could sit comfortably. Bobby Moulton was Rachel’s age but each had best friends who were their own sex.
Off we went, four adults, five kids, in the brilliant sun. There was barely any breeze, before long some of us were partially unzipping our jackets. The ice was mostly smooth although there were some rough patches where the top layer of melt had frozen unevenly. I don’t know how long it took us but I know that after about a mile and a half my ankles began to ache. Before we had gone another half mile, I was barely able to keep going. I was close to tears. What to do?
“Simple,” said the men. “Sit on the sled, hold Tommy in your lap and we’ll pull you.”
“Let us, let us,” said Pam and Leslie. And they did.
When we reached Lake Meadows with its foot of snow on the ground. I said I’d walk, but immediately my ankles felt like Jello and I staggered into the snow. My pre-adolescent heroines held me, one on each side, across the lawn, across the street and into our house. I collapsed onto a kitchen chair and took off the skates which I would never wear again. Leslie brought my house slippers from my bedroom. I regained mobility as the adults took my car back up the lake so the men could drive their cars back to our house. When they arrived, I had a fire in the living room blazing and hot cocoa ready for everyone. Even the men admitted they were tired. We all had mild sunburns on our faces. We all, except Tommy, had a memory to treasure.