If I were still in Holland

December 8, 2013 
Right now the icy wind blowing on my face is still a novelty; walking the stony creek bed with my nose dripping is a carefree lark. The wind rushes through my hair and past my ears, and I enjoy the pleasant chill. If I were still in Holland, at this time of year I might be ice-skating on the canal across the street.As the wind blows harder, childhood scenes of pulling a sled play across the screen of my memory. In Holland, my feet and fingers nearly froze. The bitter cold went right through my wool mittens, and the snow seeped through my shoes. It hurt like hell when my well-meaning parents peeled off my wet wool socks and stuck my numb feet in a tub of hot water instead of thawing them gradually at a tepid temperature.

Chico sits shivering at my feet, wearing a warm yellow turtle neck sweater. Honey, as usual, is frolicking in total bliss. She drank some rainwater from the first hopeful puddles . . . if it rains more, we’ll be sloshing through running water and hopping from rock to rock.

The wind is kicking up; now it’s making a sound I haven’t heard for ages, a low hum like a wind instrument. It’s blowing harder and harder, and feels so good on my face. All the leaves are shimmering in the late afternoon light. The dry brush all over the river bottom landscape looks like it’s leaning forward, barely hanging on by it’s roots . . . Every plant is moving, except the cactus. No matter how hard the wind blows, the prickly cactus stands still . . .

My dad still tells stories about how we walked and rode our bikes everywhere in Holland, through rain, sleet, and snow. When he rode several miles to his office, he lined his pants and jacket with newspapers to keep out the chill. “You people are so soft, Suzanne,” he scoffs if I mention the cold weather. “You don’t know what cold is!”

(Photo of my mother riding her bicycle)

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— in The Hague, Netherlands.

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