I grew up in snowy upstate New York—AKA: The Snowbelt. Even though we lived south of the snowy area surrounding the Great Lakes, we still got plenty of cold, ice, and snow. From a young age, I remember how beautiful the snow was—from the window, that is! It iced the ground, trees, and buildings deliciously tantalizing like it would be cool yet sweet tasting.
Snow and RA don't make a good combination
But up close in person snow was not my friend! As a child, I struggled to walk through the stuff with my faulty RA-balance and creaky joints. Sure, the cold bothered my RA, but the snow and ice were yet another struggle I did not enjoy. As long as I could stay inside and view it from afar, I was fine. But unfortunately, life wasn’t put on hold just for winter! We were hearty New Yorkers! We must persevere!
While other children enjoyed zooming down the plentiful hills on sleds, I developed a sleighing phobia. My first memory of sledding concluded with a crash into dried, prickly shrubs (or overgrown weeds) down the hill from our house. I was terrified! The zooming I liked, but the lack of control and crash landing I did not. Never again, I swore!
Misadventures in snow and ice
Another time I was playing outside with a friend. We famously called the driveway in front of the garage the ‘skating rink’ because for much of the winter it was covered in thick ice accumulated from snowfalls and melting water from uphill that refroze in this area. My father fought it regularly with shoveling, chopping, stones, and salt. But it was not to be trifled with! Usually, I avoided walking on this area because I was wise enough to understand that poor balance, rheumatoid arthritis, and ice don’t mix well. But on this day I either forgot or got distracted by the game I was playing with my friend.
One moment I was vertical, the next moment I was performing a Cirque du Soleil-like split on the ice. My breathe was knocked out of me by the fall. For a moment I only felt shock. Then my joints started screaming and my voice caught up to help out. My friend (poor soul) ran for help. I was stuck and couldn’t move! My joints couldn’t believe I had contorted myself so fantastically! Never again would I be so flexible. My father came out to the rescue, got me up, and helped me back inside.
Ironically, I did end up (yet again) on a sled despite having sworn off that dreaded vehicle. It wasn’t uncommon for my mother’s little car to get stuck either on the hill up to our house or in the long driveway. Usually my father came to help dig us out or we somehow scrambled our way. But one night the snow was too deep for me to walk and too far for me to make it. My wheelchair in the trunk of the car was useless. So my inventive mother walked back to the house and brought the sled back to pull me the distance. I remember the crisp cold, how bright the snow was and yet the sky was somehow darker than ink. She pulled me all that way and I am still grateful.
Fun memories of winter in spite of my struggle
While I struggled with winter weather, I have a couple fun memories. Like the time we had so much snow that my father built my brother and I a snow cave. We played in that for what seemed like all winter, but was probably really just a few days! And my only memory of skiing is very special because I wasn’t able to manage skis. Yet on a school trip a teacher took me up the hill on the ski lift and carried me down the bunny slope while skiing. I’ll never forget the feeling of that adventure and the kindness of that teacher.
These days I live in a relatively warmer place and don’t have to cope with that amount of snow and cold. Still, I’m careful to dress in warm layers and sport a battery-powered seat heater on my motorized wheelchair (thank you hubby for the best present ever!). And when the forecast is looking bad, I pack up my work computer and stay home to watch the snow from a preferred safe (and indoors) distance.
When was your last flare?