A kingdom of isolation

I love winter. There is no sarcasm involved in that statement – I truly love it. I love the white blanket that the snow drapes over every tree branch and vista, filling our world with crystalline glitter. I love the excuse to drink hot chocolate any time you feel like it, and the chance to cozy up on the couch in one of our absurdly thick, warm blankets. I love fires in the fireplace just because, I love the way fresh snow squeaks under your boots, I love velvety red scarves tucked into jackets. I love the way fresh snow smells, the crispness of your breath on a cold morning, and finding new, hot Starbucks drinks to add to my menu. I love not having to shave, not having to worry about your hair because it’s going to be smooshed under a hat anyway, not picking up dog poop for weeks at a time because it’s hidden under the snow and I can’t find it (which means no one can see it so it’s not really there, la la laaaaa), and not washing the kitchen floor, like, ever* because it’s just going to get mucked up again in three minutes.
*exaggeration. Slightly.

Love. Me. Some. Winter.

This Rochester winter is on-track snow-wise (nearly 80″ so far, on our way to our typical 100″), but in terms of temperatures, it has been SO DAMN COLD this winter. Yeah, we get snow, and I’m used to that (hell, I’m one of the weird ones who even enjoys that), but this winter’s bitter, biting cold — the cold the keeps the kids from playing outside, the cold the unexpectedly closes schools, the cold that leaves you chilled to the bone nearly all day long — has really been a challenge.

In case you’ve been wondering just how cold it is (and, oh, I know you were), Canandaigua – the lake on which my family has a house – has actually frozen over this year. Big deal, you think (sarcastically, I might add). But it is a big deal. When my grandmother, who grew up in Rochester (and who, you may recall, is nearly ninety-four) says she cannot remember a time when the lake has frozen completely over, you know that it’s a pretty crazy thing. Even without my grandma’s extensive knowledge, you’d know it’s a big deal because Canandaigua is not only long (15.5 miles) but deep — 276 feet at its deepest spot, to be exact. For that much water to freeze over, it’s got to be effin’ COLD, y’all!

Tuesday was a bit nutty at our house; Nick was finishing up a whole slew of things at work (having not been at work on Monday due to our country’s festive celebration of our Presidents’ many achievements) and the girls and I were in a manic packing frenzy to get ready to go out of town on Wednesday. (More on that later…) Still, we made a point to find time in the afternoon to pick up Phoofsy and bring her down to the lake with us so we could see this tundra-like spectacle for our selves.

To say it was otherworldly is a ridiculous understatement.

frozen4
Taken at the north end of the lake, looking out over the vast expanse of white…

The wind was absolutely wild.


Couldn’t keep it  in heaven knows I’ve tried*

*if you have no idea what’s going on here, you need to see Frozen. Or at least google “Let it Go”. Fo’ real.

We then decided to attempt to venture to our house, because passing up the chance to see our own beach redone in Elsa’s magic was just not happening. I say “attempt” because our house sits at the end of a long private road, half of which is unplowed, and the last part of which is uphill. We knew it would be an adventure, but hey, if you can’t add a little adventure into your February break, what good are you?

When we got there, we discovered that there was still a good foot of packed-down snow on the road, but forged ahead anyway… until the car got stuck. We managed to back up and re-drive and inch our way forward, with Phoofsy, as usual, being an extremely good sport about our “exploring.” When we were still two houses away, it became clear that we could go no farther – but there was no way that we were going to come this close and not go down and check things out. And so, despite the snow being up to the girls’ mid-thighs at some points, we hiked the remaining distance to the house (this time, Phoofsy wisely chose to take the pass, and remained in the car).

After arriving and checking things out, the girls soon announced that they were getting awfully cold, and their cheeks were becoming really itchy – as their stellar mom, I’d forgotten to give them their antihistamines that day. Whoops. If you’re allergic to the cold, falling through the ice is probably a pretty quick way to go into anaphylaxis. So, we didn’t stay all that long… But, hot damn, am I glad we made it.

frozen3

For perspective, here’s our typical summer view…
lake
boats at night

And here… is Tuesday.

A kingdom of isola-e-tion…

frozen8
frozen7
frozen6 frozen5   frozen1frozen2
Here we stand, in the light of daaaaaay!

In the end, the cold did bother us anyway, so we hightailed it out of there and back up to the warm car where Phoofsy was waiting. I later learned that this was the first time in her life that she’d had the opportunity to see the lake like this, so to say that I’m glad we took her… doesn’t quite cover it.

This brutal winter’s cold may not have been good for much, but it did bring us this potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And that is pretty freakin’ cool. Literally.

A Sporting Chance

Having not grown up near any of my grandparents, living only ten minutes from my grandmother for the past six-and-a-half years has been a novel, and excellent, experience for me. It’s especially fantastic that Ella and Annie have the opportunity to grow up with their great-grandmother (whom they call Phoofsy) just around the corner. She’s been the girls’ “important person” at school Halloween parties, attended soccer games and dance recitals and swim meets, joined us for each and every birthday or holiday celebration, and has endured enjoyed countless impromptu “shows” in our living room  (“Oh, another rendition of ‘Let It Go,’ but this time you’ve got a full costume change built into the performance? Isn’t that neat!”). She even watches the girls for me every Thursday when I teach piano.

Plus, you know, there’s the lake – where Phoofsy lives from Memorial Day until Labor Day and where we spend at least half of our summer days. Annie and Ella have spent eons more time with Phoofsy since we moved here than I did in the previous thirty-plus years of my life. Which is cool in its own right, but which is really super because Phoofsy kicks ass.

There are plenty of great-grandparents who, understandably, aren’t exactly firecrackers. Not Phoofsy. She may be a few months shy of ninety-four (and she doesn’t mind that I’m sharing this with you), but she’s got a more active social life than I do. She’s played bridge online for years and has a Facebook account that she uses daily, commenting on our photos and accidentally “liking” pages that then continue to appear in her feed. (“Why do I keep seeing pictures of this Lady Gaga? She dresses very strangely…”) We used to email but now we Facetime. She also reads this blog and is okay with me calling her kick-ass. (Right, Phoof? ‘Cause you totally are.)

While all of the above is true, one of the best things about Phoofsy is that she is a tremendously good sport. She has hula hooped in our garage and downhill skied standing on the Wii board. She gamely wears Rainbow Loom bracelets to bridge and has attempted to catch broccoli in her mouth when it was flung at her by the chef at the Hibachi restaurant.  She even refused to take the pass we offered her when we played our ridiculous Lake Game last summer, and thus wound up wearing a life jacket inside the house and going all the way down to the dock – in the dark – and trying to hit the raft with a piece of shale.

And so it was no surprise, really, when she was over the other night for Nick’s birthday, took notice of the hockey gear he’d brought inside to warm it up before his game, and then proceeded to try on the various garments to see what they felt like.

It started innocently enough: “Do you really have to wear these enormous things?”
“Yes, Grandma. They protect my hands.”
good sport6
Side note: Phoofsy is always impeccably dressed
Side note two: I knew I’d have to act fast to get these photos, so I didn’t turn on the flash on my phone, meaning that they’re blurry. But that’s okay, because their bodacious awesomeness more than makes up for their poor quality.

Knowing he was already halfway there, Nick’s eyes took on an impish gleam as he suggested that, so long as she had the gloves on, she might as well wear the helmet, too.
good sport
“It just slides on like this… Oops, your glasses are in the way – no, you can’t reach them because of the gloves… Here, I’ll take ‘em off… One second, just about there…”

good sport1
Annnnd this just became one of the best moments of my life.

Weighing the success he’d had, Nick decided to press his luck even further and get really cheeky.
“But Grandma – that’s nothing. You should see what I have to wear when I play goalie!”
good sport2
“You have to hold a stick, too? AND try to catch a puck? But these are already heavy as lead!”

good sport3
“Can you believe that your dad has to wear all this? How does he even move?”

Which prompted Ella to join the fray…
good sport5
She would like you to know that it wasn’t bedtime; she was wearing her robe because she was cold. Which makes total sense, ‘cause her closet isn’t full of at least two dozen sweatshirts or anything…

And finally… the pièce de résistance… The goalie stick.
good sport4
Bring it, Oshie. She’s ready.

I loved getting together with my grandparents as a kid; each visit was eagerly anticipated and memorable. I didn’t miss living near them because I didn’t know anything different.
But I’m damn glad that my girls do know something different. We may not live near any of their grandparents, but we live near their Phoofsy, and the wonder of that cannot be understated, nor can it be fully quantified.

When we’re out and about with her and people discover that we’re her only local family, they always remark how lucky she is to have us nearby. That’s probably true; after all, we’re happy to shovel her walkway in the winter and we’re generally awesome people. But I’m always quick to point out that, really, we’re the lucky ones. It’s not everyone who has the ability to spend time with their grandmothers or great-grandmothers, and it’s exceptionally rare to spend time with one who is as good a sport as Phoofsy.

Just wait until we decide to take up skydiving. That will really be something.