For ten years we lived downtown Montreal. Not on the outskirts, not tucked away in a quiet neighbourhood. We lived at one of the city’s biggest, messiest intersections. In a spot like that, winter is about slush and wind tunnels and snow banks and the beeping of snow removal vehicles all night long. I loved living in the city and I miss it in many, many ways. But when I lived in the city I didn’t love winter – I abhorred it. I dreaded the frozen brown of November. I detested the deep freeze of February. I hated never knowing what footwear to put on. I avoided things like…well, anything outdoors I suppose. I felt primitively designed to hibernate – from the first sub-zero temperature until the last. In Montreal that generally means from the first of November until the middle of April…in a good year. It got to the point that even the anticipation of winter sent me to a miserable place so that by the time the leaves started changing colour, I was already bracing myself for winter. It was like I was losing the joy of two seasons. In our last year or so of downtown living, we added a vehicle to our household. A street-parked vehicle downtown in winter…this misery has no name.
When we moved out to suburbia I anticipated feeling isolated, I worried about never walking anywhere anymore, I was sure I’d never eat good food again…And while some of that happened (I did feel isolated for a long while), it didn’t feel like I thought it would. It took about a year for me to realize how much I loved the quiet. It took me another year to realize I was probably walking even more than I had downtown. And it took five years for me to realize that I’ve grown to love (some parts of) winter. It’s been a fierce winter over here on the Eastern side of the continent. It’s been cold and windy and snowy. But it’s also been a winter of showing off. Here in suburbia, our street stays white and snow-covered all winter. Here in suburbia, someone cleans out my driveway for me every single time it snows. Here in suburbia, I walk down the block and out onto the lake almost every morning. Here in suburbia I watch the sun rise against the white plain of Lac St. Louis and I hold my breath for fear of breaking the spell.
Here in suburbia, I have children. And so here in suburbia we toboggan and build snow forts. We make snow angels and have snowball fights. Here in suburbia we skate on the outdoor rink across the street from our house and here in suburbia Kate discovered ice-fishing. Here in suburbia we start the day by jumping in the sled while Mom pulls the kids to the bus stop. Here in suburbia we still get cold. We still use heating pads to warm up our beds. We still flirt a bit too much with the wind.
But here in suburbia, winter is a lot more charming than it is downtown. It might just be winning me over.